From the July 1987 issue of Car and Driver.
Designer-bodied sports cars with enough power to light up a small town and more speed than the starship Enterprise may be the flashiest things on four wheels, but the true heavy hitters of the automotive world are the more sedate luxury coupes. They serve their makers as corporate flagships, and they must serve their owners not only as multifariously talented transportation machines but also as badges of wealth and good taste. The best of them combine the most advanced driving technology, the most elegant styling, and the most extensive assortment of decadent creature comforts their builders can muster. Of course, luxury, styling, and outstanding driving qualities mean different things to different people. That’s why the luxury-coupe class, though relatively small, has room for cars as different as the Cadillac Eldorado and the BMW M6.
Splitting the difference between the two extremes is the Lincoln Mark VII LSC. Introduced as a 1984 model, the Mark VII was a bold departure from what was probably the most overstated interpretation of the American luxury-coupe genre in recent history. The 1983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI was little more than a glitzed-up, portholed variant of the already baroque Town Car. It was long on ostentation and cushy comfort but short on contemporary style and performance.
The new Mark VII was instantly recognized as a breakthrough car for the Ford Motor Company. Even today, four years later, the Mark gives a good account of itself. Built on a thoroughly revamped version of the old Fairmont platform, the Mark VII is reasonable in size, if a bit on the heavy side. Its styling artfully combines old-fashioned elegance with modem aerodynamic lines, in keeping with Ford’s commitment to functional design.
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Underneath the attractive skin, Ford’s port-fuel-injected 4.9-liter V-8 drives the Mark’s rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The suspension consists of struts up front and a live axle fixed by four trailing links in the rear. The chassis details are unremarkable except for the absence of conventional steel springs. In their place the Mark VII has computer-controlled, air-filled rubber bladders to support its loads and maintain a constant ride height. The system allows extremely soft spring rates without causing the undercarriage to drag on the ground when the car is heavily loaded. It should also be noted that the 1985 Mark VII was the first American car with a modem anti-lock braking system.
The Mark VII is offered in two editions: the luxury-oriented Bill Blass Designer Series model and the performance-oriented LSC. The LSC is equipped with a stiffer suspension, grippier tires, sportier seats, analog rather than digital instruments, and a more powerful engine. Naturally, we’ve always preferred this model, and so has the public. Currently, the LSC outsells the Designer Series version by about four to one.
Ford apparently wants to keep things that way. Both versions of the Mark have recently been upgraded, but the LSC is the more improved model. For 1987, both are propelled by the latest and greatest incarnation of Ford’s 4.9-liter V-8, producing 225 hp at 4000 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 3200. (Last year’s versions of the same engine yielded 200 hp in the LSC and 150 in the Designer Series.) In addition, the LSC now rides on 225/60R-16 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires, mounted on restyled seven-inch-wide wheels, and its suspension has been recalibrated to match. Other changes common to both Marks include a re-textured grille, a reworked sound-insulation package, and minor interior-trim revisions.
The new engine certainly perks up the Mark’s performance. Although a bit sluggish from rest, the LSC reaches 60 mph in only 8.0 seconds, and 100 mph in an impressive 22.0 seconds. In the process, it covers the standing quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 88 mph. The LSC is still no match for such gold-plated competitors as the Mercedes-Benz 560SEC and the BMW M6, but it’s actually quicker than a Porsche 944—not to mention its true rivals, like the Cadillac Eldorado, the Buick Riviera, and the Oldsmobile Toronado.
Despite its impressive power, there are a few weak aspects in the LSC’s performance profile. The engine-control computer limits top speed to 120 mph, which Ford engineers feel is the maximum safe speed of the Eagle GT+4 tires in this application. (Higher-rated tires would solve this problem.) Moreover, reaching top speed requires some effort, because the four-speed automatic refuses to stay in top gear when the throttle is pressed to the floor. We admit that these limitations are largely academic on American roads, but they do undercut the LSC’s standing as an international-class luxury coupe.
Larry Griffin|Car and Driver
A third powertrain shortcoming may have been peculiar to our test car. Seemingly at random, our LSC’s driveline produced annoying vibrations. They weren’t so strong that they threatened to shake the car apart—in fact, we wouldn’t even mention them if this were a review of a lesser car—but luxury coupes are supposed to have creamy-smooth drivetrains.
A refined combination of ride and handling is also expected of high-dollar luxury chariots, and in this regard, the LSC is generally satisfactory. It tracks well in a straight line and offers good on-center steering feel, and its cornering performance belies its 3834-pound weight. While no nimble sportster, the LSC responds to the helm nicely and corners with agility and poise. When pushed to the limit, it understeers moderately and never threatens instability. Unfortunately, that limit is a lackluster 0.74 g. The original 1984 model managed 0.75 g on smaller wheels and tires. Perhaps the all-season Eagle GT+4s simply can’t match the grip of the previous Eagle GTs. In their favor, the slippery-road traction of the new tires is much more tenacious.
Along with commendable handling, the LSC provides a remarkably absorbent ride under most conditions. Over bumps that run the width of the car (causing the wheel motions to be controlled more by the air springs than by the anti-roll bars), the LSC positively glides. If anything, the calibrations are too soft, for the car floats a bit at very high speeds.
In some conditions, however, the suspension is unpleasantly stiff. The LSC suffers from a distinct lack of compliance over tiny bumps and pavement cracks. Over bumps that disturb only one side of the car (causing the wheel motions to be resisted by the anti-roll bars as well as by the air springs), the LSC is stiff enough to toss the passengers’ heads about.
