Selling off all of its Premier Automotive Group (PAG) holdings except for Volvo left Ford with a handful of largely working-class brands, but that move may have been part of the bigger picture only being revealed now. Reduced to a closer core of nameplates, Ford is working to restore Lincoln to its former high-end luxury status.

Itself once part of Ford's profitable PAG, until the company decided to create a clearer distinction between its American and foreign brands, Lincoln has long been Ford's primary luxury-car outlet. In recent decades the brand's ranking has slipped in comparison to competition from abroad, and even at home, with long-time rival Cadillac noticeably upstaging Lincoln in the past few years. This confluence of events is pushing Ford to help give Lincoln a unique position within the marketplace by further distinguishing its vehicles with exclusive styling and features, reports Automotive News.

Seven key design features will distinguish the new Lincoln. Some of those features include a split grille, thin and horizontal tail lights, uncluttered side surfaces and wide C-pillars supporting a cantilevered roof. The first vehicle that will display many of these elements is the 2009 MKS.

The entry-level luxury MKZ sedan will also get new body work, with everything fore and aft of the cabin clad in new and brand-unique paneling. Sharing a platform with the Ford Fusion, the MKZ will need the separate styling cues to further separate it from its Ford-brand twin.

Lincoln's MKS flagship, which has already been racking up sales ahead of its launch, will be a focus of the company's efforts, with a new rear suspension design shared only with the new Ford Flex crossover and built on a redesigned FWD D3 platform - the same basis underlying the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. A 3.7L V6 will make 273hp (204kW) while a 2010-model year update will bring a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 generating 340hp (253kW).

Not all of Lincoln's new luxury line-up will necessarily be FWD, however. There are still plans for a large RWD car in the works, but it won't make its debut until 2014. Fuel economy concerns and high fuel prices have put the project in jeopardy and pushed back its timeline somewhat, but at the moment it's still on the table. Design is expected to be based around the MKR concept shown at Detroit last year.

The maker's other cars, including the MKX and next-generation MKT will also feature the new styling, with the MKT sharing a platform with the Flex from its 2010 model year debut, though the company says it will eschew the Flex's cubic styling for a more organic and rounded appearance. The MKX will share a platform with the Edge, with both being considered for migration to a new global platform by 2014.

The Town Car, one of Lincoln's longest-lived models, is due to die a quiet death with the car's Canadian plant is shutdown in 2011. Most sales have been to fleets for the past decade, and the company hasn't been urging retail sales along either, likely due to the model's incongruence with more modern Lincoln offerings.

Finally, Lincoln is expected to get a version of the second-gen Ford Kuga small crossover SUV for the 2012 sales calendar. Not many details of the car are known yet, but it the platform will also be used for Ford's Escape.