The Lincoln Town Car was one of the most established automotive nameplates in America. Since it debuted as a trim level for the 1969-'71 Continental, the Town Car's purpose remained the same: to spoil as many as six occupants with spacious and luxurious accommodations no matter where in the car they were sitting. For years it was the epitome of what Americans expected from a luxury car.
As time passed by, those expectations began to change, and the Town Car did not evolve to meet them. Not only did Lincoln maintain the Town Car's palatial dimensions, massive trunk and soft ride, it also maintained the basic platform that had underpinned the car since the late 1970s. Its solid rear axle suspension and V8 engine, in particular, were relics of another time. Many of the latest safety, convenience and entertainment features were also not available.
Some will certainly view a used Town Car as a comfortable choice for luxury transportation. But for the most part, we think most shoppers will do better choosing another large luxury sedan that's more capable and advanced.
Most Recent Lincoln Town Car
The most recent Lincoln Town Car was produced from 2003-'11. Compared to the model that immediately preceded it, this final Town Car featured a strengthened frame, updated mechanicals, minor styling changes and a revised interior. But it still was heavily based on the previous car, with a body-on-frame chassis, rear-wheel drive and a solid rear axle.
Equipped with wide front and rear bench seats, the Lincoln Town Car was one of the few six-passenger cars around. Both standard- and long-wheelbase models were offered, each powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produced 239 horsepower and 287 pound-feet of torque. Not only was acceleration pokey, but fuel economy was poor as well. Not helping matters was an old four-speed automatic that lacked the choice of gear ratios and fuel economy of the five- and six-speed automatics found on competitive sedans.
Changes during its lengthy model run were largely restricted to a reshuffling and renaming of trim names in its first few years. For instance, the top-of-the-line model was first named Cartier, then Ultimate and finally Signature Limited. From 2006 through 2011, however, the Town Car could primarily be had in standard-wheelbase Signature Limited and long-wheelbase Signature L trim levels. Feature highlights included dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, a premium sound system, a power-operated trunk and driver memory settings. The Town Car Signature L was essentially a limousine. Six inches longer than the standard car, the L featured a much roomier rear bench seat with separate audio and climate controls.
In editorial reviews, we appreciated the Town Car's abundant storage areas, soft ride quality, interior spaciousness and ability to swallow four sets of golf clubs in the huge trunk. And compared to the previous generation, it did benefit from a stronger frame, sharpened steering and upgraded brakes. But compared to other large luxury sedans of the time, the Town Car was let down by a weak engine, soggy handling, a dated interior design and a lack of modern features.
Previous Lincoln Town Car Models
The Lincoln Town Car produced from 1998-2002 lacked the more recent model's updates, but still offered the same roomy interior. It was offered in Executive, Signature and Cartier editions, and beginning in 2002, the latter two trim levels were available in long-wheelbase form. Between 1998 and 2000, the Town Car was powered by a 4.6-liter V8 that produced 205 hp. In 2001, hp was bumped up to 220 for Executive and Signature editions, while Cartier versions produced 235 hp.
Between 1990 and 1997, the Town Car was boxy, slab-sided and formal. However, its radiused edges, flush-mounted windows and lighting elements made it appear infinitely more modern and aerodynamic than the carriage-like pre-1990 models. In 1991, an overhead-cam 4.6-liter V8 was installed that, with 190 hp, was significantly more powerful than the 5.0-liter V8 in previous Town Cars. In 1994, hp rose once again to 210. Other notable developments for mid-1990s Town Car models included an optional Handling Package with firmer suspension and matched tires introduced for 1993, and a subtle but tasteful interior and exterior restyle for 1995.
Most editorial reviewers of the time noted the Town Car's strength as a serene reading room on wheels while lamenting its ponderous driving dynamics. However, there was universal acknowledgement that the Lincoln Town Car never has been for spirited drivers, but rather for those who grew up believing that big, comfortable, rear-wheel-drive American luxury cars were the ultimate reward for a job well done. And for them, this Town Car was a perfect fit.