Everything old is new again. Lincoln’s flagship car is once again called Continental, the name once again applied to a car derived from a Ford family sedan. Although this sounds like a regression, the Continental and its stablemates are the latest stage of Lincoln’s renaissance and carry great promise. Meanwhile, its predecessor, the MKS, will be remembered – if it’s remembered at all – as a Lincoln from an interregnum where the brand was hurriedly expanding its scope and finding its voice. But it probably won’t be remembered as a convincing luxury car.
At the dawn of this century, the Lincoln lineup was much smaller. There was the Town Car, the moribund Taurus-derived Continental, the Navigator SUV, and the new LS sport sedan. The year 2000 was the best year for Lincoln sales in a decade, with around 190,000 vehicles sold. Alas, it was all downhill from there as Ford neglected the Town Car and LS and the Cadillac Escalade laid waste to the pioneering Lincoln Navigator. And if Lincoln was choking, Mercury was asphyxiating and turning blue. In the mid-1990s, Mercury’s annual sales peaked at 480,000 units. By 2003, they were less than half that. It didn’t help that Ford was starving it of product.
Whether Ford realized it at the time or not, it was time to axe Mercury and expand Lincoln’s lineup. Despite its troubles, including a stodgy reputation that was slowly killing its most promising model in years, the LS, the Lincoln brand had great profit potential. That’s not to say Mercury was unprofitable—considering how little it took to turn a Ford into a Mercury, the ROIs were probably quite decent. But why not give the Lincoln lineup some more models and try and directly tackle brands like Lexus and Acura?
Almost overnight, the lineup was fleshed out. The Zephyr/MKZ arrived in 2006, the MKX mid-size crossover the following year, and the MKT full-size crossover in 2010. The Town Car would survive a few more years but the new flagship was the 2009 MKS.
In the past, Ford and GM had been criticized for lazily rebadging cars, even for their luxury marques (see: Cimarron, Versailles). While the MKX and MKZ had unique front and rear sheetmetal and new interiors, their bodies were plainly identical to their donor Fords. Not so the MKS, which eschewed the Ford Taurus’ exterior sheetmetal entirely. The interior design was also different and built to a higher standard with nicer materials, although switchgear was largely carried over. It was a similar level of distinction from its platform donor as the hot-selling Lexus ES was from the Toyota Camry/Avalon.
Ford and GM have also been criticized in the past for depriving features from models in their lower-end brands so as to insulate their luxury brands. With Mercury on death row and Ford commanding hefty MSRPs for loaded F-Series trucks, Ford decided to change their strategy. Although the MKS had a different base engine to the Taurus, everything else – short of twin sunroofs and a couple of tech features – was available in Taurus option packages. That included bona fide luxury car features like adaptive massaging and cooled front seats and adaptive cruise control.
Ford gave the MKS a head start by launching the heavily revised Taurus a year later. Once the 2010 Taurus arrived, however, the MKS looked decidedly overpriced. Base MSRP was around $7k more than a well-specified Taurus Limtied, although adding the Lincoln’s luxury goodies to the Ford narrowed that window a bit. You did get more power and torque (270 hp and 265 ft-lbs versus 263 hp and 249 ft-lbs) and a higher quality interior with famed Bridge of Weir leather, but the Lincoln logo carried a price penalty that its reputation no longer particularly deserved.
The reintroduction of the Taurus SHO also undermined the MKS’ dubious value proposition. The SHO’s rip-snorting 3.5 EcoBoost V6 pumped out 365 hp and 350 ft-lbs – ten horses more than the new 2010 MKS EcoBoost – and was priced right up against the regular 3.7 MKS, which actually drank more fuel (1 mpg combined). And there was fierce competition outside the Ford stable too, with $40k being enough to buy you a nicely-equipped Acura TL, or a Lexus ES350 and a few cases of champagne with the change.
The reviews were decidedly mediocre for the MKS. The 3.7 had sedate performance – 0-60 in 7.5 seconds for the AWD model – and the ride and handling were widely regarded as average. Edmunds.com, notably, were quite critical of the MKS, calling the ride harsh when equipped with the EcoBoost’s 20-inch wheels, while blasting the handling as soggy—the worst of both worlds.
To some, 20-inch wheels might seem like overkill. On the MKS, they were almost necessary. The rubenesque MKS looked awkward with the standard 18-inch wheels (above), which sounds ridiculous until you realize how big this car was: 204 inches long and 61.6 inches tall, the MKS was about as long as a LWB Mercedes S-Class but taller, although its wheelbase was almost 7 inches shorter than that of a SWB S-Class.
While it had been blessed with an extensive makeover, the MKS still had to work with the hard points of the D3 platform, derived from the first-generation Volvo S80. Like the Taurus, the MKS suffered from a front overhang that was more Audi than BMW, as well as a high beltline that restricted visibility and made the car look slab-sided.
To disguise the MKS’ height, Lincoln used gray plastic trim around the base of the body, as well as some chrome accenting at the bottom of the doors. This, like the plastic trim in the fog light recesses, looked rather cheap for a supposed luxury sedan. EcoBoost models equipped with the sporty-looking EcoBoost Appearance Package (above) used color-coded trim and really didn’t look that awkward, so the gray trim was unnecessary. Horizontal chrome accenting underneath a vertical slat grille was also an example of poor detailing.
