In its heyday, the American automobile industry peppered dealer showrooms with big, heavy, V8-powered rear-wheel drive behemoths that were snapped up by wealthy American's like Girl Scout cookies left unguarded on the kitchen counter. With the rise of the Japanese brands, big American cars fell out of favor, as did their atrocious build quality, horrible driving characteristics and miserable fuel economy. But, one stalwart descendent of the 70s luxo-barges has survived and it remains a strong seller despite repeated attempts to kill it off. It's the Lincoln Town Car, the last of the big, soft riding land yachts and a uniquely American creation. What's more, as the Town Car is the last of its kind, it has amassed quite a loyal following comprised of everyone from wealthy retirees to limo and cab drivers.

 

Why You Want It

Looking for a car with a massive trunk, huge rear seat and enough hip room to allow three across seating? You can find that in a few of Ford's former offerings, namely the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis. But, if you're looking for bit more status, a little prestige and a lot more luxury, there is only one choice: the 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car. Its big V8 engine is as reliable as rain and it actually returns fairly descent fuel economy on the highway. The Town Car is a simple body-on-frame design with some parts as old has Henry Ford himself, so repairs are generally simple and inexpensive. The L models are stretched some six inches creating a massive rear seat area perfect for limo shuttles and future NBA all stars. Golfers flock to this car for its long and deep trunk, while those old enough to remember watching Richard Nixon's resignation speech simply adore the car for its old school ride and handling.

 

Notable Features & Options

While there have been a few changes to some trims over the 2003 through 2011 Lincoln Town Car's long run, most of the equipment remains fairly consistent. Trim levels vary over the years and include Signature, Executive, Cartier, Designer, Ultimate, and the stretched L. Town Car standards include power windows, mirrors and door locks, heated side mirrors, automatic temperature control, outside keypad unlocking system, premium audio, leather seating with twin power and heated front seats, power trunk lid open/close, cruise control and automatic headlamps. Available equipment includes a power moonroof, power adjustable pedals, voice-activated navigation, HID headlamps, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors. Standard safety features including anti-lock brakes, traction control, and front side airbags. However, there is no side airbag curtain to protect rear seat occupants and stability control was never offered on the 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car. While we must say, though nicely equipped, the Town Car's overall design falls short of the namesake's long and elegant history. The interior materials look and feel somewhat cheap, and if not for the big Lincoln hood ornament, the front end might easily be mistaken for a Grand Marquis. The Town Car's door panels and dash plastics are hard and uninspiring, the plastic wood looks tacky, and the overall interior lacks the luxury detailing expected of a car costing nearly $50,000.

 

Model Milestones

2004: The Executive and Cartier trims are dropped in favor of the Signature and Ultimate trims.

2005-2011: Other than some minor styling and package changes, the Town Car remains unchanged.

 

Engines and Performance

The 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car is powered by a 240-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 engine. Power is plentiful, but the Town Car's weight and lazy transmission somewhat hampers its performance, returning only moderately quick zero to 60 runs. Passing power is ample, however, yet the Lincoln Town Car performs best when sailing in a straight line. Curves have the soft suspension struggling to keep the Town Car level, and the over assisted power steering doesn't provide much feedback. The Town Car's soft suspension delivers a cloud like ride over smooth pavement, but on broken or uneven asphalt, the body-on-frame design and solid rear axle have the Town Car jittering and shuddering while the rear end hops about. Fuel economy figures for the Town Car are not horrible, earning and EPA estimated 16-mpg city and 24-mpg highway.

 

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car.

2005: A recall was issued for a possible problem with the fusible link in the battery cable. The link could chafe on a cross member bolt and short and cause a fire.

2007: A recall was issued for possible faulty front wheel bearing and hub assemblies.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, the 2003-2010 Lincoln Town Car earns good marks from NHTSA, despite not having side curtain airbags. In fact, the Town Car scores a perfect five out of five stars in the front end, side impact and rollover tests. The 2011 model was not tested and without the side curtain airbag would probably not pass NHTSA's new, more stringent side impact test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Town Car its highest rating of GOOD in the frontal offset crash test, but did not test the Town Car for side impact or roof strength crash worthiness.

The 2003-2006 Lincoln Town Car has 4-year/50,000 mile basic and drivetrain warranty. In 2007, the drivetrain warranty changes to 6-years/70,000 miles. Lincoln offers a Certified Pre-Owned program that extends the original warranty to 6-years/100,000 miles from the time the car entered service.

 

Word on the Web

We browsed the web to see what consumers and consumer advocates have to say about the 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car and found some interesting comments. ConsumerReports.com gives the Town Car average marks, although it does well in the categories that count most including engine and transmission reliability. There were some problems with the climate controls as well as some electrical equipment such as power windows and remote controls. We could hardly find anything worth mentioning on CarComplaints.com, which prompted us to think maybe the lack of internet reports is due to the age of the average Town Car driver being that of a generation that doesn't live on the web. So we decided to be old fashioned and just went out and talked to Town Car drivers. At the airport, the limo guys say they love this car. It never fails them, can rack up 200,000 miles and keep going strong and is a favorite among luggage heavy passengers. The few owners we spoke to also love the car. They like the simple and easy to see instrumentation, the safe feeling of a large car and Lincoln name. Many of those we talked to are fourth, fifth and sixth generation Lincoln owners.

 

Competitive Set (say something about each, strengths and weaknesses)

As Cadillac stopped building its full-size rear drive Brougham in 1996, the 2003-2011 Lincoln Town Car's only competition comes from within Ford itself. You can get the same mechanicals and almost all the same features on the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis and spend a lot less money in the process. Unfortunately, the Ford and Mercury names don't carry the same clout as Lincoln, and status is status, after all. If interior room isn't your first priority, you could get into a previously owned Lexus LS, which has a nice V8 engine and a more modern suspension and interior. The LS also holds its value better than the Town Car, which means you'll pay a lot more for the same year model with similar mileage.

 

Auto Trader Recommendations

Basically, the 2003-2011 Town Car is pretty much the same car no matter what year you get. As such, we'd say shop for a low mileage car, preferably a one-owner vehicle that's been well maintained and has all its service records. Try to steer clear of older models that were used as limousines or livery vehicles as these types of cars tend to be driven hard. If you require maximum rear seat leg room and you don't mind driving a car as long as a Chevy Suburban, the L models are ideal.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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