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New Car/Review


The Lincoln Town Car
Cartier Edition

by Larry Weitzman

Lincoln Full Line factory footage (3:29) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

My first ride in a Lincoln was in 1958. It was a 1958 Premiere with a 7.1L V-8 (430 cubic inches and gross 375 hp) and it weighed about 5000 pounds. At over a foot longer than the new Town Car, it was a massive automobile. Although a great car in its day, it doesn't come close to comparing with the Town Car.

The 1999 Town Car is an all new design debuting in 1998 ending a nine year run of the prior generation Town Car. The new model has a completely new body and a significantly improved chassis, which should improve its position in the very competitive luxury car market.

The prior Town Car was an impressive vehicle. Its formal style, and opulent luxury made it a favorite with the country club set, but less so with the younger generation. I actually was beginning to really like the prior Town Car and made it my favorite rental car choice when traveling.

Just when I thought the Town Car was an elegant road machine, Lincoln decided it was time for a new look. It is now sleeker and more rounded but unmistakably a Town Car, with understated elegance. It is a distinctive design. I like the new look and I am sure it will grow on me as the previous model did.

The previous Town Car could swallow more luggage then my wife could amass with a gold card in Nordstrom's with a 50% off coupon in eight hours. Sorry folks, the new Town Car has actually shrunk in size by an overall length of 3.6 inches to 215.3 inches. Wheelbase is up about half an inch to 117.7. Trunk space is down 1.7 cubic feet to 20.6 cubic feet. Now my wife would be limited to a seven hour shopping spree.

In the inside, the cabin dimensions are nearly identical to the previous edition, with exactly the same limousine size front and rear leg, hip and shoulder room. The Cartier comes standard with about everything. My test vehicle had only one option package consisting of a power moon roof and remote C/D changer ($1,550 bargain).

The extra large seats are trimmed in select soft, comfortable leathers. The seats are individually heated and with the eight-way power adjustment they can be made to suit any driver. The power system has a two-position memory. They are sublime. The rear seats provide regal comfort even for three. This car can handle just about anyone.

The dash sweeps across the entire front of the passenger compartment. In front of the driver is a large speedo with flanking temp and fuel gauges. There two electronic windows above, one containing a compass and the other having a complete trip computer with things like instant and average mpg, range and other nice features. The center section holds the incredible JBL sound system with remote multi-play C/D. Below is the automatic electronic air conditioning.

There are no hard edges in the interior. The Door paneling is soft and the carpet is plush. This is a luxury car in every sense of the word.

New suspension improvements have made a difference. The ride is very quiet, supple and well controlled. It is not a floater and wallower. It protects its occupants from just about all outside road disturbances. Big dips and bumps are literally absorbed and suppressed by the suspension. Minor irregularities are simply eliminated.

This new model has increased frame stiffness, which adds to the ultra quiet ride. Sometimes, I found myself thinking and even speaking in a whisper to avoid what would seem like shouting. The engineers have done their noise isolation homework. The body is tight and solid.

Lincoln has incorporated a new Watts linkage in the rear which prevents side to side axle movement and the four locating trailing arms (used to be known a panhard rods) provide resistance to axle tramp and braking torque while maintaining longitudinal location. What this all means is that notwithstanding the uncompromising ride, this Lincoln can go around corners with the best of them. An extremely wide track of 63.4 inches in front and 65.3 inches in the rear add to the stability.

Considering the size of this vehicle and superb its ride quality, the overall handling is quite remarkable. A quick run to Reno up Highway 50, the big Lincoln made me a believer in just how good this car rides and handles. A genuine pleasure. Beautiful 16 inch cast wheels sport meaty 225 series low profile Michelins. Their grip in tenacious and confidence inspiring.

Even the steering has been improved. Gone is the adjustable feel system, replaced with true variable assist power. It is precise and accurate with good on center resistance.

The washboard and bumpy surface of Ponderosa Road are simply made into a freeway while negotiating the sharp corners at speed. The rear end stayed planted. Green Valley Road was effortless.

The motive power is provided by a Ford's 4.6L SOHC high tech V-8. In use since 1991, it cranks out 220hp at 4,500 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a super smooth, electronic four speed automatic transmission. This quiet, silky powerplant will propel the Town Car from a standstill to 60 mph is about 8.8 seconds. Passing performance is excellent with 50-70 mph times averaging a very quick 4.8 seconds and going up hill 50-70 times of 8 seconds. Responsive would be the appropriate description.

Four wheel disc brakes are standard with ABS. Improvements have been made by enlarging the front binders (25% swept increase over 1997 models) to add to the stopping power and safety.

If you want to think of the good old days when early 1950's vintage Lincolns were winning the famous Mexican Road Race, this new machine would blow the doors off the 1953 Lincoln Capri, a class winner in those historic road races.

Fuel economy is surprisingly good. I average over 20 mpg in 500 plus miles of spirited driving, all of it in El Dorado County except for a run to Reno. At a steady 65 the trip computer indicated I was getting between 26-30 mpg. The EPA rates this car at 17/24 mpg city/highway. I think you will do much better in our style of driving. Its 19-gallon fuel tank will make a nonstop 400 mile run less effort than a Learjet (slower, but certainly less expensive).

One of the reasons for the Town Car's remarkable economy is weight control. Curb weight runs about 4050 pounds.

There is even good news in the price department. Town Cars cost less than 1997 models. Now that's a move in the right direction. The Cartier I drove had a list price of $42,825 plus $1,595 for the power moon roof and C/D system. Destination adds another $670 bringing the total to $45,090.

The "base" model Executive Town Car lists for $38,995 with destination. The only option I would order would be the livery package, which is really a handling package for $125. The livery package sharpens the handling with little loss in comfort.


Price                                         $38,995 to about $45,000
   4.6L SOHC V-8                              200 hp @ 4250 rpm 
                                              standard265 lb-ft of torque @ 3000 rpm
   4.6L SOHC V-8                              220 hp @ 4,500 rpm
                                              Cartier275 lb-ft of torque @ 3000 rpm
                                              4 speed electronically
                                              controlled automatic


Wheelbase                                     117.7 inches
Length                                        215.3 inches
Width                                         78.2  inches
Height                                        58.0  inches
Curb Weight                                   4050  pounds
Fuel Capacity                                 19.0  gallons


0-60                                          8.8  seconds
50-70                                         4.8  seconds
50-70 uphill                                  8.0  seconds
Top Speed                                     Well into triple digits, but please have
                                              reasonable regard for speed limits
Fuel Economy                                  EPA 17/24 mpg city/highway.  My estimate
                                              is 20 plus in El Dorado County and 25 plus
                                              on the highway