Over the last decade, Lincoln has seen its luxury stable widen from big sedans to European-style four-doors to full-size SUVs and even pickup trucks. But with breadth came a fuzziness as to what is a Lincoln and that made it harder to attract younger buyers to the brand. Well, that focus has now been tightened with the 2006 Zephyr, a thoroughly modern entry-level luxury sedan that could well determine Lincoln’s future.

The Lincoln Zephyr name is an American luxury car classic, last used in 1942. But the 2006 Zephyr is as modern as a Lincoln can get. Its stiff unitized chassis is actually based on the Mazda6 mid-size front-drive sedan platform, shared with the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. But the Michigan-made Zephyr is a hair longer than its counterparts, with an extended 107.4-inch wheelbase. The Zephyr also rides on the same short-and-long-arm front and multi-link rear suspension design as its chassis-mates.

The distinctive Lincoln grille leads a clean, angular wedge-shaped body that rises to a wide, smooth tail with a high rear deck lid and prominent taillights.Wheels are stout 17-inch alloy rims with either satin or bright chrome finish.

Like the chassis, the Zephyr’s drivetrain is familiar, led by Ford’s 3.0-liter Duratec dual-overhead-cam V6. But here output is 221 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, thanks to intake variable cam timing and a free-flow exhaust. The 3.0-liter also delivers fine EPA mileage ratings of 20 city/28 highway on regular grade gas. Our mixed test loop delivered a respectable 25 miles-per-gallon. The drivetrain is completed by a 6-speed automatic transmission, a rarity in this class, with electronic traction control. And come 2007, Zephyr will be available in all-wheel-drive.

While rain limited our track testing, we did manage to get in a few sprints and found the Zephyr to be capable of a routine 0 to 60 of 7.0 seconds flat. Strong off the line, the variable cam timing gives this 3.0-liter a level of smoothness that earlier versions lacked. The 6-speed transmission is very refined with firm shifts and is one of the best automatics on the market today.

The Zephyr may have its roots at Mazda, but handling is decidedly Lincoln. But by that I mean Lincoln LS, not Lincoln Town Car. While suspension tuning has been softened, and there is a moderate amount of front push and body roll, the car remains exceptionally obedient for a front-driver. Likewise, highway ride is also quite refined and controlled, with the 3,406 pound Zephyr feeling very substantial. So while not a 5-Series, the Zephyr is still among the more pleasant to drive luxury sedans out there.

And the interior is a pure pleasure, with a high level of elegance. The roomy cabin has a clean, tasteful look. There’s plenty of leather, with dark or light wood and aluminum trim. The well-organized systems in our test car included standard dual-zone automatic climate controls and communications equipment that includes an optional THX high-end 10-speaker audio system with 6-disc changer and DVD-based navigation system.

Front seats are supportive leather-clad buckets with power adjust, while seat heating and cooling is an option. Occupant protection includes front side impact and front and rear side curtain airbags. As for those in back, they’ll find a big comfortable bench that splits and folds 60/40 for cargo flexibility, expanding a deep trunk that already offers a cavernous 15.8 cubic feet of luggage space.

The Zephyr is absolutely everything that we expected in a Lincoln sedan, for a starting price of $29,660. Add in our test car’s options, and the sticker totals $33,850. Given that most dealers will discount this fine car, we rate Zephyr as an excellent entry-level luxury car value.

It’s been over 60 years since the last new Zephyr rolled on American roads. But the 2006 Zephyr proves that there is a lot of life left in this famous name and in the Lincoln brand. The all-new Zephyr takes what we used to admire in a Lincoln sedan and brings it into the 21st Century, ready to please fans both old and new. 



  • Engine: 3.0-Liter Duratec Dual-overhead-cam V-6
  • Horsepower: 221
  • Torque: 210 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.0 Seconds
  • EPA: 20 City/28 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 25 MPG