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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Tom Strongman
September 29, 1998
Squint your eyes when you look at Lincoln's Town Car and you can see hints of a classic Jaguar sedan in its mouth-shaped grille, sharply rounded roofline and curved taillights. The Town Car is classically American, too, and much bigger than any Jag
would ever be. It uses a full-perimeter frame, separate body, single-overhead-cam (SOHC) V8 engine and rear-wheel drive. Last year it underwent a complete redesign and was cloaked with a body that is a vast departure from the upright and angular
look of its predecessor. Some traditionalists may miss the old car, with its pillow-soft ride, gargantuan trunk and a nose that bobbed over bumps like the bow of a ship at sea, but most folks will find the new car's youthful look and tighter handling more
appealing. The redesigned Town Car is one prong of a three-product strategy aimed at attracting younger buyers. The Navigator SUV and the mid-size Lincoln sports sedan, due for debut later this year, are the other two. Since the entire car
was reworked last year, upgrades to the Town Car for 1999 have been incremental, with one exception: Side airbags are now mounted in the front seats. On the Executive series, door panels get wood trim and the front armrest contains a storage bin.
Rear armrests have cupholders. Power seat controls are now on the door instead of the seat, and a two-tone paint scheme is offered. Our test car was a refrigerator-white Cartier model, with bone colored leather seats and woodgrain trim on the dash.
The woodgrain trim adds liveliness and warmth to the broad, flat expanse of the instrument panel, which has very little sculpting in order to preserve the three-across capability of the front bench seat. The instrumentation was a jarring combination of
white-on-black gauges and bright-green digital readouts for fuel and odometer. The electro-luminescent, round-gauge panel from the Continental would seem more appropriate for a car in this price category. The radio is located high in the center of
the dash, a long reach for me, but auxiliary controls on the steering wheel made change stations or volume a simple move of my finger on the wheel. Six can sit inside the Town Car, although most folks won't squeeze themselves quite that tight very
often. The seats, both front and back, are broad and accommodating. The trunk has 20.1 cubic feet, but taking full advantage of it is tricky because the spare tire partially blocks access. With careful packing it will hold a reasonable amount of
luggage, just don't plan on carrying a large box back there. Mirroring the change to a more youthful exterior, the Town Car's driving dynamics have undergone a similar transformation. The ride is still plush, but it feels more controlled, and less
floaty, now. Lincoln says the Watt's Linkage rear suspension improves straight-line tracking and counters the tendency for the vehicle to squat under acceleration and dive under braking. Steer
ing improvements are noticeable, but it still feels over-boosted at slow speeds. Mechanically, the Town Car is almost identical to the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis. The 4.6-liter, V8 engine puts out 205 horsepower in standard form, but a dual
exhaust system on the Cartier and Signature Touring Sedan models bring that to 220. This engine has adequate power and performs smoothly, even though it has to haul around about 4,000 pounds. Of course, the transmission is automatic, and the lever
is mounted on the steering column. Shifting out of overdrive for more power is done by punching a button on the end of the lever. Last year's redesign of the Town Car was dramatic. This year's addition of side airbags fixes one of the shortcomings
and should improve its safety. Price The base price of the Cartier model I drove was $42,825. The premium package (power moonroof and trunk-mounted compact disc player) brought the sticker price to $45,090. Wa
anty The standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles. Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers. Point: While the Town Car has not drunk fully from the Fountain of Youth, it now
acts much younger than it used to. The ride is firmer, the styling more contemporary and the engine is smooth. Counterpoint: Some folks won't like the new styling or the firmer ride. The steering could use continued improvement for better feel, and
the large trunk is hard to load efficiently. SPECIFICATIONS: ENGINE: 4.6-liter, V8 TRANSMISSION: automatic WHEELBASE: 117.7 inches CURB WEIGHT: 4,015 lbs. BASE PRICE: $43,825 PRICE AS DRIVEN: $45,090 MPG RATING: 17
city, 24 hwy.