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Smooth, Strong and Silent, the 1999 Ford Crown Victoria

by Larry Weitzman

Ford Full Line factory footage (14:26) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

The first Ford to be known as a Victoria dates back to 1951. It was Ford's first two door hardtop and it had a 100 hp 239 cubic inch (3.9L) flathead (valve in block) V-8. Needless to say, it wouldn't compare to any car made today.

The initial Crown Victoria was created in 1955 and it sported beautiful styling and an overhead valve (OHV) 272 cubic inch (4.5L) V-8. This was the second year of Ford's modern V-8 engine era. It produced either 162 hp or 182 hp (with a four barrel carb and dual exhausts) and it could go 0-60 in about 12 seconds. It might do a 100 mph on a good day and returned about 14 mpg in the city. It cost new about $2,300 with automatic, an am radio and a heater. Such a deal.

The current 1999 Crown Victoria can only be had as a four-door sedan. It is powered by a 4.6L single overhead cam (SOHC) (281 cubic inch) V-8 that produces 215 hp @ 4,500 and 285 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm. The Crown Vic is longer than the '55 Ford by about 14 inches, wider by about 8 inches and has an additional 800 pounds of weight. The wheelbase of the 1998 Crown Vic is actually about an inch shorter than the '55 Crown Vic.

One other note about horsepower, the rating of the 1955 Ford was a gross rating; the 1998 Ford is a net rating. Consequently the new Crown Vic would be rated at about 300 hp on the old scale. The auto industry changed the horsepower rating system from gross to net in 1971.

The Ford Motor Company is the only American company still producing large rear wheel drive sedans. The Crown Vic is their least expensive rear driver and is the least expensive in the American market. To buy another make you would have to look to Lexus, Infiniti Q-45, Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes Benz. The Crown Vic stands in some very expensive company.

The Crown Vic is still the favorite police car of most departments for many reasons. When you spend your entire workday behind the wheel, comfort and fatigue reduction are paramount. This Ford provides both in spades. The interior can be described as cavernous. Shoulder room, hip room and leg room dimensions are about as large as you will find in any sedan, front or rear.

The seats in my test vehicle were of a rich, thick cloth. The front seat is a split bench with the standard power driver's seat. They were soft, large and supportive. It could be adjusted to just about any position and would be a great place to spend several comfortable hours. Since they are a split bench, they have space for three. The rear seats also provided space and comfort for three adults that could only be surpassed in a limo.

There have been several new changes in the 1999 Crown Vic over the 1997. The biggest change is in the rear suspension. A new Watts linkage (similar to that used in the new Toyota Land Cruiser) is designed to improve directional stability and lessens the tendency to side step over bumps under hard cornering.

In my road trip which included Ponderosa Road, where there are lots of turns with bumps and coarseness, this car with its optional handling and performance package (a worthwhile option at $615) did a remarkable job absorbing road irregularities. It kept all four wheels planted when negotiating turns at speed. Stable and accurate. Green Valley and Bass Lake Road were no problem and high speed sweepers were fun. The option package comes with some really good looking cast aluminum 16-inch wheels with a set of sticky P225/60TR touring tires. This car handles much smaller than it is.

Silence is another strong suit of the Crown Vic. Almost no external noise enters the passenger compartment. The powerful V-8 is smooth and silent. I mean really smooth. I love this Ford V-8 and it's a great match in this car. The handling and performance package includes dual exhausts and a higher axle ratio. It makes the car very responsive and quick. I recorded an average 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds. 50-70 mph only takes 5.4 seconds and going up a hill only slows that time to 7.8 seconds. That is very fast for such a big car.

What is amazing is the fuel economy this near luxury car turns in. It is EPA rated at 17/24 mpg city/hwy. I have found from past experience with this platform that driving the country roads of El Dorado County will probably yield mileage in the low 20's. Straight highway mileage at legal speeds will produce numbers in the mid to high twenties. The old Crown Vic could only fantasize about performance and economy numbers like that. It was about half as quick and used twice the fuel. It is truly remarkable that a car this big and comfortable with this kind of performance could be so economical. We owe it to great engine and transmission design.

Highway cruising is this cars strong suit. It is like a magic carpet. It doesn't float, but bumps or tar strips do not disturb its occupants. It is solid. There is very little wind noise and the engine can only be heard when maximum throttle is applied, and a nice sound it is. Sit back and listen to the fine sounding stereo. My test vehicle didn't have the optional C/D, which is only an additional $140, a bargain. The only other option that I would recommend that was not on my test vehicle was leather upholstery at a cost of $735. When traveling, you won't have to worry about leaving anything at home, as the huge truck is probably as large as your closet.

This car comes standard with an impressive list of equipment. Power steering and four wheel disk brakes, power windows and locks, power driver's seat, cruise and tilt wheel and air conditioning are among the lengthy list. It also has dual de-powered airbags and body on frame construction for occupant protection.

The interior appointments such as the door paneling and dash material are tastefully designed and high quality. The large speedo is flanked left and right by gauges indicating fuel quantity, oil pressure, coolant temperature and a voltage. There is one thing lacking on the instrument panel and that is a tachometer. Ford should rethink this minor omission. The steering wheel stalks are also worth mentioning. They look, feel and operate expensively. It's nice to see such improvements in little things that give a car a quality feel.

The good news is that this car when corrected for inflation probably costs less that the 1955 Crown Vic. The base price for the upscale LX is $23,925 with a laundry list of standard equipment. Add to that the LX Comfort group ($900), carpeted floor mats ($30), handling and performance package ($615), California emissions ($170) and traction control ($175) the price with destination of my test vehicle was $26,420. I would only add leather and the C/D option. That would bring the total to about $27,000.

For the price of an average midsize sedan, you can by a powerful, smooth, silent, solid and economical large car that comes with a list of standard features that are optional equipment on most smaller cars. What other car gives you so much for so little.


Price                                 $21,905 to about $27,000
4.6L SOHC V-8                         200 hp @ 4,250 rpm
                                      265 lb-ft of torque @ 3000
With dual exhausts                    215 hp @ 4,500
(handling and performance             285 lb-ft @ 3,000

                                     4-speed electronically 
                                     controlled automatic


Wheelbase                           114.7 inches
Length                              212.0 inches
Width                               78.2  inches
Height                              56.8  inches
Curb Weight                         3927  pounds
Tow Capacity                        2000  pounds
Fuel Capacity                       19    gallons


0-60                                8.9 seconds
50-70                               5.4 seconds
50-70 (uphill)                      7.8 seconds
Top Speed                           Definitely do not try to
                                    outrun an El Dorado Sheriff or
                                    a Placerville Police Crown Vic 
                                    Police Intercepter 
Fuel Econ                           EPA rated 17/24 mpg city/highway
                                    My estimate low to high 20's
                                    depending on conditions