Town Car's Features Make It Last of the Big U.S. Luxury Cars

Article excerpt

Call it a dinousaur, an anachronism, a throwback. They all apply to the 1997 Lincoln Town Car.

It's the last of a breed of giant American luxury sedans with rear-wheel drive and V- engines. When General Motors dropped its rear-drive Cadillac Fleetwood, it left the Town Car out there all by itself.

Its styling is dated, more boxy than sleek, there's not a great deal of sophistication in its underpinnings, and it's not even terribly expensive as luxury cars go these days.

The tested top-line Cartier version, fully loaded, came in at under $45,000. While that's likely out of reach for the masses, there are whole bunches of other luxury cars that cost much more.

But know what? When you show up in a Town Car, you get respect. There's instant deference from hotel doormen, valet parking attendants and even casual passers-by.

Likely it's because the Town Car epitomizes entrenched American notions of what a luxury car is all about.

Pick it apart, and it doesn't come off all that terrific. It's ponderous, requiring generous space to park, the suspension system loses its cool on bad roads, and the handling and acceleration don't match up to some moderately priced family cars.

But if you're facing a long trip on smooth interstate highways without too many curves and hills, there's almost nothing better than a big old Lincoln Town Car.

You settle into large sofalike seats, crank up the CD player, set the climate control on automatic, punch the cruise control and settle back in quiet, stretched-out comfort. If it's a chilly day, you can even dial up the tush and back warmers built into the front and rear seats.

Out behind, there's a 22-cubic-foot trunk, enough to swallow everything four persons might need for a week on the road, including golf clubs and tennis rackets.

And although it probably doesn't matter much, it doesn't kill you at the gas pump. …