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Shaping Lincoln’s Latest Flagship

Tasked with taking the Ford Five Hundred/Taurus platform and transforming it into a flagship for the struggling Lincoln brand took a lot of finessing, says MKS chief engineer Michael Celentino. “We redesigned the rear suspension, moving to a fully independent design, and went with stamped steel lower control arms and cast aluminum uppers to improve the ride.” Though they left the wheelbase at 112.9-in., the team stretched overall length 2.3-in., and increased the width 0.4-in. when compared to the Taurus.

Tasked with taking the Ford Five Hundred/Taurus platform and transforming it into a flagship for the struggling Lincoln brand took a lot of finessing, says MKS chief engineer Michael Celentino. “We redesigned the rear suspension, moving to a fully independent design, and went with stamped steel lower control arms and cast aluminum uppers to improve the ride.” Though they left the wheelbase at 112.9-in., the team stretched overall length 2.3-in., and increased the width 0.4-in. when compared to the Taurus. Celentino’s team also substituted a larger 3.7-liter version of Ford’s 3.5-liter Cyclone V6, increasing output to 275 hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Beginning in March 2008, Ford will offer the much ballyhooed EcoBoost turbo-charged V6 as an option on the MKS.

One of the two most critical functions for the MKS is to communicate Lincoln’s new design DNA, which builds on the styling of the ’41 Lincoln Continental with its split waterfall grille and clean side profile. (The other is to make money for Ford.) “We knew we didn’t want this to be a rebadged Taurus, so we spent a lot of time analyzing all of the corners we could shave off, both literally and metaphorically. We had to work around the Taurus’ bumper beams to disguise them and make them more flowing, and we wanted to pull the wheels out as far as we could,” says Aram Kasparian, manager of the exterior styling team. Kasparian says every future Lincoln will feature several design elements of the MKS, such as the strong shoulders, chamfered surfaces, split waterfall grille, chrome accents, and strong C-pillar. “I call it ‘restrained design’,” he says, “that recalls Lincoln’s past and is quite different from Cadillac’s current brash, in-your-face look.”

Another top priority for MKS is to vastly improve the quality of Lincoln’s interior design and functionality. Celentino says a lot of resources were allocated to improving materials, and specifically points to the use of a special leatherette material on the top of the instrument panel as critical to raising the perception bar. “This stuff is expensive, but we realized it was also fundamental to the product. With this program we said, ‘Let’s get the car right, and then look at what the damage is to the business case,’ which challenged people to find ways to make it work and not compromise the product.”—KMK