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New Car/Review

1998 Ford Crown Victoria

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:                  4.6-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       200 hp @ 4250 rpm/265 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 20.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               114.7 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 212.0 x 78.2 x 56.8 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3917 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:           19.0 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        20.6 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   P225/60SR15
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                         fuel management computer, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power seats, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                         AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and 
                         trunk-mounted CD changer, anti-lock brakes, 
                         dual front air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $21,540 (base)

There's a lot to be said for the big rear-wheel drive sedans. They are the kind of cars I learned to drive on, and the car we had when our family was growing. It's the kind of car millions of people have used for family vacations for years and as an everyday family car.

The big sedans have been supplanted, of course, by station wagons, minivans and sport utilities. And only one manufacturer in the United States makes them any more, and that's the Ford Motor Company. The Ford branded version of this car is the Crown Victoria, which was an LTD at one time. It still soldiers along.

The Crown Vic is the choice of most police departments across the country. It is the choice of most taxicab companies across the country. Although some police departments are going to sport utilities and some taxi companies are going to minivans, you'll still see the majority in rear-wheel drive Fords. These are two good markets for these cars.

Our tester was relatively stock and relatively luxurious for a Ford. I don't mean that as a putdown, but Ford also builds the upscale Mercury Grand Marquis and the further upscale Lincoln Town Car off this same platform, so one would expect the Ford version to be more basic. It wasn't We had power windows and door locks, cruise control, an AM/FM cassette sound system with a CD option, a digital HVAC system.

Power came from a 4.6-liter V-8 that drove the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission with a column-mounted shifter. The front seats were individually powered (not heated) and there were individual armrests on each seat to convert the front bench to individual buckets. The rear seat offered excellent legroom. I sat back there during one stretch and my 6-4 son-in-law sat there during one stretch and we both had more than enough room to be comfortable. The rear seats are as comfortable as the front seats, which is the advantage of a big car and why it's popular as a taxi.

There is an enormous 20.6 cubic foot trunk, which brought back memories of the 1950s and 1960s. It held everything we brought with us on a visit to our daughter's house. We had a weekend's worth of luggage plus our normal complement of goody bags back and forth to appease everyone. In addition,. we went on a shopping trip and we were able to add the treasures to the trunk as well.

Our primary use of the Crown Vic was on Interstates and major highways. We broke out home-to-Richmond, Virginia record by about 15 minutes (out of five and a half hours) and at no time did we feel we were hurrying. You can travel any speed limit in comfort in this car. the ride is slightly mushy but with the new Watts linkage rear suspension the ride is slightly more sporty than it used to be. This is not a car that shudders and cries when you start looking at winding roads. This is a car that can handle winding roads. It doesn't handle them like a Mustang, but it does reasonably well and far better than its predecessors.

Our daily commute changed from highways to urban streets because of construction, and the Crown Vic handled those roads as well.

Large rear-wheel drive family sedans are still practical. With a fuel economy rating of 20.8 mpg, we were satisfied. They are comfortable and they offer immense carrying capacity in a sedan body, so that you're not driving a truck. And that's enough to make it worthwhile.