Ford Crown Victoria (1997)

Special Note: Looking for Tom and Ray's test-drive notes for the Mercury Gran Marquis? So were we...until Tom and Ray told us that the Mercury Gran Marquis is the same car as the Ford Crown Victoria--only sold under a different name. There may be some minor cosmetic differences between thecars, but otherwise they're identical in all respects.

This is still the classic large American rear-wheel-drive car. This is thecar cops and snowbirds in Arizona prefer 3 to 1 over the BMW Z-3

This car is big. It has a wonderful engine--the 4.6-liter V8 engine hasmore than enough power. It's whisper quiet. It's comfortable. It'ssmooth on the highway. And it might surprise you to discover that it'squite fuel efficient. In fact, the Crown Vic gets almost the same mileageas the Taurus. Not only that, but it can seat more people (up to sixcomfortably--each of whom can have a pretty wide butt, as we found out whenwe took my brothers-in-law along for a ride).

The 1998 Ford Crown Victoria that our esteemed Bugsy Lawlor dropped off forus to test included the "Special Handling Package," which consistsprimarily of stiffer shock absorbers. What effect does this have on thehandling? Well, first you have to appreciate that the run-of-the-millCrown Vic handles somewhat akin to the QE II--lots of "lean" in thoseturns. The handling package turned the Crown Vic into something more likea Coast Guard cutter. With the handling package, it is by no means asports car, but it doesn't slosh all over the road either. It's got a softfeel, but it is acceptable.

The motto of the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis brand manager? "Don'toverexcite." The Crown Vic continues to be anything but stylish. That'snot to say it's ugly...just that it's not particularly eye catching. It'sbland. And who knows--that might be just what Ford wants from this design.Why? Because many prospective Crown Vic customers might have been advisedby their doctors not to get too excited.

We didn't like the Crown Vic dashboard. It's flat instead of curved, whichmakes the radio and heater controls very hard to reach. You can do it--butyou sprain your back in the process.

A wrap-around "pod" design for the console would have been muchbetter--although, admittedly, it would limit one's ability to open thedriver's door, toss the walker onto the passenger seat and slide in.

Another design flaw? The cup holder. It was right in front of the heatercontrols. Want to change the heater controls when you've got coffee inthere? We imagine they want you to hold the cup between your teeth.

Ford has been making the Crown Vic for so long that they've really refinedit. It's hard to imagine it getting much better--for what it is. They'vetaken this particular car design--the large, relatively inexpensive,rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame, six-passenger cruiser--about as far as itcan go. This car is just what a lot of Americans want. And it's onlyaround $21,000.

Finally, don't forget that this car is still rear-wheel drive. It's notdesigned for the Snowbelt--it's designed for the white belt: the whiteleather belt...with the polyester pants and the white leather loafers.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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