The exterior wasn’t a total write-off. The Quattroporte-esque taillights and relatively pert rear end were nice, even if trunk access was constricted, while the new chrome waterfall grille was classically handsome. Inside, the MKS design was more cohesive and reminiscent of the Jaguar XF; genuine wood trim was a nice touch, Taurus buttons and stalks were not. There was also too much gray plastic on the center stack, with a useless blank panel at the base.
While luxury cars have often introduced trick tech, it often serves a convenience need or technical demand. Cadillac’s Night Vision, for example, seemed like a gimmick but worked as a safety feature. BMW’s first-generation iDrive was jeered by critics but was the logical next step for allowing drivers centralized access to all of their car’s features. The touch capacitive switchgear introduced in the 2013 MKS, however, was a pointless addition and wasn’t even exclusive to the MKS.
Much as Brock Yates had decried years ago in The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, Ford and GM were adding technology for the sake of technology. Nobody asked for touch capacitive controls – certainly not any of Lincoln’s older customer base – and you need look only at the latest Lincolns and Cadillacs to see both automakers have changed direction and started removing this technology.
Lost in all the hype of the 2013 MKZ and the “Lincoln Motor Company” rebranding, the 2013 MKS was an extensive revision. Beyond the aforementioned touch controls, the Lincoln now had an entirely new dashboard design, including a new semi-digital gauge cluster borrowed from the Ford lineup. Other than a few Ford carryovers, like the vents, steering wheel controls, and stalks, the 2013 interior was arguably a classier place to sit than before. Perhaps the nicest touch was the stitching on the dash.
Additionally, the MKS benefited from major mechanical tweaks. The EcoBoost now had the same 365 horses as the Taurus SHO, removing that pointless deficit. More importantly, the base 3.7 now produced 304 hp and 279 ft-lbs, while achieving better fuel economy (an additional 1-2 mpg combined).
All MKS models now came with a collection of features branded as Lincoln Drive Control, which included continuously controlled damping. Drivers could toggle between Comfort, Normal and Sport and also set D and S on their shifter to their preferred suspension settings. Though the suspension adjusted within milliseconds, it wasn’t quite as fast-reacting as Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control.
Finally, the most visible changes were to the exterior with a more upscale if less conventionally attractive design. Designer Max Wolff took Lincoln’s front end design in a new direction with a new grille, although this was changed once again for the MKZ. Furthermore, the rear end was revised to provide a larger trunk opening but the end result looked, well, fatter.
On a personal note, I still find myself looking at MKS photos to figure out if I like the design. Truthfully, it is too tall with a roof and wheelbase too short and it towers over an MKZ. The MKS needs 19- or 20-inch wheels and a flattering color to look good.
The few reviews conducted of the 2013 MKS indicated the car was now more capable dynamically and better-appointed, but by now nobody was really paying attention. Although it was a slow but steady seller for a while, sales dropped off after 2014. The MKS had been launched with an extensive advertising campaign but promotion dropped off and the revised model was scarcely advertised. Competition was tough, especially from the MKZ and the conceptually similar 2013 Cadillac XTS, itself derived from a humble family sedan platform. While not a huge seller itself, the XTS still sold better than the MKS.
By 2013, Lincoln had two crossovers, an SUV, and two sedans, with another crossover on the way. Despite this, the brand reached its nadir: just 81,694 sales, less than half it had accomplished in 2000 and only enough to secure half a percent market share overall. Lincoln simply wasn’t on most people’s radar, and even the execution of Mercury in 2011 didn’t help push people to the Lincoln side of the showroom. The MKS was little help.
There is hope for Lincoln. Average transaction prices are rising and they have a crossover-heavy lineup at an opportune time. Sales and market share are also rising, with 111,724 Lincolns sold last year and 0.64% market share (the luxury market accounts for approximately 10% of the overall market) although Lincoln still trails the other luxury brands. Crucially for Lincoln’s long-term viability, the brand has also been introduced to China, and has also introduced the Black Label sub-brand with unique interior themes and exclusive membership benefits to owners. Ford is paying attention to what luxury car buyers want and, given time, they may be able to make Lincoln a desirable luxury brand again. By exclusively using Ford platforms, they are also achieving this renaissance at a much lower cost than GM is with Cadillac. Even the Matthew McConaughey commercials are getting buzz.
The new Continental may not prove to be much more popular a product than the MKS, being a sedan in 2017, but it may end up being more memorable than the MKS. The MKS may have been an erroneous purchase new, but on the used car market it’s the deal of the century thanks to low prices and good mechanical reliability scores from JD Power. The price premium over the contemporary Taurus has shrunk dramatically and you can find a fully-loaded 2013 MKS EcoBoost with under 60,000 miles on the odometer for about a third of its MSRP new.
It’s finally a bargain.
White 2013-14 photographs courtesy of Brendan Saur. Other MKS photos taken throughout New York City.
