Lincoln, Ford Motor Company's premium luxury division, is going through a transformation. The first hint of this was the introduction of the Navigator, the first Lincoln sport-utility, last year. For 1998, Lincoln's cars have had major revisions not only to their external styling, but mechanically and even philosophically as well. The 1998 Town Car may be even more representative of the change at Lincoln than the Navigator.
The Town Car has always been the conservative traditionalist's Lincoln, and has had a very loyal owner base. As of 1998, is no longer conservative in styling, and chassis improvements should open the eyes of potential buyers who shied away from the old Town Car because of its ride and handling characteristics. The last of the old-line, body-on-frame, front-engined, rear-wheel drive luxury cars is ready for the 21st Century.
Executive Series, Signature Series, and Cartier Designer Series models of the new Town Car are available for 1998. All share a re- engineered, more rigid full perimeter steel frame and new body mounting designed to banish squeaks and rattles and improve the ride quality. Suspension and braking improvements enhance comfort and handling. The 4.6-liter single overhead cam, 16-valve V8 engine makes 200 horsepower in standard form, and 220 with the special exhaust system used in the Cartier Series and Signature Touring Sedan.
A recent week with a new Cartier Series Town Car was enlightening and entertaining. Not only did it have head-turning looks and All-American opulence, it had ride and handling qualities very, very close to the best of European luxury sedans. The 1998 Lincoln Town Car is a fully contemporary luxury touring machine that should appeal to a new generation of owners as well as the faithful.
APPEARANCE: Surprisingly, very few new cars that I drive get much attention from bystanders. The 1998 Lincoln Town Car was an exception. No wonder. It's a voluptuously large and elegant design that looks like nothing else on the road. It is small only in comparison to the Lincoln Navigator. The Town Car is classically American in size and modern-retro in style, a successful balance between modern technology and nostalgia. The massive chromed grille pays homage to the past and defines the car as a new Lincoln. The long, low-profile multielement headlight clusters use the latest in lighting technology. The rounded contours, high beltline, curved, formal passenger cabin, huge sculpted taillights, and chromed license plate holder bring elements of some classic European luxury cars to mind. Chrome trim on the bumpers, side windows, and door handles is very American, and the Cartier Series basketweave alloy wheels are a modern touch.
COMFORT: If there is a hint of Europe in the exterior of the '98 Town Car, the interior is strictly from the posh end of Main Street, U.S.A. "Spaciousness" defined the classic American-style luxury car of the past. The new Town Car, particularly the Cartier Edition, fits that bill as few other cars do today. Fit the entire foursome inside, and their clubs in the trunk, and there will be room to spare. The interior has acres of leather and walnut burl, and the Cartier logo is integrated into the seat trim. Both front and rear bench seats are plush and roomy. A steering column-mounted shift lever allows for a front center passenger. The front seat is contoured for comfort, heated, and split 40/20/40. The center seatback folds down into a convenient armrest and organizer console. The rear seat is a sumptuous sofa, with its own heating and air conditioning vents and a large flip-down armrest. The walnut-trimmed instrument panel presents information well, with a Cartier clock prominently placed.
SAFETY: The 1998 Lincoln Town Car features dual second- generation airbags, crush zones, and side-impact door beams.
ROADABILITY: Previous Town Cars have been cars in which to ride. Fire the chauffeur. The new Town Car is a car to drive. Chassis stiffening and a new rear suspension featuring Watt's linkage location of the rear axle and refinements to the independent front suspension improve handling and stability. Larger brakes improve stopping power. There is no loss of ride comfort, and the suspension feel is comparable to that of some very respected European luxury manufacturers. Bumps in the road are dispatched quickly, without fuss. Road surface conditions are unobtrusively but positively telegraphed to the driver. The Town Car's mass is apparent during maneuvering, but never a problem. The interior environment is as quiet as expected in an luxury car.
PERFORMANCE: With a 225-horsepower version of the Ford Motor Company 4.6-liter "modular" V6, the two-ton Cartier Series Town Car is no sports sedan. Still, acceleration rates are more aptly described as "quick" than "stately." The engine is worthy of its luxury environment - quiet, smooth, and unobtrusive. It is matched to a fine 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission. Not only is the new Town Car quicker than ever, it's not particularly thirsty. I saw an average of 18 mpg in mostly city driving. Twenty mpg or better should be easily obtainable with more highway driving.
CONCLUSIONS: With bold styling and an improved chassis, the 1998 Lincoln Town Car should appeal to longtime loyalists and new generation of owners.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 41,830 Price As Tested $ 44,220 Engine Type V8, single overhead cams, 16 valves Engine Size 4.6 liters / 280 cu. in. Horsepower 220 @ 4500 Torque (lb-ft) 275 @ 3500 Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 117.7 in. / 215.3 in. Curb Weight 4000 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.2 Fuel Capacity 20 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular Tires P225/60 R16 Michelin Symmetry Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent short and long arm with coil springs / solid axle with Watt's linkage, air suspension springs Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 25 / 18 0 to 60 mph 8.2 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.3 sec Trailer Towing 2000 lbs. OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium Package: includes: power moonroof, trunk-mounted CD changer $ 2110 CA / NY / MA emissions $ 170 Destination Charge $ 670 Premium Package Discount -$ 560