Can someone please explain the existence of the badge-engineered Lincoln Zephyr? First, are there really potential Zephyr buyers who don t realize that the new model is nothing more than an expensive, tarted-up Ford Fusion? Seriously. I live in an alternate carniverse. For all I know, Lincoln salesmen spend a good part of their day sniggering at the saps who stroll into the showroom thinking Ford s luxury division have fashioned a brand new car imbued with unpretentious luxury. In the Internet age, are car buyers still that clueless?
Do these customers gather by the Zephyr s waterfall grill (as in the inevitable landscape feature outside the hotel lobby where similarly schnozzed Lincoln Town cars await their patrons), clock the model s over-sized tail lights, finger its 70 s keypad lock and — fail to see a Ford Fusion? I reckon that s the automotive equivalent of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
Second, are there really car buyers who don t care that the Zephyr is nothing more than a tarted-up Ford Fusion? It offends my democratic principles to think there s still a large swath of society who will gladly buy a Ford — as long as it s a Lincoln. This Lincoln is class, Ford is crass sensibility may have made sense before Babies Boomed, back when TV channels and car companies came in threes, but surely the explosion of superbly engineered budget luxury cars (e.g., Accord, Sonata, Altima) has rendered badge snobbery obsolete — at least until you get up in the Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Caddy-o-sphere.
And that s the third thing: why aren t car journalists crying foul at the brand s ridiculous move down market? It s one thing to badge engineer a gi-normous gas-guzzling V8-powered SUV and charge customers through the nose for the privilege of pretending they re gang bangers; it s another to slap the Lincoln name on a piss-ant mid-size runabout with a whiney 3.0-liter Duratec V6. Does it matter that the Zephyr is safer, more commodious, dependable and better-handling than the elegant carriages and bad-ass pimpmobiles of Lincoln s past? Hell no. The Lincoln Continental Mark IV had a 7.5-liter V8 and more style than Ralph Lauren on acid. The Zephyr is so bland it Hertz. Do the math.
And lastly, if these Lincoln guys are Hell bent on repeating Cadillac s journey into badge-engineered oblivion, why can t they at least have some fun with it? We all laughed at Ricardo Montalban s paean to the Chrysler Cordoba s rich Corinthian leather (ask your Dad), but at least the company wasn t po faced about its appeal to tasteless middle-class aspirations. By trying to be an American clone of a Japanese clone of a European luxury sedan, the Zephyr offers about as much brand-related bravado as a Toyota Echo.
In short, I can t for the life of me understand why anyone would buy a Lincoln Zephyr over anything else in its price bracket, or, for that matter, a high-spec Ford Fusion. [by Robert Farago]