Future Classic: 2006 Acura TL – One Of The Best Japanese Designs Ever
Curbside Classic: 1995-2002 Lincoln Continental – In Pursuit of the Pursuer
Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Lincoln-Mercury Edition, Part I
Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Lincoln-Mercury Edition, Part II
Very nice article. As a Lincoln owner (67 Coupe and 78 Town Coupe), and long-time Lincoln fan, I never warmed up to the MKS. As you mention, it used all the D3 platform hard points so while it wasn’t as blatant a copy as the earlier Taurus based Continental, it was still clearly a Taurus derivative. That didn’t give it much cache in the luxury segment.
Perhaps based on that Taurus lineage, it never established an identity for itself – what was a MKS, what kind of car was it, and what type of customer was it trying to attract?
I do agree with you – a low mileage V6 Ecoboost model might be worth looking at…
I have to agree with your assessment on the looks Will, something about it seems very odd to me. It’s simultaneously both awkward and boring, which how that got pulled off, I don’t know.
I feel like ever since the late 90s, Lincoln has been struggling to really find its footing. Part of the problem was Ford was wasting its time with PAG rather than giving Lincoln the attention it needed. Whereas GM was trying hard to turn Cadillac around from the sordid reputation it got in the 80s, it almost seemed like Ford was ashamed of Lincoln. The Town Car in its bathtub styling and cheapened interior was a downgrade from the 90-97 generation that was very strong, and for the rest of its life, it was pretty much seen as just an Airport Taxi and Stretch Limo conversion and nothing else. The LS certainly had some potential, but I almost feel like it should’ve come much earlier, when the BMW M cars were just hitting America and Lincoln could ride that performance wave. (I know they had the Mark VII LSC, which was certainly a great effort, but if they were serious about a sports sedan, they needed this when BMW was at its zenith with its American customers in order to really be noticed). Not helping was the styling, which is very much a love it or hate it deal, and some sordid reliability problems that tarnished it quickly. I think the only true hit they had in those years was the Navigator, which was benefitted by a low MSRP and being the first American brand to offer an upscale SUV, but once the second generation Escalade came out, even that wave was short lived (I find the Navigator much more attractive than the Escalade, even though I will admit GM doing one or two things right with the Escalade).
The MKS just seems to be sort of a blah car, and it suffers the same problem as the Taurus does. With the advent of the Fusion/MKZ which offer just as much as the other cars at a lower price point, what’s the advantage of getting a Taurus/MKS besides a little extra length and maybe some options unique to those cars? And the first generation certainly didn’t help with that very Baleen whale front grille.
Though, can I just take a moment and say that I actually have a fondness for the split wing grilles that Lincoln had? I know they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought they got them right in the later years and they were some of my favorite front ends on any modern luxury car. Conversely, I find the new MKZ and Continental front ends off putting. That big Jaguar style mouth with the logo in front and the angry headlights don’t do it for me, it reminds me too much of the Mustang and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The worst is on the Navigator which takes an otherwise solid design and just mucks it up with that giant vacuum cleaner style grille and angry headlights. I’d rather take the cheese grater looking grille of the refresh model over this (For the record, I actually liked the refreshed Navigator’s front end, but I won’t lie, it does look like I could use it to shred some potatoes for hash browns)
I certainly hope the best for Lincoln in the future, I don’t like how their products look now, but the fact that they are getting sales up and creating buzz is promising. I don’t look at this like a rebirthing period, I look at this more like Cadillac’s lineup during the 90s. There are going to be stumbling blocks, they’re not going to get everything right, and they will make mistakes along the way (Certainly not to the same degree as the Northstar or the Catera), but its a step in the right direction to getting them back on track. I would like some changes, but, the fact that they are creating interest and really focusing on a brand that, just six years ago, everyone said was going to be joining Mercury, (And indeed, almost had that fate bestowed upon them) is nothing short of a major turning point.
Good point about the “awkward but boring” styling. I think it’s those slab sides that do it; too much undifferentiated metal. The current Nissan Quest has much the same problem, in my opinion.
With all the Japanese and Korean brands in the marketplace, it must be really hard nowadays to design a luxury sedan that’s obviously a luxury car and distinctive without being repulsive. Or boring.
Having said that, I wonder who’ll be first to break away from the rising beltline small-windowed wedge look. Are deeper side windows really inconsistent with good side impact protection?
As a kid I wanted to be a car designer. Nowadays I’m glad I’m not.
Fully disclosure: I was rather enamored with the MKS when it first came out back in late-2008. Up until that time, Lincoln’s offerings (including the recent LS which I never warmed up to) did nothing for me. They did project an overly-stodgey, elderly image, and their interiors really weren’t all that convincing for “luxury cars”. But the MKS brought with it a glimmer of hope, initially.
I liked its styling inside and out, its interior featured the aforementioned Bridge of Weir leather with French seams and tasteful application of real wood trim, could be equipped with the latest technology options, and they used the then-novel EcoBoost engines with all-wheel drive for added handling ability.
Lincoln had finally built its most competitive sedan in years, and it looked nothing like its Ford sibling. As high-school age teen in the process of getting my drivers license, and now seriously evaluating cars based on their features, quality of their interiors, and powertrain, it was something rather exciting for a Lincoln to look so competitive.
