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New Car Review

1996 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC

by John Heilig

SEE ALSO: Lincoln Rover Buyer's Guide


    ENGINE: 4.6-liter DOHC V-8
    HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 280 @ @ rpm/285 ft.-lbs. @4500 rpm
    TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
    FUEL ECONOMY: 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, 19.2 mpg test
    WHEELBASE: 113.0 in.
    OVERALL LENGTH: 206.9 in.
    OVERALL HEIGHT: 53.6 in.
    OVERALL WIDTH: 74.6 in.
    CURB WEIGHT: 3752 Ibs
    FUEL CAPACITY: 18.0 gal.
    LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 14.4 cu. ft.
    TIRES: P225/60R16
    INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, fuel level, fuel management computer, digital clock.
    EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air
    conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD changer, anti-lock braking, dual
    air bags.
    STICKER PRICE: $41,000 (est.)

There's an interesting "competition" going on between America's luxury car manufacturers, and it's a competition where we the consumers can do nothing but win.

Cadillac has its Eldorado, specifically the Touring Coupe. Lincoln has the Mark VIII, particularly the LSC (supposedly standing for "Luxury Sports Car"). Both are high performance cars produced by two of America's most conservative and old-line manufacturers. Both showcase their manufacturers' technological progress in engines, design, suspensions and luxury features.

Both are excellent automobiles, and the fun for the person who can afford one is choosing between the two. As they say, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

Our choice was made for us in this week's tester, the Lincoln Mark VIII LSC. The Mark is the logical extension of the line of cars extending all the way back to Edsel ford's original 1939 Lincoln Continental. After the first one came the 1948 Continental, which was similar to the original but different enough to develop its own character and following.

Next in line was the 1955 Mark II (technically, there was never a Mark I), which I think was one of the most beautiful cars ever made. There was a short string of Marks after II, but because they weren't very memorable, the line stopped and almost ended. However, Lincoln thought better of it and re-introduced the Mark III in 1969. Fortunately, the line of Marks has continued to this day with cars that were far more memorable than the aborted line.

Back to the Mark VIII. The VIII belongs with the others because it is luxurious, it is powerful, it has very good handling for a large car, and it's a good "driver." This is what Edsel Ford was looking for in the late 1930s and if he was alive today, he'd approve.

Recent developments with the Mark have been interesting; with the flap over NASCAR aerodynamics, some teams have built racing versions of the Mark VIII because it has the potential to be more aerodynamic than the Thunderbird.

The Mark VIII is powered by a 4.6-liter double overhead cam V-8 that is rated at 280 horsepower. It drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission that is extremely smooth. You can generate engine noise and hard shifting under hard acceleration and robust driving, but under normal conditions, this car is as smooth as they come. There are smoother cars, but at double the price.

Front passengers sit in leather-faced seats that offer some side support, but the support is primarily for comfort and not to hold you in the seat on hard cornering. The driver is "wrapped" in the instrument panel, and has full command of all the switches and controls. The car is very automatic, so there isn't a lot for the driver to do except change the radio station or switch between CDs in the trunk-mounted changer, but it's nice to know he or she doesn't have to stretch too far to reach the clearly labeled controls. In addition, the dash is a nice three-dimensional design. Any computer junkie will have a ball playing with the fuel management computer controls.

Rear seat passengers don't have to suffer, as do most rear seat passengers in two door cars. There is adequate legroom as well as good shoulder and hip room for two passengers. I was surprised that there weren't heating/cooling vents for anyone riding back there.

My one major complaint with the Mark was that the driver's seat returned to some vague memory position every time the key fob button was pushed. I'm sure there's a way to overcome this, like setting all the memory positions to the same settings, but the car should at least retain the last seat position it had rather than reset to another position. Fortunately, the radio station didn't change, too.

The trunk was a decent size for two passengers and grand touring, which is the ideal primary use for the Mark VIII. This isn't a vehicle to take on an extended vacation, simply because you'd probably want even more room and would therefore also have the trunk to go along with the interior space.

And of course, outside that trunk is the Mark's most endearing feature, the vestigial "spare tire carrier" molded into the trunk lid. It's probably dumb and slightly anachronistic, but the spare tire bulge is the Mark vary's link to the long heritage of Lincoln Continentals and Marks. I for one am glad they kept it.