New Car/Review

1998 LINCOLN TOWN CAR CARTIER

by Matt/Bob Hagin

lincoln
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 41,830
Price As Tested                                    $ 44,220
Engine Type                SOHC 2-valve 4.6 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 281 cid/4601 cc
Horsepower                                   220 @ 4500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               275 @ 3250 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    117.7"/78"/215.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4030 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    19 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/60R16
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                            17/25/23
0-60 MPH                                          8 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 84 mph
Top speed                                           107 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(There's been a Town Car in the Lincoln lineup for 17 years and Bob Hagin says they've always been ponderous. Matt Hagin tells his dad that the new one is pretty big too but it's lost its boxcar lines for '98.)

BOB - The Lincoln Town Car is an automotive anachronism, Matt. It's really big at 4300 pounds and its 16-inch aluminum wheels make it look even bigger sitting in the driveway. But for '98, it's an almost all-new design and it's obvious that the company is going after a younger group of buyers. The average Town Car buyer is presently 67 years old, retired and in love with cars that are big and American-made. With this new curvy body and a lack of white-wall tires, Lincoln planners would like to drop that average age number down to at least below the Social Security level. This Lincoln is the last American luxury car to retain rear-wheel-drive and a V8 engine up front. Lincoln makes a big deal out of its new Watts linkage that locates the rear end more precisely than the simple Panhard rod it had used in the past.

MATT - It's going to be a while before the Town Car appeals to the Generation X'ers, Dad, but when Lincoln-Mercury moved its corporate headquarters to Southern California earlier this year, it sent a signal that the company is going to "get with it" a bit more and the new Town Car line is a step in that direction. There are three Town Car versions available. The base Executive and the middle Signature version use a 200-horse V8 engine. We were given the posh and pillowy Cartier model with a soft ride and more powerful 220-horse engine. The Signature version can be fitted with a sports package that adds the same engine as the Cartier model as well as twin dual exhaust pipes, stiffer springs and shocks, a smaller, light-weight torque converter and grippier tires. It also drops the axle ratio from 3.07 to 3.44 for quicker acceleration. And to help keep you old-timers from getting into too much trouble in the rain and snow, traction control is a standard feature.

BOB - That's not enough to put a Lincoln back on the starting grid of the Pan American road race where it shined in the early '50s, Matt, but it allows this big cruiser to stay up with traffic and help dispel the "old fogy" Town Car image. But the company drew the line at "sporting up" the interior, and all models have a steering column- mounted shifting quadrant and shift lever for the automatic transmission. They seat three-across both front and rear and both seats have pull-down armrests that are as big as billiard tables.

MATT - The trunk is giant, too, and it would be easy to store several sets of golf clubs inside and still have room for lots of weekend luggage. Since more than half of the owners of Town Cars are retired, a large luggage capacity is a major criteria for ownership. These special attributes are so important to you oldsters that almost 50 percent of the present Town Car owners state that they'll either buy or lease another one when trade-in time rolls around. The Town Car also enjoys a good reputation with the modifiers who use the basic Town Car to make limousines and those "prom-night" stretches.

BOB - By now its two-valve, single-cam V8 is getting a little dated, but Ford engineers claim that the more powerful twin-cam, four-valve V8 found in the Lincoln Mark VIII coupe isn't demanded by Town Car buyers. What the car might receive in the distant future is Ford's big V10 engine which would put it in the same league with the V12s showing up in very expensive luxury cars from Europe. Part of the attraction that these big Lincolns have for us old-timers is that we remember the light, classy Zephyr and Continental V12s put out by Lincoln just before World War II. They were getting old by the time I got my licence, but I remember them well. And according to Ford public relations, both cars have been nominated to be on the prestigious list called "Cars of the Century."

MATT - You're memory must be getting bad, Dad. You once told me that your father said those V12s were under-designed, underpowered and had a tendency to burn-up prematurely.

BOB - He also said that a good imagination makes a better story than a good memory, Matt.

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