Lincoln Town Car, Cartier Edition(2001)

Lincoln Town Car

It's tempting to call the Lincoln Town Car a dinosaur, a relic from the days when all serious automobiles had body-on-frame construction, V8 engines, rear-wheel drive, acres of sheet metal, and more interior furnishings than a Pullman coach. But what it really is is a time machine: Slide behind the wheel...and it's 1972 all over again.

Lincoln has made few changes to the Town Car since its 1999 redesign. The Town Car we tested is the new Cartier edition, which, with a cars.com target price of $40,885, allows you to flaunt your good taste with such to-die-for luxuries as monogrammed floor mats, "Cartier Chrome aluminum wheels," and heated front seats with no fewer than five temperature settings. That not enough for you? The Cartier edition also includes a "gold package," which gets you, among other things, a garish -- oops, we meant to say "elegant" -- gold clock in the middle of the dashboard.

This is not a car that anyone on our staff (ages 21 to 63) would consider buying. But Lincoln keeps selling Town Cars because a certain clientele keeps buying them, mostly older folks and airport transportation professionals. And if they love them, who are we to disagree?

Driving Experience

We don't want to say that the Town Car is enormous, but our chief Weblackey, Doug Mayer, swore he saw Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio smooching on the prow one day.

If you think the Town Car looks big, just try piloting it down a city streetwithout scraping its bulbous fenders. Maneuvering it into and out ofparking spaces without the aid of at least one tugboat can be atraumatizing experience. It's fully a half-foot longer than its chief rival, the Cadillac DeVille. Not that they're often compared, but we couldn't resist noting that the Town Car is a full yard longer than a Honda Civic. This may not be a problem if you live in spacious suburbia, but if you live where you have to park right next to other cars or buildings, heed our words of caution.

Once you're in the Town Car's element, however -- the Bonneville Salt Flats,say, or that nice, flat, 200-mile stretch of Interstate 94 through NorthDakota -- things start to improve. The Town Car has one of the gentlestrides ever wasted on our miserable derrieres. It's just the relaxing cocoon one needs after an exhausting day of playing shuffleboard.

The Town Car doesn't even handle all that badly, in our humble opinion. You can't call the handling tight, but then this isn't exactly a sports car, is it now? It's a luxury car. And as a luxury car, it handles better than the Town Cars of old, by a lot.

One of the hallmarks of the Town Car has always been power -- but no longer. The power is barely adequate. The Cartier edition has a 235-horsepower V8, 15 horsepower more than the run-of-the-mill Town Car. (Something to remember if you ever find yourself at a stoplight, itching to drag-race the Town Car next to you.) Traction control is standard.

The Town Car provides better-than-average protection for the driver andpassenger in a head-on crash, according to the NHTSA.

Interior

The interior is what the Town Car is all about. It has more legroom than some apartments we've called home. For another $4,000, you can get the L edition, which features a long wheelbase that increases rear legroom by six inches -- just the thing if members of your car pool have nicknames like "His Airness" or "Magic."

The Town Car has a trunk so large it can hold several uncooperative witnesses.

Naturally, the Cartier edition comes with every bell and whistle known toman. Did we mention the eight-way power seat? The adjustable brake and accelerator pedals? The leather seats? The black bird's-eye maple wood trim? The seat-back map pockets with umbrella holder? The three-ton Austrian crystal chandelier in the grand ballroom? (No, wait...that was the Titanic. Never mind.)

Among the standard safety features are antilock brakes and side-impact air bags.

Ergonomics

The one ergonomic feature we didn't like was the distance from the driver's seat to the controls on the center console. Granted, the most often used controls were duplicated on the steering wheel, but it's a long way to reach from the driver's seat if you want to adjust the radio or temperature controls. And, given that a lot of people who own these cars are, shall we say, "getting on in years," you'd think Lincoln would make this stuff easier to reach.

What can we say about the styling of the Town Car? It's distinctive looking. Lincoln has updated the Town Car from the "box" styling of a few years ago. The new look is still a boxbut with rounded edges. We find it neither attractive nor unattractive. It's a Town Car.

Reliability

The engine and drivetrain in the Town Car are phenomenal. We'd give the Town Car above-average marks for reliability. After all, Lincoln has been making essentially the same car for about 107 years. It's time tested.

Overall comments


As progress-challenged as the Town Car is, there are some things it does pretty well. If a comfortable ride is all you care about; you live in an area with many straight, flat roads (Florida and Arizona come to mind); and you have a circular driveway, this vehicle may in fact be just what you're looking for. Just remember to let the valet do the parking and you're in business.

The Town Car does not have a lot of competition in its niche. There's the Cadillac DeVille/DTS, but that's more expensive (and a nicer car to drive, in our humble opinion). There's the Buick Park Avenue, but it's not as big. There's the Ford Crown Vic/Mercury Grand Marquis, with which the Town Car shares its platform, if you want to go cheaper. But there's not much out there that's big and squishy anymore. No one considering a Town Car would ever consider a BMW or Audi. We have to give Lincoln credit for knowing their market -- or maybe they've secretly isolated the "Town Car gene" and know that at a certain metabolic age we'll all start yearning for a Town Car.

How much longer the Town Car continues to be made depends on two things: its target market remembering to take their cholesterol medication, and its continuing favor in the hotel-airport shuttle trade, where its passenger capacity and mechanical simplicity make it the vehicle of choice. So if you think this is the car for you, we'd suggest you go out and buy one now -- before they cease to roam the earth.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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