Argument: There's been more than a little howling about Ford's decision to jettison the five-speed manual gearbox in the LS V-6. It's too bad all that remorse wasn't mirrored in enthusiasm for buying that model when it was on sale. It died from consumer neglect.

Praise: The 2003 LS marks an excellent rework of the original version. Even interior materials are better -- everything from the leather surfaces on the seats to the vinyl atop the dashboard.

Ride, acceleration and handling: I tested the fully optioned Premium Sport V-8. Superior ride, superb handling, excellent acceleration.

Engines/transmission: Both the V-6 and the V-8 are all-aluminum. The 3-liter V-6 develops 232 horsepower at 6,750 revolutions per minute and 220 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. The 3.9-liter V-8 produces 280 hp at 6,000 rpm and 286 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both are linked to standard five-speed automatic transmissions. Lincoln's SelectShift automatic/manual is available.

Capacities: Seats five people and carries 13.5 cubic feet of cargo. Fuel capacity is 18 gallons. Premium unleaded is required.

Mileage: I averaged 24 miles per gallon in the LS V-8 in mostly highway driving.

Safety: Dual-stage-deployment front bags, front-seat-mounted side bags, standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, child safety-seat anchors.

Price on tested LS V-8: Base price is $43,360. Dealer's invoice is $39,674. Price as tested is $46,995, including an estimated $3,000 in options and a $635 destination charge.

Purse-strings note: With the new year, the federal luxury tax no longer applies to cars. Lincoln is pushing the LS brand, which means it's willing to bargain in an intensely competitive market for luxury sport sedans. Compare with BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar S-Type, Lexus GS 300, Mercedes-Benz C320.