2006 Lincoln Zephyr

Mike Dushane
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New York- Seeking to expand its buyer profile beyond livery drivers (Town Car) and rhinestone cowboys (Mark LT pickup), Lincoln is pitching its new Zephyr-and the next Aviator, a crossover-as hip combinations of luxury and value. Yes, Lincoln really thinks it can sell cars to, of all demographic groups, the young, a task the now-departed LS failed to do. Problem is, the Ford Fusion and the Mercury Milan-which cost thousands less than the Zephyr and are virtually identical-are better deals for buyers of any age.

All three sedans ride and handle well, albeit not as well as the Mazda 6 on which they are based. Predictably, the Lincoln is more softly sprung than the Ford and the Mercury, with a richer interior and more sound insulation, but not enough to drown out the wails of the Duratec V-6 at high rpm.

That won't matter to traditional (meaning older) buyers, who will enjoy the Zephyr's adequate low-end grunt and spacious cabin. But even with all-wheel drive and a larger V-6, which are expected later in 2006, the Zephyr doesn't stand out in the cutthroat near-luxury class. If you have $30,000 or so to spend on an entry-luxury sedan, the Chrysler 300 and the Acura TSX have smoother engines and more style than the new Lincoln, and they're better to drive.

SPECSPrice: $29,660
Engine: 3.0L V-6, 221 hp, 205 lb-ft
Drive: Front-wheel

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