Of course, the MKS’s numerous shortcoming, which this article addresses, soon became apparent. I won’t bother repeating the MKS’s particular weaknesses, but as is’s been discussed before, for Lincoln in general, the big elephant in the room is still Ford. Lincoln still has a huge problem justifying its price premium over very similarly equipped Fords that offer the same amenities and driving experience, sans a bit of chrome.
The Continental does offer a few unique features, and Lincoln’s Black Label editions are refreshing to see in a world of on-size-fits-all beige and black interiors, but the question still remains: What is Lincoln’s target demographic?
People in Grosse Pointe still buy Lincoln models as it has been for decades and I started to see new Continental with white wall tires on the street.
I’m curious who would order those all blue Lincoln models though.
I do like that.
The only Continentals I’ve seen so far in Massachusetts have all been black with livery plates. I’ve yet to see a privately owned one.
I guess to clarify my question, it’s to whom is Lincoln trying to appeal to besides its traditional older clientele?
I just don’t really see any appeal even in the way that brands such as somewhat more mature brands like Lexus and Cadillac do.
Is Cadillac having all that much success in appealing to younger buyers?
Here in New Orleans, I just don’t see that many new alpha-numeric Caddies on the road.
Perhaps it IS a regional thing.
Oh, by no means was I implying Cadillac appealed to young buyers, though I would say the average age of its buyer is probably a few years younger than Lincoln’s.
To clarify, what I meant by that is Cadillac and Lexus have been more successful with creating more diverse lineups that offer broader appeal and a greater sense of aspiration and status. Lincoln just doesn’t present itself as an appealing brand in this sense. It’s appeal and vehicles are much more Buick-line in approach.
I can agree with you here.
I see those black cars in metro areas too, and almost all of them I see are propane cars. Besides those I see some sand storm colored ones driven from mansions too.
Lincoln appeals to the traditional older clientele in many decades already and older clientele in different decade is same and different. The appeal of the current generation is the same as the previous generation and all receipt is the same.
My boss fell in love with the MKS in 2009 for the tech side and leased one to replace his 2007 Audi A6. Boy, was he disappointed. He opted for the “S” model in sliver with black leather. While I thought it was sharp outside, the interior was looked cheap and it had little spunk. He loved the ride but sorely missed the power and refinement of the Audi. He stuck with it and even had me bring over a demo Eco Boost version when they were introduced. We both felt it didn’t make much of a difference. While the service at the local LM dealer was good, it didn’t compare to how I treated at Audi (one of perks of being the fleet manager -I got to bring them both in when needed). Two years later he was back to a new supercharged A6 and was happy once again.
FoMoCo should had NEVER completely eliminated the Panther platform and the Town Car.
As much profit as these cars made for FoMoCo, as many years ago as all the tooling had been paid for, surely needed updates could had been found and accomplished?
Can you just image what a “Halo Car” a continually updated and revised rear wheel drive, V8 powered Town Car could had been for Lincoln? They would had had the rear wheel market all to themselves by today.
I am gratified to see the younger generation of twenty and thirty-somethings “discovering” the last generation of Lincoln Town Car, updating them with fresh paint, rims, engine modifications and driving them. THESE people could had been the next generation to purchase an updated, revised, modernized Town Car!
Every time the MKS (or whatever da hale it’s called today) received an update, I’d go look at it and drive it. NOT impressed!
Until FoMoCo gets it’s collective shitz together, my ’05 Town Car will stay in my driveway.
“The tooling was paid for” – Tooling doesn’t last forever. Ford stated this was one of the main reasons for stopping production of the Panther cars. It would have cost millions just to replace the equipment that builds them.
“Can you just image what a “Halo Car” a continually updated and revised rear wheel drive, V8 powered Town Car could had been for Lincoln? They would had had the rear wheel market all to themselves by today.”
What rear wheel drive market? BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac all produce rear wheel drive vehicles, and FCA has the 300 and Charger. It made no sense for Ford to revise such an old product for a shrinking segment. Ford could have reskinned the Jaguar XF as a Lincoln, but at that point they were cash poor and had to spend their money on their more lucrative products.
“I am gratified to see the younger generation of twenty and thirty-somethings “discovering” the last generation of Lincoln Town Car, updating them with fresh paint, rims, engine modifications and driving them. THESE people could had been the next generation to purchase an updated, revised, modernized Town Car!”
It is nice that younger people are gravitating towards the Town Car in your area, but the majority of younger drivers prefer cars like the GTI and WRX. And even if they wanted a sedan, the mid size segment can take care of their needs just fine.
I’d really like to know what you didn’t like about the MKS specifically. I’ve driven the Town Car back-to-back with the MKS on numerous occasions and road isolation was the only thing the Town Car had going for it.
You should consider replacing your Town Car with something more modern due to the Panther’s horrible side impact crash rating. A certain author at the other site got severely injured when he lost control of his Town Car and got T-boned. You may like the new Continental.
You should consider replacing your Town Car with something more modern due to the Panther’s horrible side impact crash rating. A certain author at the other site got severely injured when he lost control of his Town Car and got T-boned. You may like the new Continental.
