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1990 Lincoln Town Car

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    Expert Reviews 2 of 3
1990 Lincoln Town Car 4.7 3
$ 1,922-4,418
October 27, 1989

The worst thing about the 1990 Lincoln Town Car is its 1970 reputation, which is pure Henny Youngman.

So I said to this car thief, "Take my Lincoln. I'll throw in a gold Rolex." Here's a car that rides like Roseanne in Jell-O-filled overshoes. Driving a Town Car is like steering the Exxon Valdez: You turn left, count to 10 and try not to hit Alaska.

This year, none of the above is true.

Come to think of it, it wasn't much of an opinion in 1970--except among us tilt-snoot horsepower heads who believed that speaking European (Porsch-ah, Jag-you-are and Volks-vahgen) helped our downshifting and anything offering four doors and armchair seating for six should be classified as a hotel.

The Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford, however, always knew better and continues to exercise the most sensible premise of free enterprise: Why chase ephemeral fads in jammed small markets when you have a perennial lock on a large and rich niche that changes about as fast as Cincinnati?

According to a customer base study, the Lincoln generation is American traditional, with a median age of 62.3 years; one in five earns $100,000, but not many went to college.

Most of them live in coastal Florida, Upstate New York, Connecticut and Texas, and in smaller towns.

In 1988, this salt of the United States bought almost 200,000 Lincolns.

That's not too far shy of Cadillac numbers and about the same total of cars sold by Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar combined. And when the 1990 Lincolns Mark VII, Continental and Town Car went on sale this month, there were 32,000 advance orders on dealers' books.

All of which indicates that the car billed every year as the last of the dinosaurs, as Detroit's final hurrah and a soft chuckle for the Detroit land yacht, should be around longer than Don Ameche.

Even Lincoln-Mercury--which nurses no illusions about the little limousines it builds--remains surprised.

"Quite frankly, we thought the Town Car market wouldn't go on because of energy concerns and fuel crises," a spokesman said. "But that hasn't happened, older people continue to buy just one more car . . . and the only thing that would now seem to effect the Town Car or (Mercury) Grand Marquis would be engineering restrictions, if the greenhouse effect becomes a problem.

"If we do reach a point where we have to build 45-miles-per-gallon cars, the V-8 engine just won't make it and these big cars are gone. But there are still people out there who want to buy it, and they are not the people who go to the Bob Bondurant (high-performance driving) school."

True. No Lincoln Town Car is likely to show up on a Southern stock car track with racer Dale Earnhardt driving. Town Car pilots with the choice of going home via Mulholland or taking the low road are still advised to head for the Ventura Freeway.

But that's not the point.

The aim of this car is to provide dependable, quiet, smooth, absolutely luxurious transportation for a sextet of folk who already have arrived at life's comfort level.

Lincoln has always delivered that--and at a price that Mercedes, and now Lexus and Infiniti, cannot begin to approach.

This 1990 Lincoln Town Car, however, also can reach out and touch a much younger audience.

Bearing its market in mind, the styling is perfect. Edges have been softened, the boxy silhouette has been sent back to Kellog's, and although a side view seems to offer more chrome molding than Times Square has neon, here's a shape that has found modernity without pushing avant-garde to the point of nouveau gauche.

The interior is broad, cushioned and rather like driving your living room. As always.

There are air bags on both sides; front sofas with memories; a cute message center; a miserable clinging to that relic called a digital dash; keyless locks; a heated windshield; headlights that automatically come on in dark places; and interior lights that stay on until you're in the house and reaching for TV Guide. As is to be expected from Lincoln.

But underneath all its pearlescence and leather covering, there beats the parts and sum of a very fine, technically complete motor car.

It is much more of an updating than any radical departure that might shock and antagonize its orthodoxy. But to anyone who ever wallowed around in an earlier Lincoln, the changes were quite necessary and add integrity and new spirit to the vehicle.

Much of the Town Car's stiffer feel comes from the Lincoln-Mercury Division's success with new technology that cushions vibrations and jiggles common to heavy, body-on-frame cars.

Lincoln-Mercury has gone to speed-sensitive power steering. There remains a great tendency to forget the wheels and sense that the car has become an air-cushion vehicle, but the steering is no longer close to the feel of thin oatmeal.

Brake dip and tail-dragging under unequal passenger loads were always a blight of yesterday's Town Car. This year, the Town Car has been given air shocks and rear load-levelers for a snoozy ride without Dramamine.

Once in any freeway lane, expect to stay there, because in a Town Car--as in a Rolls-Royce, as in a Bentley and other behemoths--you do not do much of anything without plenty of room and much advance notice.

Yet by its tighter steering, acceleration that's almost a match for the Miata, and a sturdy set of anti-lock brakes, the Town Car has as much authority in the fast lane as any Panzerwagen.

Gone, finally, are the Hurricane Hugo noises that converted earlier Lincolns into portable wind-tunnels.

Those stuffy Connecticut Yankees who have kept Town Cars on the charts for so long just might be impressed to the point of going crazy and ordering a CD player for their cars.

So, take my Lincoln. You should be so lucky.

1990 Lincoln Town Car

The Good Less mush and roll in suspension. Soft edges of mid-Atlantic styling. Tighter steering. Your father's Lincoln, but no apologist.

The Bad Just when you thought it was safe to look at a dashboard, digitals are back. Ft. Knox doors. Glut of chrome moldings.

The Ugly Genuine, simulated plastiwood interior trim.

Cost Base: $30,043. As tested: $33,141.

Engine V-8, 5.0 liters, developing 160 horsepower.

Perfomance 0-60, manufacturer's claim, 11.6 seconds. Top speed, manufacturer's estimate, 118 m.p.h. Fuel consumption, metro-highway average, 23 m.p.g.

Curb Weight 4,025 pounds.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

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