because of its presidential associations,
The ancient Town Car is still the
limo of choice for most chauffeur services while the Navigator is still popular
on the hip-hop scene, even though the Navigator name isn’t as rhythmically rich
as Cadillac’s Escalade. Beyond those two cars,
Enter the Zephyr, which resurrects a great name and recycles a great platform, namely that of the Ford Fusion. I like the Fusion’s peppy dynamics and crisp styling but the fit ‘n’ finish of its interior, the lack of manual shifting on the fine six-speed automatic, and its intrusive tire noise are areas of concern. The Zephyr, being the most “premium” of the Fusion/Milan/Zephyr trio, gets a unique dashboard and a higher-quality interior as well as more sound deadening and slightly softer springs. This should rectify the Fusion’s shortcomings, but will it ruin the best thing about the Fusion — its handling?
Behold, the essence of
2006 Lincoln ZephyrEnlarge Photo
Isn’t it a handsome thing? Whatever they’ve been putting in the coffee in Ford’s car design studio they need to keep up the dosage because it’s good stuff. The baby Lincoln is striking in a classy and understated way and downright stately in black. Its humble origins are clearly visible down the flanks, of course, but the waterfall grille, the scolding headlamps, and broad, square stance more than compensate for the unadventurous profile. Sadly, the oversized taillamps are completely at odds with the rest of the Zephyr’s well integrated styling (maybe they may have run out of spiked coffee that day) but there’s enough good car around them for us to overlook their slightly unhappy rendering.
2006 Lincoln Zephyr
The interior’s been given the
On the upside, there’s nothing at all wrong with the space and comfort in the Fusion, while the driving position and ergonomics (with the exception of the F-150’s overworked wiper/turn signal/high beam stalk) are top-shelf as well.
On the move
Having poked around the interior for a while, it was time to see if the Zephyr was any better or worse than the sprightly Fusion on the move. I had expected a feather-pillow ride and blunted dynamics but instead the Zephyr turned out to be almost as sporty as the Fusion. Yes, it was marginally more sedate on the highway thanks to some softer springing, but through the twisty stuff the steering proved to be just as sharp and body control was every bit as well-contained as its Ford sibling.
2006 Lincoln Zephyr
It doesn’t have quite the same level of feel as Fusion, perhaps, but it was still reasonably involving and entertaining. The only downside is that the Zephyr wasn’t as quiet as I had expected, retaining the Fusion’s irritating propensity to let tire noise encroach on an otherwise hushed cabin. I also notice they haven’t gotten around to fitting a manual shifter to the automatic either, which is a shame considering how the Zephyr’s fun-factor would benefit from such a revision.
Lincoln Zephyr "teaser"Enlarge Photo
2006 Lincoln Zephyr
A look at the Zephyr’s similarly
priced competition should be a humbling experience, but the truth is it actually
fares rather well next to its compact executive sedan rivals. It’s more fun to
drive than the likes of the wallowy Chrysler 300 V-6 and dreary Lexus IS250, and
while the Acura TSX is possibly the closest to it in character, the
I like the Zephyr, I really do, and there’s no doubt it’s a step in the right direction for Lincoln, but as long as Ford continues to offer supposed “premium” cars side by side with near-identical (and considerably
cheaper) mainstream fare, they’ll never win over the image-conscious younger buyer, regardless of how appealing those cars might be.
STOP THE PRESS: Moments after filing this story
Base price: $28,995 plus destination
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 221 hp/205 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 191.4 X 72.2 x 57.2 in
Wheelbase: 107.4 in
Curb weight: 3401 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 20/28 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front and side airbags; anti-lock brakes with traction control
Major standard equipment: Cruise control; power locks, windows, and mirrors; 17-inch aluminum wheels; six-CD changer; powered and heated leather seats; dual-zone climate control; multi-function steering wheel
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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