260,000 examples in a six-year period isn’t bad.
The LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend’s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year though it was pipped by Ford’s Focus and Audi TT. The LS was also Lincoln’s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac’s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later. The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we’re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer’s Guide called the design “ho-hum”. I’d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Mitsubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs.
According to Automotive Industries Magazine the car had to look as if it could do battle with well-established German players such as BMW and Audi while also having a passing resemblance to the markedly different vehicles in the Lincoln showroom: the Navigator (a top seller), the Town Car (an icon in the livery trade) and the Continental (uhm…). That was never going to work. It ended up being clearly a committee car.
Ford dearly wanted the LS to be a sport saloon and went to the trouble of engineering a manual transmission. About 3000 customers ordered that, indicating that nearly none of its drivers wanted a sports saloon. They wanted a Lincoln they could afford. The LS price matched the Buick Park Avenue which was still selling well and was cheaper than Cadillac’s ill-starred Catera. It didn’t tread on the Jaguar’s toes, being about $10,000 cheaper than the equivalent S-type V6 and $13,000 cheaper than the S-type V-8. A base model C-class cost about the same which tells you how excessively cheap the Lincoln was. It came close to the A6 though, in price. In no other way, of course.
The LS is not destined for a happy afterlife. The V6 and V8 engines have a dire reputation for reliability and spares are costly. People write articles like this. It is unloved. A particular problem is overheating due to a worn impeller in the cooling system. And if you don’t get that you get sticky shifts when the engine is at operating temperature in V6 and V8 models. All this despite rave reviews for its value, handling and comfort from Motor Trend who ran both versions for a year.
Fifteen years on, the template for Lincoln trying to mix it with the class-leaders is established and despite the plaudits the car got for not driving like a typical Lincoln, it’s a rather clear example of injudicious styling and questionable quality. While the 5 series, A6 and E-class have carried on, gently updating their cars, the Lincoln LS was replaced by the front-drive Zephyr, another new name and another new architecture, related to the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. Absent Jaguar, Ford had no choice but to let Lincoln revert to type as a badge-engineered Ford rather than a twin of a car from another class and quality.