The 2006 Zephyr demonstrates that you don’t have to be garish or covered on glitz to tackle the higher end of the new-car spectrum. You just have to be good.
Goodness along with a dollop or two of humble pie would appear to be what Lincoln is pitching would-be converts to the fold for 2006 with its new Zephyr mid-size sedan. Not everyone, the company surmises, wants, or is able to spend the family fortune on a bigger, faster or extra-opulent set of wheels. These buyers are simply looking for a reasonable array of niceties included in a proven performer that conveys a proper sense of value.
The Zephyr, a name that Ford’s premier division originated back in 1936, would appear to meet these requirements. The basis for the car is the Mazda6 (Ford owns a controlling interest in the Japanese automaker), an excellent platform known for its Euro-type road feel and handling. It’s also the basis for the new-for ’06 the Ford Fusion and the Mercury Milan. In the Lincoln’s case, however, the sheetmetal has been shaped to convey a more formal look, chrome trim has been added around the windows and outside mirrors while both front and rear fascias appear more streamlined than with other members of the trio.
The Zephyr’s “waterfall” grille denotes it as a Lincoln family member in good standing while a set of 17-inch wheels further reinforces the car’s luxury posture.
Lincoln has also adjusted the Zephyr’s suspension settings for a more luxurious ride and also worked to further reduce the noise and vibration entering the cabin.
Crack open any one of the Zephyr’s generously sized doors and you’re greeted by more upscale touches. The seats are covered in leather and the trim is done up in satin nickel and chrome. You can also choose from one of three distinctive wood trim panels that run the width of the dash.
The 60/40 folding split rear seat in the Zephyr allows for extra luggage or cargo space in addition to an already generous trunk.
For its initial year, the Zephyr is available with a 221-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 mated to a sixspeed automatic transmission, a combination that’s optional on both the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. A more robust 3.5-liter V6 is rumored to be in the pipeline for the second year of production, along with the availability of all-wheel-drive.
Whether by design or pure luck, Lincoln has made ordering the Zephyr a simple affair with only one model and a lengthy standard-equipment list. You’ll get dual-zone climate control, heated 10-way power driver and passenger seats with driver’s-side memory, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio and temperature settings, heated outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, universal garagedoor opener and a six-speaker audio system.
The short list of options includes chrome wheels, a DVD-based navigation system, xenon headlamps, perforatedleather seats with a cooling function, a power sunroof and a 600-watt, 14-speaker THX surround- sound audio system with six-disc changer.
Lincoln hasn’t ignored the Zephyr’s safety focus and has positioned six airbags, including side-impact and side-curtain protection into every vehicle. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are also standard.
The new Zephyr is but one plank in Lincoln’s long-range strategy that will see the introduction of several new models over the next four years. Next up is an all-new Aviator planned for 2007.
In the meantime, the Zephyr should have no trouble appealing to Lincoln’s elusive target audience of younger, but-still-affluent adults seeking a car with a strong visual impact as well as a competent, well-equipped and reasonably priced ride.