New dual-stage front airbags, more horsepower and optional power-adjustable pedals are fresh features for the Crown Victoria, a traditional V-8-powered, rear-drive family sedan with body-on-frame construction.
The new front airbags deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity, whether the seat belts are buckled and the position of the drivers seat. The airbags may not deploy in less-severe crashes if sensors detect that the seat belts are buckled.
Also new for 2001 is a feature that automatically turns on the headlights when the windshield wipers are activated. The Crown Victoria is a corporate twin to the Mercury Grand Marquis. While about two-thirds of Crown Victoria sales go to police squads and taxicab companies, most of the Grand Marquis sales are to retail buyers. Restyled versions of both are expected for the 2002 model year but will retain their current mechanical design.
The Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis are built on the same rear-drive platform as the Lincoln Town Car, which has different styling and larger dimensions. The separate body-chassis design dates to the 1979 Ford LTD.
The conservatively tailored Crown Vic has a 114.7-inch wheelbase and is 212 inches long overall a foot longer than the Buick LeSabre, a front-drive rival and the most popular full-size car. Styling is the same as that on the Grand Marquis except for a different grille, taillamps and exterior trim.
Tall, wide doors allow easy entry and exit, and with bench seats in the front and rear, the Crown Vic holds six people. Middle passengers, however, have to straddle a large driveshaft tunnel and dont get the same cushy seating as outboard occupants. The front seat is a split bench with a folding center armrest.
The new power-adjustable pedals, a feature previously offered on other Ford vehicles, have a 3-inch range.
Cargo volume is a cavernous 20.6 cubic feet, though much of it is in a deep well that is awkward to reach.
Under the Hood
The standard engine is a 4.6-liter V-8 with 220 horsepower, 20 hp more than last year. An optional handling package includes a firmer suspension, touring tires and a dual exhaust system that boosts horsepower to 235 (also 20 hp more than last year).
A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and antilock brakes and traction control are optional.
Several full-size, front-drive sedans offer as much room or more and similar acceleration with more economical V-6 engines, and they come wrapped in more contemporary styling. The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis, however, offer rear-drive traditionalists a solid and capable alternative that is more reasonably priced than some front-drive rivals.