Though less popular these days, the Lincoln Town Car has long been a staple of New York City's professional class, carrying passengers — or their employers — who could afford the service in style.
Now New York and its mayor have issued a deadline on fleet vehicles — which includes everything from taxis to Town Cars — that get under 25 mpg. On Jan. 1, all new vehicles entering the city’s local car service must have an EPA fuel economy rating of 25 mpg. That number increases to 30 mpg in 2010 in hopes of doubling the fleetwide average to around 40 mpg by 2017, a move that would cut transportation-related emissions by 2% and overall carbon dioxide emissions by .5%.
The Lincoln Town Car has long been a favored vehicle because of its durability, roominess, luxury and relative low cost (independent drivers pay between $15,000 and $25,000 for a new one), but with an average of 16 mpg in the city due to its heavy frame and a V-8 engine, it doesn't come close to making the city's new fuel economy rules.
This leaves car service companies with a dilemma: What vehicle will replace the Town Car? A New York Times article speculates that a crossover or hybrid could take over. The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner both clear the mileage bar. At 27 mpg, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX 400h could squeak by for another year. But all of these cost more money than a Town Car at fleet rates.
Less costly midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima Hybrid would also sneak by. The Prius, an obvious choice because of its high fuel economy, has been derided as having too little space and being too pedestrian.
Before the rule goes into effect, operators have been buying up Town Cars, hoping to delay the eventual switch to more efficient cars. This seems like an odd decision, though, when New York City’s stop-and-go driving seems like the natural environment for a hybrid, and the city has a five-year limit on how long the current crop of 10,000 Town Cars can operate.
What would you suggest replace the Town Car?
Fuel-Efficient Black Cars: A Taximoron? (The New York Times)