Undoubtedly, the mismatch of yin and yang in the LSC’s suspension is at least partly a result of Ford’s attempt to make the car appeal to both loyal Lincoln customers and the new breed of upwardly mobile, import-oriented buyers. Most of the resulting compromises are successful, but the suspension could profit from further refinement.
The interior of the LSC is outfitted partly in the American luxury-car idiom, with a full complement of automatic headlight controls, trip computers, vanity mirrors, and power assists. More European in origin are the LSC’s duster of mechanical analog instruments, highly supportive seats (with Mercedes-style power adjustments), and rather subdued interior styling. The result is a cabin well suited to traditional and modern buyers alike.
The same is true of the LSC’s exterior styling. Although there is more chrome trim along the lower flanks than we like, the treatment doesn’t spoil the car’s basic lines. Even the showy grille and the vestigial spare-tire hump seem surprisingly appropriate. At the same time, these elements are among the upmarket touches that catch the eyes of traditional buyers. The stylists in Dearborn who created the Mark VII did a masterly job of walking the tightrope between the two groups.
Ford’s move toward a more international luxury coupe has paid off in strong sales for the Mark VII. Meanwhile, the latest editions of GM’s Eldorado, Toronado, and Riviera, after a dismal introductory year, are just starting to claw their way up the sales charts. The success of the Mark VII proves that well-heeled American customers are ready for luxury coupes designed with as much emphasis on performance as on comfort.
For that reason, the LSC’s most serious competition comes from across the water. Its newest rivals are the Acura Legend Coupe, which also sells in the $25,000 bracket, and the Volvo 780, at about ten grand higher. More entries in the high-profit-margin class are inevitable, so Dearborn should already be hard at work on the Mark VIII if it hopes to remain competitive in this market. As updated for 1987, though, the LSC is plenty good enough to hold its own for a few more years.
Ford Motor is taking up where Avis left off: it’s number two and trying harder. In the LSC we have yet another Ford product that could have been recycled one more year without disastrous results—but the company felt compelled to bolt in the latest tweaks.
Ford gets an A for effort but a B for execution. The LSC makes its domestic competition look lame, but there is also a world of imports in this price range that pull no punches. Cars such as the Saab 9000 Turbo, the Acura Legend Coupe, the Audi 5000 Turbo, and the BMW 325is are tempting indeed.
The LSC’s bulk, its bunkerlike interior, and its suspension, calibrated more for touring than for hard-edged handling, hold it back. On the other hand, its power, smoothness, appointments, and all-around velvety feel are hard to fault. Like a number of other Ford products, the LSC has the world-class competitors in sight. Before it can mix it up with the big boys, though, Ford will have to try even harder. —Rich Ceppos
I applaud Ford’s decision to drop its beefy V-8 into the Mark VII LSC. Faster is better, so any time an automaker sees fit to pack more power under the hood of one of its products, it has improved that car in my book. Fleeter of foot, the Lincoln LSC is now a better car.
But the Lincoln is still not ready to take on the best in its class. Its design is aging; for a big car, the LSC offers an unexpectedly narrow view out of its cockpit. The steering is sloppy and slow; the LSC doesn’t have the quick reflexes one expects of a driver’s car. And despite the firmness of its suspension, the LSC rolls over and plays dead when it’s hurried through corners.
In a world full of Acura Legend Coupes, Audi 5000s, and Volvo 780s, this lack of fine-tuning hurts. Ford deserves plenty of credit for plumping up the LSC and heading it in the right direction; Lincoln devotees will no doubt be impressed with the car’s newfound muscle. Without the moves to complement its power, though, the LSC still falls shy of the mark. —Arthur St. Antoine
Successful go-getters are drawn to the LSC just as Lincoln prayed, and just as they are drawn to BMWs, Jaguars, and Mercedes-Benzes. Well, no, not just the same, actually: the LSC will never draw the same crowd drawn to the big-buck, big-sport imports. The problem lies more in the high rollers’ perception of the Lincoln’s American heritage than in perceptible problems under its skin, down in its oily, steely, gunmetal-gray guts. Nobody has a problem seeing and feeling that the Mark is far removed from its origins as a lowly Fairmont.
Ford’s rehab therapy has worked a miracle akin to the second coming of Henry himself. In seeing Lincoln, of all once-isolated and isolation-oriented car companies, produce the athletic LSC, we have witnessed the once unthinkable. The Mark’s suspension remains too soft and its steering too rubbery, but only a little. In daily driving, the LSC is often nicer to live with than its grand opponents. The trouble is that they will eat it for breakfast on the open road, which is where successful go-getters get down to business. —Larry Griffin
1987 Lincoln Mark VII LSC
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $25,540/$27,466
Options: moonroof, $1319; Ford/JBL sounds system, $506; limited-slip differential, $101.
pushrod V-8, iron block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 302 in3, 4942 cm3
Power: 225 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/live axle
Brakes, F/R: 10.9-in vented disc/11.3-in vented disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle GT +4
Wheelbase: 108.5 in
Length: 202.8 in
Width: 70.9 in
Height: 54.2 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 51/46 ft3
Trunk Volume: 15 ft3
Curb Weight: 3834 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.0 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.1 sec @ 88 mph
100 mph: 22.0 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.3 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.4 sec
Top Speed: 120 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 200 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.74 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 14 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
City/Highway: 17/24 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED