Fords traditional, full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan gets a new frame and some major upgrades to the ride, comfort, safety, and steering and handling features for the 2003 model year. The Crown Victoria is especially popular with taxicab companies and police squads, and the latest model debuted at the New York International Auto Show in March 2002. More than 80 percent of police pursuit vehicles in the United States and 90 percent of New York taxicabs are Crown Victorias. The four-door sedan also has a steady following among retail buyers and other fleet companies.
Variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering has replaced the old recirculating-ball system, and the front and rear suspensions have been upgraded. The sedans turning circle has been reduced by nearly 12 inches. A new dual-rate brake booster automatically applies full braking power in a panic stop.
Ford promises that the new, stiffer, full-perimeter frame will contribute to a smoother, more controlled ride and improved handling. Weight sensors for the front passenger seat have been added to the Personal Safety System. Antilock brakes are a new standard feature, and side-impact airbags are now offered as an option. The 2002 model earned five-star ratings for both the driver and front passenger in frontal crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Offered in base, LX and LX Sport trim levels, the 2003 Crown Victoria went on sale in May 2002. All sedans are manufactured in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, alongside the closely related Mercury Grand Marquis.
The appearance of the Crown Victoria is essentially unchanged from last year. Styling features include wide door openings, wraparound aero headlights and color-keyed bodyside moldings. Riding a 114.7-inch wheelbase, the 2003 model is 212 inches long overall. Standard tires are 16 inches in diameter, and 17-inchers are optional. New wheels are installed on the LX and LX Sport, and the latter model also has a monochromatic exterior.
The torsional rigidity of the new frame has been increased by 24 percent and vertical bending by 20 percent. The front suspension has a new steel upper control arm, a new aluminum lower arm and steering knuckle, and monotube shock absorbers. The rear shock absorbers are now mounted outboard of the frame rails. Automatic-leveling air springs are optional on some models.
Five or six occupants fit inside the Crown Vic, depending on whether a bench or bucket seats are installed in the front. An overhead console is now standard in the LX and LX Sport models. The fore and aft travel distance of the eight-way power drivers seat has been increased by an inch. The sedans trunk holds 20.6 cubic feet of cargo, and a trunk organizer is offered as an option.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a cassette/CD stereo system, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. All Crown Vics except the base model have a door-mounted keyless-entry pad with five buttons that are used to enter a code. A SmartLock anti-lockout system prevents the drivers door from locking if the key is left in the ignition.
Under the Hood
The Crown Vics 4.6-liter V-8 engine produces 224 horsepower and 272 pounds-feet of torque; it teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Optional all-speed traction control uses the antilock braking system and throttle intervention to manage wheelspin. A more potent 239-hp version of that engine is equipped with a dual exhaust system. This setup is included with the handling and performance package and comes standard in the LX Sport and optional for the LX.
Dual-stage front airbags deploy according to crash severity, and a weight sensor can prevent the front passenger-side airbag from deploying if that seat is unoccupied. Fords BeltMinder system now makes use of the weight sensor to remind the front passenger to buckle up. Side-impact airbags are optional.
Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. A new dual-rate brake booster applies full braking power automatically in a panic stop, even if the driver doesnt supply enough pedal pressure at first. LATCH child-safety seat tethers are integrated into the outboard rear seats, and the center rear passenger gets a new three-point seat belt.