I suggest he enjoy the car he likes, don’t drive it like an ass, and look both ways.
Sounds like a plan, Matt.
That certain editor is full of BS and his TC protected him quite well. The impact was much more forceful than the test used for side impact. The car that hit him was traveling an estimated 50mph and he slide sideways into the car. So the car that hit him was traveling faster than the test vehicle and he was traveling into the collision instead of standing still.
Mark, I’m glad you like your Town Car and if that’s what you wish to keep driving forever, go for it. My motto has always been if it makes you happy, then do it.
But regarding the Town Car as a vehicle, I’m pretty much in agreement with Edward.
By the time of its discontinuation, the Town Car was horribly outdated and outclassed. All the styling revisions, interior upgrades, and mechanical improvements in the world couldn’t change the fact that its archaic underpinnings dated back to 1978. Those will forever be bullets that cannot be dodged.
In regards to your comments of 20 and 30 somethings gravitating towards the Town Car, maybe it’s a regional thing, but I don’t see anyone who looks under 75 driving Town Cars.
Younger people, if they’re into cars generally gravitate to smaller and sportier cars. The large majority of younger, less-car enthusiast people though buy compact or midsize sedans, crossovers, or Jeep Wranglers.
I base my “young people” comments on the offers to buy my Town Car that have come from guys in their late twenties/early thirties.
I also base my comment on the increasing frequency of young guys posting pictures of their recently acquired Lincolns posted on the several facebook pages that specialize in these cars.
That’s only logical. Older folks generally aren’t shopping for a 12 year old car, right?
There’s no doubt that big old American cars appeal to younger folks, for a number of obvious reasons. But that doesn’t mean younger folks are driving big old American cars more than other cars, right?
I can take you to the area here near the campus, and you might see two or three older American cars in an endless sea of 5-10 year old import brands.
I’m not surprised young people drive Lincoln Town Car these days, because it’s the way it should be. Young people drove used Packard in the ’50s just the same. Young people here still drive Studebaker so anything newer isn’t too surprising.
I would only question why young people elsewhere don’t have the diverse selection of cars.
Anecdotal evidence of what young people drive is…just that. What you notice young people driving is most likely affected by what cars you like and/or notice, in other words, your own bias. It’s a well know thing, confirmation bias. We tend to see and remember what supports our POV.
I study psychology so I know confirmation bias alright. I just try to remember a model that young people don’t drive and it’s not quite fruitful.
Among all the models commonly available on the market, or uncommonly available, young people drive almost all of them, except many AMCs, Rover/Sterling and Dacia, Lada, Volga to my knowledge. Considering young people I see drive their parents’ Polonez, their own Austin Mini, and the PSA products I posted before, I would only be curious why young people don’t drive a different variety of cars to other people’s experience.
Yet, according to Ford Motor Company, young people don’t care at all about cars and it’s mentioned in different occasions. Maybe the reality is pretty bad elsewhere.
I’m not sure I understand your comment.
Edward Snitkoff: RE: “…Panther’s horrible side impact crash rating”
The NHTSA gave the 2005 Town Car it’s highest 5 star rating in the following crash categories: Front Driver, Front Passenger, SIDE CRASH DRIVER, SIDE CRASH PASSENGER.
I will now give the rest of your posting the reply it deserves.
In the future, please do not post your biased, opinionated, inaccurate opinions as “facts”.
I was basing my comment on what I had read about the Panther platform performing without side impact airbags, but it appears the Town Car got them as standard equipment in 1999. I stand corrected.
So the Panthers DID perform poorly in side impact crashes without airbags. Thats where I was coming from.
“In the future, please do not post your biased, opinionated, inaccurate opinions as “facts”.”
Comments are inherently opinionated, and if you can’t handle someone responding to the things you wrote that’s your problem, not mine.
Every 2005-up Town Car that I have looked at to purchase and driven has had the side air bags. I assumed it was standard equipment; if not always ordered by the local car dealer.
Perhaps that’s why the “Reference Standard” for crash testing, the federal government’s NHSTA/IIHS, gave the 2005 model year Lincoln Town Car it’s highest, five star rating for side impact protection.
It’s not comments that are “inherently opinionated” that I “can’t handle”; it’s comments that are so grossly inaccurate and out-of-date that bothers me.
According to these IIHS tests, even with side airbags the Panther platform got only a “marginal” rating. Side impact tests, without and without airbags begin around 46 seconds in:
What percentage of “Real World” U. S. accidents are from side impacts (T-bones)?
I must admit that I do not know this number.
This piece suggests up to 25% of collisions involve side impacts – that’s quite a big number.
I checked the IIHS site and it confirms the 25% figure, apparently the source used by this legal firm.
A 25% rate of possible side impact collisions also equals a 75% of NOT having a possible side impact collusion.
I’m going to be the optimist (and look around when driving) and go with the 75% figure.
The NHTSA tests are a bit lacking in some respects (such as no frontal offset)
I tend to lean towards the IIHS for their testing. They test for overlap(which is something that NHTSA refuses to do) and as they are funded by insurance companies who have every reason interest to seeing that the safest cars are on the roads (to decrease payouts in claims) I consider them to be more impartial then NHTSA due to the auto lobby.
