Having driven the 2000 Lincoln LS, I wondered if Lincoln engineers could improve an almost perfect vehicle. But, after driving the 2001 LS for a week, my question was answered with a resounding yes.

Though modifications to the 2001 LS are minor, the little details nonetheless improve the vehicle. The added compass in the rearview mirror, for example, reassured me I was heading in the right direction as I made my way across the state. And, child-safety tether anchors on the lower portion of the rear seats, along with upper anchors introduced in 2000, made it easy to secure my niece's car seat.

Our test vehicle's 3.9-liter V8 put out 252 hp at 6,100 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. The five-speed automatic tranny was equipped with optional Selectshift. This gives you the choice between clutchless shifting and automatic shifting. The gearbox is an H design, with the right side dedicated to manual shifting. In manual mode, a push forward on the gearshift upshifts, a push back downshifts. You can switch between automatic and manual at any speed. I tried it, decided it was silly after the umpteenth time my left foot went searching for the phantom clutch, and kept it in automatic the rest of the time.

I caught myself exceeding the speed limit more than once without realizing it, thanks in part to the powerful V8. But the smooth ride also bears responsibility, along with my lead foot. This rear-wheel-drive beauty struts around on independent SLA front and rear suspensions. Antilift/antidive geometry front and back eliminates pitching during hard accelerating and braking. All-speed traction control is now standard fare for all LS models. Our test vehicle carried AdvanceTrac, a system which combines ABS, all-speed traction control, and yaw stability. Sensors detect slipping wheels as well as oversteer and understeer conditions, and the ABS and processor-controlled engine compensate. Also, new for 2001 are grippier, 17-in. aluminum wheels, part of a $1,990 sport package.

The optional six-disc CD player, sequestered in the glovebox on the 2000 LS, is now free and sits in the dashboard above the climate controls. This frees up space in the glovebox as well as making the CD player easier to use. Speaking of space, the 13.5 ft3 trunk provides plenty of room for cargo. The skimpy center console is suitable only for a pair of sunglasses. But storage compartments on both front doors can hold plenty of CDs and maps.

The interior is just what you would expect in a luxury sedan heated leather seats in front, eight seat adjustments with lumbar support for the driver, raised, theater-style seating in the rear, and dual climate controls in the front. Controls on the steering wheel, audio and cruise control, are illuminated at night. One tiny complaint with the heated seats there's no high or low, just on or off. This may just be an oversight, considering even the vanity mirrors on the windshield visors have sliding switches to control brightness.

Base price for the LS is $35,695. Options and destination charges bump the price up to $39,405. Considering the LS runs with the likes of BMW 528is and Audi A6s, this is a great car at an even greater value.

Sherri Koucky