The New Look of Luxury at Lincoln
by Alex Taylor III

(FORTUNE Magazine) - SPECS: 2006 LINCOLN ZEPHYR; $32,750 (nicely equipped)

BACKSTORY: In the chaos at Ford Motor Co. over the past five years, no brand has suffered more than Lincoln. So perhaps it's not surprising that for its latest offering Lincoln has resorted to a time-honored (if tarnished) industry practice called badge engineering. The Zephyr takes its name from Edsel Ford's 1936 car but borrows nearly everything else from today's Ford Fusion. With a four-door body, front-wheel-drive layout, 221-horsepower six-cylinder engine, and all-but-identical sheet metal, the Zephyr is the spitting image of the Fusion--yet costs $7,000 more.

TEST DRIVE: At first I found the Zephyr handsome in an inoffensive way, like a blow-dried, small-market TV anchorman. Navigating Manhattan traffic, the Zephyr felt nimble enough, with the superpliant suspension providing the expected luxo-ride. Still, I wasn't tempted to race any BMWs. And the more I drove, the more this Lincoln started to feel like a starter car for luxury buyers. Indeed, it made me wonder what a 21st-century Lincoln with rear drive and a big V-8 would feel like. Paging Edsel Ford? Top of page