That said IIHS has a video out on the Panther cars. In this video, it shows side impacts. They give the panther cars without the side airbag a Poor rating and Panther cars with the side airbag a Marginal rating
The gist of it is that without side airbags in a Panther car, the driver suffers ether serious head injuries or death and in a Panther car with side airbags, the driver is most likely going to drive again due to sever pelvis and internal injury
As for the NHTSA 5 star rating for side impacts. My 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport is listed as having a 5 star side impact rating from NHTSA. It is part of the 97-04 GM U Van line up. It is also one of the worse vehicles out there from a safety point of view. Though I have mentioned that the driver death rate for the U Vans is in the middle of the pack of cars and trucks made in those years even I know that that van does not have anything close to a 5 star rating side impact wise. But it does not change my thoughts on driving it or using it daily. When it is time to go then it is time to go.
That being said, The Town Car is a nice riding car that I would be more then happy to own and drive.
Neither nor. There was a car which, had Lincoln introduced it at the right time, might have been a game changer. I was really looking forward to see those on the roads and it was a big disappointment when the powers-that-be chickened out and instead went with the sleep-inducing M-cars.
Now that’s distinctive, attractive, the design language says “prestige”, and the chrome beltline trim says Lincoln. Sixties, true, but Lincoln.
It works for me.
That and the Continental are cars Ford of Europe never bothered with trying to import. With the MKS, this was probably a wise decision; the Continental may though appeal to those who at the moment only have the choice of the Chrysler 300 (such persons would not consider a fully loaded Mondeo Vignale – on its preposterous €50k MRSP – even for one second).
I had big hopes for Lincoln when the LS came out, as I thought that it was a good modern interpretation of the “American Car”. I even flirted with buying one for a while, but the stories of transmission woes discouraged me. I expected that Lincoln would redesign the transmission and that I would consider one on my next car buying cycle but Lincoln killed them instead of fixing them.
As for the newer Lincolns I have not been a fan of the Baleen Whale grill look, and I have not been interested enough to attempt decoding the various MK-“X” delineations. Having said that, a handsome car caught my attention in traffic the other day, and when I got close enough for badge reading, it turned out to be a Lincoln. It really reset my expectations. If I can be convinced that the quality is there, and they’re not just Fords in rented tuxedos, I may take a closer look. This article is a good start in heading me that way.
Agree on the LS. I remember seeing a white LS in peak hour traffic in Geelong (near Ford’s proving ground) when they were new. The left-hand-drive made it stand out, along with wires leading from the engine bay to the interior. I asked an engineer friend who worked for Ford, and he denied all knowledge of it. As it turned out they never sold them here, but I always wondered.
I will join the crowd today. These cars just always looked awkward. They were not unattractive, but they were not attractive, either. There is just something off in their dimensions, dimensions that have just never really worked with a sedan from this D3 platform.
A nephew and his wife just bought a used one. They seem to be very highly regarded as used cars and have something as a used car that they lacked as new ones: Value! If I were looking for a later model used sedan, I would definitely consider one. They are much more attractive from the inside looking out than the other way around. 🙂
Could be just me, but I see a lot of the Australian FG Falcon in the MKS design. At least a lot more familiarity than with the Taurus anyway.
Will, this is a great article, though depressing. The cars are just like the “MK” names–boring, indistinguishable, forgettable–everything a luxury car shouldn’t be!
When I think about the Japanese upmarket brands, I actually think that other than the original Lexus LS400 and SC300/400, all were really competitors for upper middle brands, not the high-end Germans who came to define the luxury market. Acura was always a near-luxury brand, the best selling Lexus was the Camry-based ES then the RX, and most of Infiniti’s best sellers were based on volume Nissan products. So, the Japanese simply recreated what the domestics had been doing for years with Buick, Oldsmobile, Mercury and to a lesser degree Dodge/Chrysler–upscale cars based on volume products, sold at a reasonable price premium but never too expensive. So why on earth would Lincoln, which was positioned as a true “luxury” brand, start chasing Acura and Lexus? That’s why FoMoCo had Mercury, and in reality, the MKS, MKX, MKZ, MKwhatevers were all Mercurys (perhaps that’s really what the “M” was for…). So they should have actually been Mercury products (fancy Fords) while Lincoln should have pursued the path started with the LS (not that the LS was fantastic, but it did loosely conform to the international expectations for a high-end product). Imagine if FoMoCo had made the LS better as a convincing alternative to the BMW and MB E, stretched it to make a 21st Century Town Car, loaded with real luxury (like sumptuous interiors with real wood), used it to create a sophisticated, right-sized luxury SUV to compete with the X5. That might have kept Lincoln in the real luxury car realm. Leaving these fancy Fords in the lineup to compete with the fancy Honda, Toyota and Nissans being hawked by the upscale Japanese.
Just a dream, never to be realized I’m afraid. Looks like Ford remains content to sell Mercurys with the Lincoln name for the forseeable future. And I’m not optimistic that we’ll ever see a genuine Lincoln again.
