Genteel refinement in a muscular sport coupe.by Paul A. Eisenstein
Base Price $39,990
As Tested $41,315
Although nearly 50 years have passed since Lincoln first introduced the Mark series, its mission remains the same: to attain the perfect balance between luxury-line comfort levels, under-the-hood power and sport-coupe handling.
The Mark VIII LSC is a proud inheritor of that legacy. It comes with elegant styling, a refined interior, a muscular 290-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine and a taut suspension that does a marvelous job of taming this beast of a coupe.
Last year, Lincoln redesigned the Mark VIII with fresh styling, a new interior and major technological advances in the lighting department. The new styling brought smartly rounded corners and gently sloping lines that are sleek and elegant.
High intensity discharge headlamps deliver nearly three times as much reflective light as standard halogen lamps. That translates into much greater nighttime visibility. At the same time, they control the output to prevent glare from blinding other drivers. We applaud this improvement as most vehicles offer poor lighting performance with headlamps being designed more for style than their ability to light up the road.
At the rear, a unique new neon taillamp with big brake lights, and mirror-mounted turn signals were designed to enhance safety by making it easier for other drivers to see and react to dynamic driving situations.
Lincoln's big coupe comes in two trim levels: Mark VIII and the sportier LSC. LSC stands for Luxury Sport Coupe.
We drove an LSC in the popular white pearl color. Its base price was $39,990 and came equipped with three options: that rich metallic paint ($365), heated seats ($290) and the trunk-mounted CD changer ($670). It also came with electronic traction control that was a no-cost option. The total cost of the package was $41,315. (All prices include destination charge.)
Last year's Mark VIII was redesigned with new quarter panels, front and rear fascias, a lightweight aluminum hood, an enlarged grille, and modified exhaust tips. The Mark's trademark tire hump, which is a tradition that dates back to the days when tires were bolted on to the rear bumper, was redesigned for a more understated look.
The Mark VIII is differentiated by its chrome trim, including the grille, bodyside moldings, and headlamp and taillamp surrounds. Body-colored trim distinguishes the LSC and gives it a more sporting persona.
The wraparound headlamps are enormous -- the largest in the industry -- and they throw off a cool beam of light that's wider and reaches out farther than standard halogen beams. We've all become accustomed to seeing relatively yellow headlamps, and the light given off by the high density discharge headlamps is so white that it appears blue. Objects and reflective signs show up sooner in the driver's field of vision, while curbs, ditches and other roadside hazards are better illuminated.
While safety is enhanced by improving the driver's visibility, Lincoln takes it a step further by providing better signals to drivers following along behind.
The rear neon taillamps present a unique three-dimensional effect that's stylish and high-tech. A single 48-inch wide neon tube stretches across the back of the car and wraps around the rear fenders. The tube itself is covered by body molding, but it casts the light downward onto a reflective surface, and then projects it out through a clear acrylic lens. According to Lincoln, the rear brake lights illuminate one-fifth of a second faster than standard incandescent bulbs. At 60 mph, drivers following along could theoretically reduce their stopping distance by an average of 17 feet, which could translate into fewer or less severe rear-end collisions.
More signals come from the outside mirrors. Whenever the turn signals are used, red LED lights on the mirrors blink in synchronization. These turn signals are plainly visible to vehicles trailing along behind or riding along in blind spots. They are invisible from inside the Mark VIII cabin, however, so they don't distract the driver.
The outside rear-view mirrors are also fitted with puddle lamps that illuminate the ground below whenever the door is unlocked with the keyless remote, which makes it easier to step inside the car on dark and stormy nights.
The Inside Story
Inside our roomy LSC, the plush perforated-leather seats were accented in grand fashion by authentic burled-walnut trim on the door panels and console.
The gauges on the instrument panel are bright and nicely styled. A multi-function electronic message center permits the driver to track time between oil changes, control seat and mirror positions, switch the traction control system on or off, change the display unit from English to metric, and operate the autolamp-delay function. The alphanumeric display also provides cellular telephone data, and the Mark VIII's optional cellular phone can be used either inside the car or from a remote locale.
The leather seats are cozy and offer the driver a lot of cushion. Power seats that provide six adjustments offer enough configurations to ensure a comfortable and proper seating position.
To ease exit from the vehicle, the driver's seat floats back two inches and the steering column ascends upward whenever the key is taken out of the ignition.
Because the Mark VIII LSC sports a $39,000-plus base sticker price, it should come as no surprise that the vehicle is equipped with a long list of luxury features as standard equipment.
They include: anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control, speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering, 16-inch chrome wheels, air conditioning with automatic climate control, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, message center with trip computer, burled walnut wood applique, leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power-tilt telescoping steering column, driver's seat memory with remote recall, six-way driver and passenger power seats, and remote keyless entry.
Trunk-mounted CD changers offer the advantage of being able to load up a magazine with hours of music without having to mess around with compact discs, a nice feature when traveling. Their disadvantage is that they are a bit fussy when you've got a disc in hand that you want to quickly try out.
Ride & Drive
The Mark VIII is quiet. To reduce engine noise, Lincoln's engineers positioned the air-intake system away from the passenger cabin. They also used generous amounts of body insulation and sealing.
The 4.6-liter V-8 engine on the standard Mark VIII delivers 280 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque. It comes with four valves per cylinder (32 valves) and double-overhead cams (four cams).
A slightly more powerful version of the same engine is used in the LSC that puts out 290 horsepower. That power provided a burly burst of acceleration in all situations, from standing starts to critical highway-passing scenarios. In cruise mode, it was smooth and quiet.
Lincoln's engineers extended tune-up intervals to 100,000 miles with a coil-on-plug ignition system; each spark plug has its own coil.
When tackling sharp corners or freeway on-ramps, the Mark VIII provided impressive handling capabilities for such a large car. The speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering offered precise control. A four-wheel independent suspension with computer-controlled air springs automatically adjust for changes in the load, while gas-pressurized shocks with integral rebound springs help keep the car taut. Large front and rear anti-roll bars reduce body lean in corners.
The LSC comes with even larger front and rear anti-roll bars for flatter cornering response. We found our LSC impressively nimble when along the twisty roads in Detroit's fittingly tony northern suburbs.
Lincoln's Mark VIII uses a rear-wheel-drive layout, and the all-speed electronic traction control system reduces wheelspin in slippery conditions.
The Final Word
The Mark VIII competes in a luxury sport-coupe market that includes the Cadillac Eldorado and the Lexus SC400. It's a niche where designers are always on the lookout to steal customers away from one another with a synergy of elegant styling, graceful luxury and sport-performance engine muscle.
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