Lincoln unveiled an all-new Lincoln Zephyr sedan last week in China at Auto Guangzhou. Ford’s luxury brand will build the sedan in China for the Chinese market.
It’s expected to go on sale in the first quarter of 2022. The announcement comes as Lincoln (and Ford overall) has abandoned the sedan market in the SUV-obsessed U.S. market and its customers.
“We are committed to listening to the needs of our customers and the all-new Zephyr is a perfect example of this,” said Joy Falotico, president of Lincoln, in a statement. “The all-new Lincoln Zephyr is specifically designed for the young, Chinese customer and continues our tradition of reimagining design and technology for the future.”
Even though it won’t be sold stateside, the Zephyr is worth looking at, if only for hints of Lincoln’s future design direction. It was designed in California and China.
A strikingly original exterior design
The Zephyr’s exterior design builds on Lincoln’s “Quiet Flight” theme with a large grille intersected with a light bar that visually connects the headlamps. A character line under each headlamp wraps around the vehicle. It serves as a character line that helps cut the vehicle’s visual height while accenting the strong side graphic that starts in the fender and extends rearward towards the flush-mounted front door handle.
The Zephyr’s sleek fastback roofline is capped by horizontal taillamps, a Lincoln styling tradition. Lincoln didn’t reveal any specs on the new Zephyr, except to say its wheelbase is 117.7 inches and overall size is “close to mid-large-sized sedans.”
Lincoln’s most advanced interior ever
The new Zephyr’s interior features door-to-door customizable screens, a trend that has yet to appear in the U.S. It consists of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 27-inch touchscreen sun by a version SYNC for the Chinese market.
Switchgear is flush mounted, and the center console is notable for its lack of a space-robbing shifter, a nice trademark lending Lincoln interiors a roomier feel. Designers included digital scents, and 128-color interior ambient lighting options to impart a greater feel of luxury. It’s a uncompromisingly modern, chic interior.
No surprises under the hood
Zephyr will launch with a standard turbocharged 2.0-liter gas powertrain with an 8-speed transmission, and while Lincoln hasn’t confirmed any electrified models, don’t be surprise if they follow. Lincoln ActiveGlide, the new hands-free Level 2 autonomous driving system that debuted on the 2022 Navigator, is standard. Lincoln hasn’t revealed any further details about the mechanicals, however.
It would make for a compelling Lincoln sedan, but it doesn’t appear that there are any plans to bring the Zephyr stateside.
A historic Lincoln nameplate
The Lincoln Zephyr first appeared in 1936 as a mid-price entry in the Lincoln line-up that filled the gap between Ford, which cost about $700 and the Lincoln Model K, which started around $3,500.
Powered by a 110-horsepower V-12, the Zephyr cost $1,275 for the two-door coupe and $1,320 for the four-door sedan. It was a huge success, with sales jumping to 15,567 units in 1936 from 2,370 units in 1935. It would be used as a basis for a new model by decade’s end: the Continental. It was built through 1942, but wasn’t revived after World War II.
The name was revived in 2006 on Lincoln’s upmarket version of the Midsize Ford Fusion sedan. Its name was dropped after one year and replaced by MKZ as Lincoln switched to alphanumeric names following in the footsteps of German manufacturers. The results ensured consumer confusion, and Lincoln gradually moved back to traditional naming conventions five years ago.
Ford in China
Lincoln currently builds the Corsair PHEV in a Ford joint-venture with Changan Automobile Co. in Chongqing, China. Lincoln’s sales rose 111.4% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with sales of 42,200 units. The three SUVs accounted for 86% of Lincoln’s sales. But that could change with the arrival of the new Zephyr sedan, the fourth model the company build in China.
“I am extremely proud that Lincoln Zephyr brings so many advanced innovations to our young customers in China,” said John Jraiche, global product director, Lincoln, in a statement.
No mention was made of reaching younger customer in the U.S.