It always has been Lexus, Acura are going after Lincoln and Buick not the other way around, only Ford and GM forgot how to run the brands once a while. And Lincoln is never intended for international expectations. Only in the recent years they added amber turn signals ( same as Escalade catering to the customers from Eastern Europe )
Nice write up William. The D3 sedans are indeed big, and that is their biggest disadvantage. A Fusion or MKZ work for 99 percent of shoppers out there, so MKS needed to be something different, and it really didn’t succeed in that regard. Lincoln definitely learned from their mistakes with the new Continental, and that sedan seems to be performing well in its segment.
If you have the space for a D3 and rarely have to maneuver a car into tight situations, these cars are a great value. They really shine on the highway, and the 3.5 EcoBoost is a great engine that makes things more enjoyable. I’m not sure why the MKS was criticized for harsh crashing; I never experienced it in any of the ones I drove, and if I did it went unnoticed.
The MKS is probably a great car for an Uber/Lyft driver.
I am surprised that you find the D3 cars to big and hard to maneuver. To me they (at least the 2008 Taurus (that I owned) and the 2009(that my folks own) don’t seem to be any harder then the 2006 Taurus I have owned or even the 2003 Sable wagon my folks also own.
Sure it does not have the turn radius of a Fiesta but it is not like you are trying to maneuver the Titanic ether.
It’s not that I find the D3 cars extremely hard to maneuver. It’s just that they’re going to be inherently harder to maneuver than something like a Fusion or MKZ, and those cars nearly match the D3’s in key interior measurements. Rear view cameras and front and rear sensors mitigate this issue, but smaller cars have them too.
Over the last few years I’ve spent a fair amount of time parked in the back seats of modern Lincolns used as livery cars and have been surprised on how nice they are inside, even if sometimes the outer wrapping looks a little ungainly (see: MKT “Town Car”.) Even my wife, who is definitely more of a brand snob than I am when it comes to cars, enjoyed them.
The new Continental actually nails it, I think, from both the inside and out, at least from a passenger’s perspective. Never have had a chance to actually drive one.
Great article, definitely a car I’ve never spent too much time thinking about. Funny how the MKS seems purpose-built to be a livery car but here in NYC all the newer livery cars I see are now seemingly all Toyota: Uber drivers love their Camry’s, Highlanders and various Prius model. Even most of the yellow cabs have gone this route, with an occasional Ford Escape thrown in for good measure.
The old school car service places still rock their cushy Panther cars, worn in Gran Marquis’ and Town Cars. When those dinosaurs finally bite the bullet, I wonder which direction those companies will go.
A very ungainly design. These are completely off my radar, as recent Lincolns of any kind are quite rare here in Eugene. I can see why.
I remember a “Lincoln is back” sort of buzz when the MmmKay S debuted… which didn’t happen, then heard it again when the 2013 MKz came along, one CUV after another and again with the Continental. Fool me once… But I will say the MKS does deserve credit for being better differentiated, the original Zephyr/MKz and MKX were Versailles level badge jobs and did a more damage to Lincoln’s brand perception than they get credit for.
Say what you will about Lincoln in it’s elderly demographic years but they had identity, the Continental didn’t actually resemble a Taurus in any way, the Navagator was a huge hit, the LS had good bones(unfortunately wasted) and they even they had the exclusive(excluding SVT Mustangs) InTech engine series. When the MKz debuted Lincoln turned into Mercury, even though Mercury still existed, and they had the Milan variant. It’s hard to shake that perception.
The MKS for a fleeting moment almost shook it, it just aged really quick. The aeformentioned grey plastic lower trim was something Ford tried on the retro Mustangs as well, it looked cheap on them too(especially the 2011-2012). I consider Ford design from this period pretty terrible until the ’12 Fusion debuted. They were clearly way too self conscious and in a transitional state, trying to both be 2000s conservative, one foot in longer/lower/wider( hence the black trim to hide the height), yet committed to the taller high beltline proportions, and the results all seemed unfinished or love/hate. Ford(brand) finally resolved their styling between 2012 and 2015 but Lincoln withered on the vine with theirs.
The Continental is their step out of it, but I don’t see it saving the brand long term, as mentioned, it is a sedan in this market… Plus it’s styling, while better than anything Lincoln has had in years(final Town Car included IMO), is still pretty anonymous. Embiggened 2002 Hyundai Azera with a Jaguar like grille.
Even the much-maligned Versailles had more of a Lincoln “vibe” than this bland car.
I agree, Frank Bray.
Ah the Lincoln MKS
My folks rented a 2014 MKS back in late 2014 for their annual driving trip from Maryland to Canada. The rental agency offer it to them for $5 more per day. My folks own a 2009 Ford Taurus SEL.
When they returned from their trip, I asked how it was. Both my folks told me it felt like and drove like their 2009 Taurus(of which the MKS is based on). My folks are in their 60s and they are the target customers for Lincoln products.
On the flipside, the MKS (like the 2009 Taurus) was more roomy then the 2009 Town car they rented years ago.
I liked the first version of the MKS. I thought it pulled off the then-latest attempt at a Lincoln front-end convincingly. The interior seemed nice.
