This is Rust or Lust, a series where RideLust will help you decide which cars built within the last 10 years are keepers or scrappers.
Today’s contestant isn’t your great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Lincoln, it’s a rear-wheel-drive stunner that (in V6 form) ditches the slushbox for a proper manual.
Correction: This article previously stated that the V8 version was available with a manual; it was not. An astute reader noticed the error. It has been corrected.
The LS was conceived in 2000 and went extinct in 2006. While journalists and canny drivers celebrated Lincoln’s somewhat unusual decision to take on the BMW 5-series with a RWD, sedan with a manual transmission, the buying public went from initially enthusiastic (50,000 in 2000) to, well, less than enthusiastic (9,000 in 2006). Actually, it’s like the sales of the LS pulled a Thelma and Louise and drove off a freakin’ cliff. Great minds who’ve pondered the subject tend to agree that the LS floundered because Ford never really updated the car. There was that mild refresh in 2003, but when’s the last time you got excited about a “mild refresh?” The point is, when hot cars get stale, the buyers go elsewhere (“Hey, look at that Cadillac CTS-V!!!”). But terrible marketing decisions aside, the LS was a great car, and our vote for an unexpected modern classic.
Here’s why: first and foremost, the LS V8 was motivated by the AJ30 engine, a sweet DOHC, all-aluminum 3.9L mill producing 252 HP, derived from the excellent Jaguar AJ-V8, a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner in 2000. Light and powerful (for the time), it could pull the relatively heavy LS to 60 MPH in the low seven second range. (Remember – that was fast nearly a decade ago!) The chassis, with a near 50-50 weight distribution, was also derived from a Jaguar model, the S-Type. While only available with the automatic, it was a sweet motor and made 290 HP by the end of the production run.
Also, the V6 version was available with a Getrag 221 5-speed manual transmission for a short time, which made the LS famously the first Lincoln since 1951 to let you choose your own cogs. Some body panels used aluminum to save weight. All of this added up to a good enough driver for it to be Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 2000 when it debuted.
The best part: prices are LOW. If you think depreciation does a number on 5-year-old Saabs, you’ll get a kick out of the LS. A car that retailed for north of $30,000 can be had now, less than 10 years later, for much closer to $8,000. Now, to be fair, finding a LS with a manual is tricky – they were available but not necessarily common. There was also a little issue with engine disintegration due to Nikasil liners reacting with high-sulfur fuel … but maybe that just affected the Jaguar versions? Who knows? It will be an exciting game of Lincoln Engine Roulette! But all kidding aside, if you want an all-American (with a touch of British) knock-off of a BMW 540i, this is worth checking out. And in 25 years, it may just be a rare and valuable relic of an era when Lincoln, just momentarily, got the formula right.
It’ll never pull $2.3 million at Barrett-Jackson, but the LS is a classic.