I recently had the chance to drive a brilliantly preserved Lincoln Town Car, which was just a wonderful trip down memory lane. I say this because the Town Car really was the end of the line — the very last full-size American luxury sedan in the old-school tradition of full-size American luxury sedans. By the time the Town Car went away, after the 2011 model year, most people had moved on from old-school American luxury sedans — but the Town Car stayed steadfast to the end.
Before I get into the driving experience, let me explain what I mean by “old-school American luxury sedans.” The basic gist is this: modern cars have added more technology, they’ve gotten smaller, they’ve become more complicated, and they’ve improved steering and handling so it’s sharper. They’ve also almost uniformly switched to turbocharged V6 or 4-cylinder engines, along with front-wheel drive and unibody platforms.
The Town Car did none of those things. It was a rear-wheel-drive car until the very end, with a big V8, and with a body-on-frame design, like trucks have, and like cars used to have — back in the day, years ago. The technology never really improved, or adapted to modern trends: the Town Car used the same simple buttons and switches and features until the bitter end. It was an old-school American luxury sedan.
And, indeed, it was comfortable. As many modern luxury vehicles have developed, the idea of a luxury sedan that focuses primarily (or solely) on comfort seems absolutely ridiculous. Cars today need to be fast, fun, good-looking, practical and high-tech. The Town Car was just comfortable. It was too big, too inefficient and too ancient in terms of technology, but it really felt like you were driving around on a cloud. This was my experience, sitting in those comfortable seats, and really enjoying the fact that the world outside doesn’t matter quite as much as you did before, and you aren’t as angry as you were before, because now you can just relax and enjoy your Town Car.
You won’t be doing much else. The Town Car’s 4.6-liter V8 made about 240 horsepower, laughable by today’s standards, and its 4-speed automatic was tuned far more for comfort than performance. When you step on the accelerator, things happen, but not many things, and they don’t happen quickly. It’s not THAT slow, aided no doubt by a lack of even more things that would make it even heavier, but it’s not that fast. You certainly don’t buy one of these for performance.
You also don’t buy one of these for handling prowess. The Town Car is quite slow around corners, lumbering past any curve with fairly noticeable body roll and not much athleticism, a drawback of its body-on-frame design and massive front and rear overhangs, combined with weight and a suspension tuned for comfort and relaxation. The Town Car is not a vehicle to the autocrossing.
What the Town Car is, instead, is a reminder of a different era. That big old V8 may be low on power, but it’s easy to work on. Body-on-frame construction is simple, and it makes for a tough, durable vehicle. The packaging is good: there’s a huge back seat, a huge trunk, and, indeed, plush seating everywhere. It’s absolutely no surprise at all that the Town Car was used as the primary luxury vehicle in New York for decades, as it’s the perfect car for the job: good over pockmarked streets, easy to work on and relatively comfortable. Things haven’t been the same since the Town Car went away.
For most people, of course, that’s a good thing: the world seems to want more tech, more gadgets, more power and more fuel economy. But there will always be a sliver of the population that clamors for the return of the Town Car — the resurgence of the last traditional American luxury sedan ever to exist. It’ll never come back, of course, but it’s nice to visit once in a while. Find a Lincoln Town Car for sale
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