3.9L DOHC V-8 Hey, the Ford Motor Co. itself admits it. Right in the press kit, it says the Lincoln LS 3.9L DOHC V-8 "is derived from the acclaimed 4L AJ26 in the Jaguar XK8."

A Jag engine - and a cracking good engine it is - for Lincoln money? We call that the bargain of this young century.

Alright, so displacement is down a tenth of a liter from the Jag 4L (actually, it's a just a single millimeter smaller in bore, amounting to a mere 46-cc difference in true displacement). But Ford's careful to not mention the 4L AJ26 also powers the Lincoln LS's Jaguar platform-mate, the S-Type, just to avoid those uncomfortable direct comparisons. The displacement difference is so meager you'll never miss it.

More alarming in Ford's preoccupation with distinguishing the LS from the S-Type is the rather serious de-tuning of the 3.9L DOHC V-8 to just 252 hp at 6,100 rpm; the Jag's 4L version does 290 hp in the XK8 and 281 in the S-Type. Should the customer really be so severely punished in the name of brand management?

Sorry about the little rant - we're over it now. It's easy to get over it because the Lincoln's 3.9L job makes a good account for itself, eagerly responding with all 252 horses, particularly in the ever-crucial mid-range, where a moment's hesitation can cost you that hole in traffic and subsequent run to a patch of freeway clear of wobbling SUVs.

The 3.9L V-8s winning point total surprised us initially, because the actual power and torque numbers aren't overwhelming, nor is this engine laden with anything approaching cutting-edge technolgy. No, the simple, inherent quality of this design is what's apparent to the driver in a direct cause-and-effect equation: foot goes down, car moves ahead. With authority.

Throttle response is crisp, yet plagued by an uncertainty off idle that may be the result of a "loose" torque converter strategy or a misguided attempt to dampen the throttle for the typical luxury car buyer who generally isn't looking to lay rubber out of the Moose lodge's parking lot.

This minor complaint aside, Ford's 3.9L DOHC V-8 exhibits the sort of driveability we expect from premium V-8s but sometimes don't get. It settles to a dead-stable idle immediately, regardless of the operating situation and never issues so much as a tiny tremor or shudder, even as the redline approaches.

We like the design niceties like coil-on-plug ignition and the central air intake that helps the Lincoln V-8 to put out that mellow purr even when it's working hard. And it's nice to see a genuine dual exhaust system.

The fact is that this is a premium V-8 for the sort of cash that gets you most competitors' V-6s - if you're lucky.

That bottom line always is present: This engine (and the LS itself) is a screaming value. The LS V-8's base price of $34,690 doesn't get you close to a V-8 from the competition; BMW, for example, starts you off at 39 grand for the 6-cyl. 528i.

That this Jaguar-developed engine is fully competitive with much costlier high-performance V-8s is precisely the lure Lincoln needs to jump-start its image.