Perhaps it's only fitting that we pause, as the latest technology and innovation in automobiles is on display at the Chicago Auto Show through Feb. 23 in McCormick Place South, to review the 2003 Ford Crown Victoria.

Fitting because, though we couldn't verify it in any history books, the Crown Victoria reportedly was introduced at the show in 1492--or was it '93? Whatever the date, Chris Columbus was the narrator who detailed the features on the car.

OK, this scribe is being a bit sarcastic again. But truth is that the Crown Vic has been around longer than dirt. If the fountain of youth exists, the Crown Vic should be hooked up via IV to those magical, restoring waters.

Ford realizes the problem.

"In the '60s, big sedans were prestigious. People aspired to buy them just like they aspire to buy [sport-utility vehicles] today. But people don't aspire to big sedans today because the industry builds boring ones," J Mays, vice president of design for Ford, told us at the unveiling of the Ford 427 concept at a preview in Las Vegas before it hit the auto-show circuit to test consumer reaction.

Mays calls the 427 "the reinvention of the big Ford sedan," noting that, "40 years ago there was nothing more popular than the sedan. Up to 1.4 million were sold each year. There were no SUVs back then. It's not that people walked away from big sedans; it's that the industry walked away. If we go back, customers will go back. Detroit needs to be Detroit, to stop trying to be Japanese or German. Nothing is more American than the big sedan--it isn't Japanese or German."

Ford has set out to solve the problem, as evidenced by the concept 427 sedan built off a longer, wider stretch of the Ford DEW platform, same one used for the Thunderbird, Lincoln LS and next-generation Mustang. Though rear-wheel-drive, it could be adapted to all-wheel-drive as well.

The sedan concept owes its name to its 427-cubic-inch, 7-liter, 590-horsepower V-10 derived from the 5.4-liter, V-8 in the Mustang Cobra R.

If built, perhaps for '06, the 427 would be a companion to the midsize Ford Five Hundred sedan coming out for '05.

With the 427, Ford would take one giant leap toward rebuilding that full-size sedan segment. With a V-10 sedan holding the promise of a little kick, Ford also would take aim at younger buyers as well.

The current full-size Crown Vic is dressed conservatively. The 427 is more fashionable. The 427 thick, bent-bar grille is bold, the Crown Vic grille is body-colored. The 427 stands out in the crowd, Crown Vic blends into it. Crown Vic advance technology is minimal--traction control and wiper-activated headlamps so the lights go on when the wipers do.

Youth, which in the case of the Crown Vic means those younger than 65, aren't served by this sedan.

What's new for the '03 Crown Vic we tested?

Wheels and wheel covers.

What new technol ogy?

Traction control--a $175 option.

You no longer can get a candy bar for a nickel or a Tribune for a quarter, but you can still get a Crown Vic.

OK, so what if Crown Vic attracts an older buyer? There are lots of older buyers with lots of money who have kept this nameplate going for decades. Seniors don't necessarily covet the same cars younger ones do.

Even so, Crown Vic could serve the older buyers better. For example, outside mirrors are a tad small. And radio control buttons are small and not easy to see or use by those who don't have a cutesy, Gen-alpha designation for their age.

And it sure would be nice if there were a push-button mode for the heater to direct warm air to the face and feet at the same time.

As a nice gesture, the Ford tosses in leather seats, but leather seats tend to be a little slippery instead of holding older occupants in place. And without a corresponding heater button, leather seats are cruel and unusual punishment in the Snow Belt for any age group.

On the positive side, the fuel-filler door and trunk-release buttons are large and in the driver's door to make those tasks easier; the fuel gauge comes with an arrow pointing to the side the filler door is on so you always pull up to the correct side at the pump; and the trunk is large and the floor is flat to make carrying luggage or groceries less of a chore.

The test car also came with an optional $190 trunk organizer, a massive plastic chest that sits deep and flat in the trunk well with individual compartments to hold a wealth of items you don't want rattling around in back.

Opening the right side compartments is a bit tricky, however, because the full-size spare on the rear ledge sticks out above. But if there is a group that demands a full-size spare, it's the seniors who feel cheated by mini spares.

The optional traction control is a must for those motoring in the Snow Belt.

Had plenty of opportunity to rely on the system over snow-covered roadways. It sure helped getting the rear-wheel-drive sedan moving through the slop. But while the traction control helps get you going, a more sophisticated stability-control system designed to keep the rear end still in corners and turns would be appreciated more.

The LX Sport model we tested comes with a suspension tuned to minimize road harshness while keeping the weight under control for better handling than the base model. The 17-inch radial tires, a sporty upgrade from the standard 16-inch treads, also contribute to improved handling.

The LX is powered by a 4.6-liter, 224-horsepower V-8 with ample muscle to move with the traffic from the light or merge/pass when needed. Considering this is a full-size, five-passenger sedan powered by a V-8 with 4-speed automatic, the fuel economy rating is very good at 18 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway.

Other new features for '03 include speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering to make it easier to maneuver and park the big sedan at low speeds; optional side-impact air bags; standard overhead console in the LX and LX Sport to hold such items as glasses; and a standard valet key.

The '03 Crown Victoria LX Sport starts at $29,475. Standard equipment includes four-wheel anti-lock brakes; AM/FM stereo with cassette player; eight-way power driver's seat; air conditioning; power windows, locks and outside mirrors; power adjustable brake/gas pedals that move to you at the push of a button so you don't have to power the seat forward to reach the pedals; floor console with lots of storage capacity plus a power plug; and redundant climate/audio controls in the steering wheel, though the controls in the wheel don't show you how to get warm air to face and feet at the same time, either.

TEST DRIVE

2003 Ford Crown Victoria LX Sport

Wheelbase: 11 4.7 inches

Length: 212 inches

Engine: 4.6-liter, 224-h.p. V-8

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 18 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway

Base price: $29,475

Price as tested: $29,660. Includes $190 for trunk organizer; $175 for traction control; $255 for driver/passenger side-impact air bags; and $165 for six-disc CD changer. Subtract $600 for leather-seat discount. Add $725 for freight.

Pluses: Gets you where you're going with lots of size and weight wrapped around you. Traction control reduces many of the traditional problems with managing a big, rear-wheel-drive car in Snow Belt. Mileage good for a full-size sedan.

Minuses: Traction control helps, but more sophisticated stability control is the better answer. Long overdue for styling, technology upgrade. Leather seats without warmers is cruel and unusual punishment. Can you read the controls?