But it was more “premium” ala the space Buick plays in than “luxury.”
Then the 2010 Taurus came out, which really made the Lincoln unconvincing. I mean, why buy the Lincoln when you get the same car for less money?
Then came that awful refresh, which made the already dubious proportions brought on by the massive D3 platform into horrid deformed caricatures bordering on offensive to the eye and incoherent in expression.
Really, the 2013 version was a perfect encapsulation of the recent history of all of the Lincoln in that one car-improvements obfuscated by inconsistency of design, incoherence of brand and position, and a horrid caricature of what it once was.
Ugly little car looks like the offspring of a Saturn and a neon. Lincoln is an abomination . They need a town car and a proper mark.
“Little”? Say what you will about the styling, but these ain’t little. For several years they were the longest American-built sedan on the market.
Yeah, pictured by itself it looks much smaller than it really is. In person they’re pretty huge, nearly as big as Panthers in length/width but towering over them in height.
FINALLY someone who agrees with me!
Thank you, Warren.
When I worked at a F-L-M dealer in 2012, this was our “premium” loaner which I would sometimes choose to drive on errands if it wasn’t lent out to a customer. White with white leather seats and pretty much every option. My general impressions:
– Super smooth and quiet to drive, though the ride wasn’t really “cushy”, just adequate. Mostly due to the giant clomping wheels.
– There was nothing remotely sporty or nimble about it. These didn’t handle “badly” or clumsy in the same way a Town Car did, but it was a numb, heavily insulated and very heavy freeway cruiser. Toyota Avalon came to mind, maybe slightly firmer
– Interior room was awful for how HUGE the car felt from the driver’s seat. Both generations of Fusion/MKZ were similarly or more spacious inside while being far more nimble, zippy, easier to see out of, and with a far more ergonomic driving position. The design of the dash and center console was the main problem but the high beltline and slab sides didn’t help. Interior materials and quality were excellent though, eaisily the nicest product Ford sold then and light years ahead of the early-2000s plastic garbage interiors
– It was very clearly a Taurus in the way it felt and drove, which shared all of the above pros and cons. The interior was nicer, but NVH and driving feel was the same
– We sold very few of them new… the MKZ (Fusion clone) was the probably three or four times as popular in terms of volume both on the lot and in the service department. We had more TOWN CARS in stock and they had been of production for like a year at that point
– Despite being smaller, louder, harsher, and generally cheaper feeling, I often chose to take our cheaper MKZ loaner around town when given the choice because it was so much easier and more pleasant to drive. The big MKS really only trumped it on long freeway trips.
– You’d be insane to purchase a new one, they depreciated like 50% in the first year. Could be a good deal used, but there are so many better choices. For a $45k full size luxury car, it was very “meh” overall. It was a perfectly nice car, just so bland and average with no qualities that made it stand out both within the Ford family (i.e. a loaded Taurus) and vis a vis the competition
“– Interior room was awful for how HUGE the car felt from the driver’s seat. Both generations of Fusion/MKZ were similarly or more spacious inside while being far more nimble, zippy, easier to see out of, and with a far more ergonomic driving position. The design of the dash and center console was the main problem but the high beltline and slab sides didn’t help. Interior materials and quality were excellent though, eaisily the nicest product Ford sold then and light years ahead of the early-2000s plastic garbage interiors”
You might be the first to have mentioned this, and the reason I came here was to say this. I sat in the MKS the year it came out, and found it disappointingly cramped. That has kept it off my consideration for used.
My wife and I have been considering a very lightly used MKZ as it is the only way to buy a large displacement non turbo V-6 Fusion.
I sat in the new Continental in a showroom this spring. It is fabulously roomy, the sort of design the MKS should have had. Unfortunately, the price is off putting. With any luck (for me) the depreciation on the Continental might make for one heck of a luxury car buy after a few years.
The proportions of these cars are all wrong. They look too high and narrow, particularly for a car that is supposed to be a luxury car. It was as though Ford stretched and bent an existing body over an existing platform, and then tried to spruce it up with some Lincoln styling cues. It ultimately doesn’t work.
There is a white one parked right by the entrance of our church every Sunday in a handicapped spot. Every week it seems to sport another scrape or ding. The owners are an 80-something couple. That is literally the only MKS I see around here.
It almost seems like they designed the Explorer first (despite the fact that it came out two years later) and then worked backwards from it to get the MKS and Taurus.
On a side note, the current Explorer (especially pre-facelift) always reminded me of a first-generation Honda Pilot left in the sun too long.
Completely agree. Nice enough cars but nothing to distinguish them vs. their contemporary competitors. “Meh” on wheels.
I bought a used 2009 last spring (107,000 miles, top trim package, $7,000 out the door)) and have enjoyed it. it’s a lot like the LeSabres I used to buy, nice comfy, good ride but not a head-turner, though certainly an unmistakable luxury car. Mileage and reliability have been good, with only A/C quirks (shut-off after an hour or so of use) to report so far. I’d be inclined to buy another, especially if a hybrid option were available. If not, it’s given me a reason to look at other used Lincoln models. It’s a good sleeper option for a quietly good luxury sedan.