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2006 Lincoln Zephyr

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San Francisco: This affordable luxury sedan, the Zephyr, is helping Lincoln shed its stodgy image as a brand for limousine companies and AARP members. It's been a long time since Lincoln has made a great car.

Oh, sure, there have been lots of recent Lincolns that have been great in some respects - great for the money, great for an American car, great for Grandpa - but an all-around great car that makes your jaw drop? That simply hasn't happened, until now. It really is an impressive ride

Lincoln introduced a new car for 2006 that isn't just something you'd settle for if you can't afford a Lexus. Called the Zephyr, it's an affordable luxury car that drives as good or better than everything else in its class, and it's proving that the urban coolness of Lincoln's SUVs is slowly trickling down to the brand's sedans.

For starters, the body looks fantastic. It's a clean, classic, elegant design that doesn't distract your eye with tacky body cladding or unnecessary trim. Taut lines draw your attention to a bold chrome grill with Lincoln's traditional "waterfall" look up front, while an uncluttered back end has big, wraparound taillights and a bumper that's nearly flush with the trunk. The overall look is sexy, classy and unpretentious.

Inside, you'll find the same attention to detail that makes the body stunning. Rich wood trim - including an optional light maple that looks like it belongs on an expensive piece of Scandinavian furniture - lines the doors and dash, while tasteful bits of chrome give it a sporty, European look. Construction feels nearly as tight and precise as a high-end Lexus, and firm seats give you a good feel of the road.

You'll also find lots of gadgets inside, including a 10-speaker stereo with six-disc CD changer, 10-way power front seats with heat, and dual-zone climate control. Options include an audiophile sound system ($995), touch-screen navigation system ($2,495), power sunroof ($1,200) and cooled front seats ($495). I found the cooled front seats especially nice in warm weather.

As you start to drive the Zephyr, one of the first things you notice is how solid the car feels. It's like the entire car was carved from a solid block of granite, with hardly a hint of shakes or rattles when you hit bumps. Tell the car to turn, and it responds instantly and gracefully.

A 3.0-liter V6 engine is buttery smooth while making 221 horsepower, enough to make it fun on country roads while still getting 28 miles per gallon on the highway.

Although the Zephyr is based on the same platform as the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan - both cars that I've driven and fallen in love with - the Zephyr's driving feel is slightly softer in comparison. It's tuned more for comfort than for sportiness, but it definitely doesn't feel boat-like.

Best of all, the Zephyr's price of $28,995 is a steal considering the car's high quality and impressive driving feel. It compares favorably with luxury cars that cost thousands more, which is perfect for bargain hunters, but true penny pinchers will want to cross-shop the Mercury and Ford versions of this car to see if they could live without the Zephyr's upscale look and sumptuous interior. All three flavors of this car – the Fusion, Milan and Zephyr - are amazing vehicles for the money.

If the Zephyr has a downside, it's that there's no high-performance version available. The chassis feels so solid and the suspension so great that it's a shame Lincoln doesn't offer a sportier version with a big V8 engine and firmer suspension, much as Cadillac does with the CTS-V.

It's also interesting to note, sadly, that Lincoln plans to drop the historic Zephyr name in 2007 and replace it with the dull MKZ. Personally, I'd rather buy the 2006 model just to get the cooler name.

Regardless, the Zephyr goes a long way toward shedding Lincoln's image as a brand for old folks and limousine companies. It's definitely a world-class Lincoln.

What was tested? The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr with a base price of $28,995. Options: DVD navigation system ($2,495) cooled front seats ($495) Xenon HID headlights ($495). Price as tested including delivery: $32,480.

Why buy it? It's an incredible luxury car at a low price. Great handling, sexy looks, a strong engine and sumptuous interior make it a wonderful all-around car.   By Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
Column Name: Zephyr impresses for price, quality and driving feel
Topic: The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr
Word Count:  797
Photo Caption:  The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr
Photo Credits:  Lincoln Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 43

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