New Car/Review

1997 LINCOLN TOWN CAR

by Tom Hagin

Lincoln

SEE ALSO: Lincoln Rover Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 43,200
Price As Tested                                    $ 44,785
Engine Type                             4.6 Liter V8 w/PFI*
Engine Size                                 281 cid/4601 cc
Horsepower                                   210 @ 4250 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               270 @ 3250 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  117.4"/76.7"/218.9"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4065 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/25/20
0-60 MPH                                        9.2 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.2 seconds @ 83.5 mph
Top-speed                                           105 mph
     * Port-fuel injection

The 1997 Lincoln Town Car is now officially the last remaining rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan made in this country. It's also quite popular, having sold over 100,000 units last year, and commands 75 percent of the custom limousine market.

If it can be called a base model, the Executive starts the Town Car lineup. It's followed by the Signature Series, and the subject of today's evaluation, the Cartier model.

OUTSIDE - "Large" is the theme of Town Car's look. It's over 18 feet long and over six feet wide, and its wheelbase is a whopping 117 inches, which narrows parking choices to a few select spaces. And when backing up into those spaces, its large rear pillars tend to block the view somewhat. Its trunk is also quite large, with just over 22 cubic feet of space, and a belt-high lift-over height for easy loading. A 1995 facelift brought lower profile headlamps, a fine-toothed grille and body-color side moldings. Both bumpers are body-colored as well, as are the twin outside mirrors. Spoked 16-inch alloy wheels are standard equipment, and mated to them are P225/60R16 all-season tires. New this year, the series designation on Executive and Signature Series models has been moved from the rear quarter windows to the front fenders.

INSIDE - The 1995 redesign also brought a new interior. The instrument panel's gentle bulge placed the climate controls, trip computer and stereo within easy reach. An extra set of controls for the fan speed, temperature and audio are built into the steering wheel. Cartier models are loaded with luxury features that include power windows, outside mirrors, door locks and the front seat. A powerful JBL-brand stereo system is also included, as are auto-dimming rearview mirrors, keyless entry, a rear window defroster and a programmable garage door opener. This is one of the few cars with true six-passenger seating, where front and back seats offer plenty of room for everyone. Leather upholstery is standard on Cartier models, and warming them are heaters that not only warm the seat base, but the backrest as well.

ON THE ROAD - All Town Car models use Ford's sophisticated 4.6 liter single overhead cam V8 engine. It uses a cast iron block and aluminum cylinder heads to produce 210 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, which doesn't make it a road-burner, but moves the 4000-pound vehicle adequately. Its peak power appears at a relatively high 4250 rpm, and its maximum torque output at 3250 rpm, which forces drivers to wind things up a bit to get it to hustle. It is smooth and extremely quiet, and is shared by such Ford-produced vehicles as the Mustang, Thunderbird, F-150 pickup and the full-sized Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle. Mated to it is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive that always shifts smoothly and predictably. We were able to average about 20 mpg over our test week; up to 25 mpg on the highway. Its towing capacity is 2000 pounds.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Town Car rides on a full perimeter frame, which is becoming less common these days. It uses what the automotive world calls short/long arm front suspension with coil springs and gas- pressurized shock absorbers. The rear suspension centers around a solid axle, supported by self-leveling air springs and another pair of gas shocks. The ride is pillow-soft and smooth, and soaks up the largest bumps with ease, though it wallows somewhat over undulating pavement. Its handling prowess is surprisingly good for such a large and heavy vehicle, and lots of insulation helps to keep outside noises from intruding into the cabin. Wind noise, even at high speeds, is well-controlled as well. New this year is a revised speed-sensitive power steering system that is said to improve on-center and road feel, but feels just plain light to us. Braking duties are handled by four-wheel discs, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), with which we were able to bring the big car to a stop from 70 mph in just 190 feet.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Our test car came with an optional trunk-mounted CD changer, which added $815.

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