Where have you gone, Tubby the Town Car, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson, the Tubster has left and gone away?
Yes, the Lincoln Town Car, the last other-generational American luxury sedan, is no longer in the showrooms. The anachronism that often metamorphosed into a stretch limousine has hurried into history. The venerable Tubster - our last link to an era when luxury was a massive, softly sprung, rear-drive, body-over-frame V-8 - has gone to vehicular Valhalla.
In its place is a completely different Lincoln flagship, a sleek, stylish, super-tech sedan of European extraction called the MKS. Indeed, this recently introduced large sedan has little in common with the Tubster, except for its emphasis on quiet, comfortable cruising. It is clearly a car for this century, one that has widened the eyes of its European and Asian competitors.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of this lovely new sedan is its amazing technology, its ability to inform and communicate electronically. This gear has to be the most advanced and accessible in the business.
The optional electronic goodies go well beyond Ford's voice-activated telephones and audio systems. They include an advanced navigation system with a Sirius Travel Link that allows the driver to do things like keep an eye on regional storms in real time, spot traffic jams miles down the road, and get the latest sports scores and movie start times. Heck, you can even learn where the cheapest gas is, and watch DVD movies in rich surround sound.
And then, there are the safety and convenience touches, like the adaptive cruise control that automatically maintains the proper distance between your car and the one ahead. And the adaptive headlamps that swivel to keep the lights shining on the vehicle's forward path.
Predictably, these techy bits don't come cheap. The adaptive cruise control, for example, tacked $995 on the bill. The long litany of options on the front-drive test car raised the tag from a base price of $37,665 to a total of $45,255. Add $800 for shipping and you top out at $46,055.
The MKS is built off a front-drive platform derived from the Volvo S80, and can be purchased with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. (AWD tacks nearly $2,000 on the price tag.) As a result, it becomes the first top-tier Lincoln in the marque's 90-year history to be offered with front-drive.
Motivation for the MKS is courtesy of a 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 273-horsepower. Blessed with good torque, or pulling power, this engine is able to move the MKS from zero to 60 in a brisk 7.5 seconds, even though it weighs more than two tons.
Things will get even livelier later this year, when the 2010 MKS debuts. That guy will have a turbocharged, directly injected version of the current engine that develops 355 horsepower.
Like the turbocharged iteration, the current MKS V-6 is a more powerful variation on the one in the Ford Taurus. The MKS also borrows its sophisticated all-wheel-drive hardware and six-speed automatic from the Taurus, although the Lincoln version of the transmission adds a manual shift feature.
Like the big Lexus, the MKS is more interested in ride comfort than handling. But while it isn't a sport sedan, it still corners and steers with more than enough competence. It is agile enough in the city, and tracks true on I-95. Braking is excellent.
What shouldn't be overlooked with this embarrassment of techy riches is the fact that the MKS is also very nicely sculpted. The car's silhouette (relatively short hood, long greenhouse and short, high trunk) is not particularly unique. What individuates the MKS is its interesting homage to past Lincolns, notably the dramatic, double-wing grille boosted from a 1941 Continental.
What also drew my attention was the black finish on the test car. Much like the paintwork on an Aston Martin I drove recently, it had imbedded red and green flecks that were only apparent in bright light.
The black interior proved as handsome as it was roomy. There were standard black leather seats with perforated inserts, wood and aluminum trim, and a saddle-stitched, leather-look dash covering that added a classy touch.
All things considered, I don't miss the Tubster at all.
2009 Lincoln MKS
Base price: $37,665.
As tested: $46,055 (includes shipping).
Standard equipment: The typical luxury hardware, plus less typical things like heated/cooled 12-way power front seats.
Options: Include adaptive cruise control and headlamps.
Fuel economy: EPA estimates of 17 city, 24 highway.
Engine performance: Lively.
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper, six years/70,000 miles on powertrain, one-year/15,000 mile complimentary maintenance.