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Lincoln Town Car

The Town Car is Lincoln's flagship. It may be the last surviving domestic front-engine, rear-drive, full-size luxury sedan, the kind that defined American luxury cars for a generation.

It has changed to keep up with the times. It is rounder, sleeker and more agile. It sill holds five people (six in a pinch) in lavish trimmings, but it feels smaller overall. Styling is dominated by the large chrome grille, clear-lens headlights and a roofline that tucks sharply into the trunk. The look is leaner and more aerodynamic. Around back, chrome trims the rear license plate and the taillamps have multiple contours and clear lenses that give them a jewel-like look. There are three models: Executive Series, at $38,500; Signature Series, at $40,150; and the Cartier, at $42,500. Both the Signature Series, which I drove, and the Cartier, cost less than they did last year. All prices include destination charges.

Lincoln tackled the revision of its Town Car with care. Its traditional buyers are in their mid-60s, and it didn't want to alienate them, while at the same time it was imperative to reach out to a younger customer base. The result is a full-size four-door that is elegant and stylish, Changes to the Town Car are not just cosmetic. Improving the driving dynamics was also important. A soft ride has always been a part of what made big American cars so attractive to our parents' generation. Lincoln wanted to keep the cushy ride but provide more responsive handling, and it has done that. A Watt's Linkage rear suspension improves straight-line tracking and counters the tendency for the vehicle to squat under acceleration and dive under braking. Mind you, this is not a BMW or Mercedes-Benz when it comes to charging through turns or down country lanes, but it does get down the road with much greater assurance than the old model, yet there is no significant penalty in terms of ride.

The steering has been improved but still needs refinement. At times it felt numb and heavy, at others like it turned too easily. When I took my wife's parents for a ride they both commented on the pillow smooth ride and couch-like seats. In order for Lincoln to maintain a three-across seating option for the front, it turned to a 40//20//40 design whose center section remains fixed and has a large fold-down center armrest. This armrest contains incidental storage space as well as a spot for a cellular phone. Should you need to put three people in front, flip it up to create a wide bench seat. The Town Car's proven body-on-frame configuration remains unchanged, even though the frame has been redesigned and new bi-directional body mounts keep noise and vibration from penetrating the passenger compartment.

The completely new instrument panel has a soft, leather-like texture with wood appliques as accents. There is no tachometer, and a large analog speedometer is flanked by two bright green digital readouts, whose style and size looked out of place with the rest of the instruments. Once, when I put in some gas without shutting off the engine, the gas gauge did not show the new level until I turned the key off and back on. The radio is located up high in the center of the dash, but auxiliary controls on the steering wheel make it easy to change stations or adjust volume without having to take your eyes from the road or your hands from the wheel. Lower-powered dual airbags are present, of course, but I was surprised at the absence of side airbags since many luxury imports have them. Thicker side glass is used to keep noise out of the cabin.

The 4.6-liter, single-overhead-cam (SOHC) V8 engine is used in a variety of Ford products, including the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and the F-150 pickup truck. This engine is free from vibration and goes about its business without being the least bit intrusive. It has 200 horsepower, but in a car of this size and weight more power would be appreciated. Compression has been raised to 10:1 for better fuel economy. The on-board trip computer recorded 16.6 mpg during my test drive, which was mostly around town or on freeways. Traction control and anti-lock brakes make rear-wheel drive suitable for lousy weather. Folks who want a bit more responsive model can select the Signature Touring Sedan that has 20 more horsepower and a bit tighter ride. A button on the end of the shift lever disengages overdrive for extra power, and that is handy when climbing hills or passing slower traffic.

On the open road the Town Car felt like it was suspended over the pavement instead of actually driving on it. Now I know why a lot of retirees buy Town Cars when they plan to travel a lot. While the trunk has 20.1 cubic feet, the spare tire sits up high and blocks access to the large opening below, which I discovered when I tried to put a large box inside. With careful packing it will hold a lot of luggage, just don't plan on hauling home a television set.

Town Cars are about tradition, and with the redesign Lincoln is trying to create a new one while paying homage to the original. For the most part they have been successful. I'm just not ready yet to admit I'm old enough for one.

Vehicle Type:

front-engine, rear-drive, full-size luxury sedan

Base Price:

$40,150

Engine Type:

4.6-liter, V8

Power (SAE net):

220-hp

Transmission:

automatic

Wheelbase:

117.7 inches

Length:

215.3 inches

Curb Weight:

4020 pounds

EPA fuel economy, city driving:

17 city/25 hwy

 

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