I read it in Automotive News. On Page 1, no less. Still, I had my doubts.
I checked the byline - Amy Wilson, a respected colleague. My doubts receded. Yet
The Aug. 21 headline was "Lincoln V-8 axed; Ford halts engine plan for flagship MKS."
To me, a Lincoln car without a V-8 makes as much sense as a Ford Focus with a V-16. "It just ain't fittin'," as Mammy often told Scarlett in Gone with the Wind.
I must admit that Cadillac has V-6 models, but Cadillac also has a full stable of V-8s. All Lincoln cars apparently will be V-8less in 2008, and that's a shame.
The Town Car is on its way out, and the LS is gone. Production ended in April. Lincoln's new contingent of alphabet-soup cars (the MKS and the MKZ, the new name for the Zephyr) will be driven by a new V-6 -- a fine engine from all I've heard, but there's no way that a V-6 can impart the cachet of a V-8. And that cachet is one of the things that sells luxury cars.
It seems to me that Lincoln has officially withdrawn from the luxury car segment.
It's a money-saving move, and, heaven knows, Ford Motor Co. has to save money in every possible way. But should Ford do it by robbing its flagship car of one of its primary badges of distinction? Way Forward? Or Step Backward?
Prejudiced? Of course I am. I have been driving Lincolns for several years, and I have been 100 percent satisfied with them in every way. But I think my current Lincoln, a 2005, will be my last.
A 6 is not a Lincoln
When I was a boy -- and when I was a young man and even a middle-aged man -- Lincolns and Cadillacs were the epitome of distinction on the American motoring scene. I'd see the cars at church, at the movies, at the ballpark, and I'd promise myself "Someday ... " Naturally, they all had V-8 or larger engines.
Cadillac has been powered by V-8s since 1915, about a dozen years after Henry Leland first put Cadillac on the road. Lincoln, fathered by the same Henry Leland in 1920 and bought by Henry Ford in 1922, was a V-8 from the start. Cadillac built V-12s and V-16s in the 1930s, and Lincoln had V-12s in some 1932 models and in all models from 1933 through the 1948 model year.
The awful Cadillac Cimarron was introduced in the 1982 model year with a four-cylinder engine, of all things. Later, the car got a V-6. It was a not-so-dressed-up Chevrolet Cavalier, though, and, mercifully, Cadillac killed it in 1988. The not-popular Cadillac Catera (1997-2001 model years) was a six-cylinder car, and a V-6 is available today in the CTS and STS sedans and SRX crossover.
The Lincoln Zephyr has a V-6 today, but the LS dropped that engine for 2006, its last year on the market.
The foregoing bit of history is offered to emphasize that eight-cylinder engines are distinguishing marks of Lincoln and Cadillac cars. Today, they have a few sixes on hand to attract the luxury/economy shopper, but the V-8 rules the henhouse.
In the import world, the situation is different. There are any number of six-cylinder engines roaming around those showrooms, and many of the sixes are installed in cars that meet the Automotive News benchmark for "true luxury" - a sticker price of $42,000 or more. That's true for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Audi and Jaguar.
Say it ain't so, Bill
Why do I accept a six in those makes and trash it in Lincoln? Because the imports have always been that way. For Lincoln cars, I consider a six-cylinder engine a definite downgrade.
In 1920, after the Chicago Black Sox scandal, a tearful youngster begged Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Say it ain't so, Joe." Today, I make the same plea to Bill Ford and Mark Fields.
You may e-mail John K. Teahen Jr. at [email protected]