By on April 12, 2013
TJ writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall.

She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were still for sale.  If you’re asking why she’s getting rid of it, there isn’t any particular reason.

My aunt always replaces her cars ever 3-5 years (so B&B please no exhortations to keep the car, that was my original advice and it isn’t happening) and this one is coming up on it’s expiration date.  A word about my mother’s family so you realize how committed they are to this sort of car: My mom is one of 4 sisters, and between them, they’ve owned (at least) 2 Cadillac Devilles, 2 Eldorados, the aforementioned MGMs, a Buick Lesabre or Park Ave, and a Lincoln Town Car.  You get the idea.  They like them big, floaty, with a cavernous trunk, and preferably with a leather couch or recliner in the front.

I’m gonna try to take her to the Miami auto show this fall so she can see sample all her options at once, but wanted to see if you had any guidance.  Of the new cars that will be on offer, what is the next best thing to her beloved Panther?  My aunt realizes most people have migrated to SUVs/CUVs, but she says they won’t work because she finds them too difficult to climb in and out of (she’s 65 and barely over 5′ tall).

My first two suggestions were shot down, which were a Chrysler 300 (does’t like the styling) and a Chrysler Town and Country (doesn’t want a minivan).  I still hope that maybe sitting in the 300, or seeing the versatility of the T&C may change her mind (she has two still growing grandkids).  The next best option I could think of was the Ford Flex, with the Taurus being a distant 4th.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll have her look at the LaCrosse, Genesis, Azera, Avalon, and ES350, but I’m concerned they will be too small and/or not cushy enough, and the Cadillac XTS may be too pricey and not torquey enough.  While she is a 65 year old Grandmother, after 20 years of Ford 4.6 and GM 3800 ownership, she’s also used to lazy, effortless low end grunt helping her force her way through South Florida’s insane traffic, and I know the XTS has been hit hard in reviews for its combination of a peaky engine, high curb weight, and tall gearing.  Have I missed any other worthwhile options?  Thanks for your help.

Steve Says:

Every model you mentioned from the Lacrosse to the ES350 offers more overall interior space than the ol’ Grand. Though they all fall short of the Panther when it comes to the, “Why the hell would anyone buy a new one?” factor.

As for the ride, the Hyundai models ride a bit more taut than the others. So scratch those two.

The LaCrosse would be a good blue plate special car for her given her apparent apathy for quality interior components. But I would check to see if the interior design agrees with her first.

The ES350 is wonderful, but steep. If your Aunt has a liking for large Marge levels of interior space and a floaty ride, I would strike a deal for the outgoing prior gen Avalon. It also has a cost contained interior that is thankfully two clicks above the last Grand Marquis redesign, and you may be able to cut her a good deal.

Then again, the Shoney’s capital of the world may not offer much in the ways of discounts for a Camry-esque product.

I understand your kvetching about this expenditure. My own mom has that same Floridian ailment that is replacing a perfectly good car for no other reason than the changing of the tides. Every ten years I buy her a new Camry. Why? Beats me. However the depreciation works out to only about $150 a month. For what works out to $5 a day, I can deal with it.

I would focus on helping her with the selling of her car and the negotiation process, if she desires your help, and start with having her rent a Buick LaCrosse for the day. You may be able to find an Avalon for rent as well. This is Florida after all. Give her a couple days to make the decision, and remember to be a mensch when she picks that aqua blue model with the glossy white vinyl roof.

Sajeev Says:

I’m glad to hear she doesn’t like the 300: not because it’s a horrible vehicle, but because it doesn’t personify the values present in Panther Love.  Those proper American Sedans doing their job since the 1950s. That’s history, and that’s okay.  Now she needs to learn to compromise…somewhere.

Aside from a CPO Mercedes with some sort of thumpin’ V8 under the hood, there’s nothing in play that’s torquey enough to be a contender in the motor and styling department.  Make sure she test drives all the cars mentioned above, but there are two machines for me in this situation: the Toyota Avalon and the Camry LE. Yup, the LE.

Granted, I haven’t driven a new Camry yet, and I didn’t like the previous model (because we still had Panthers back then) but this is probably the best machine for a numb, floaty, and isolating cabin.  The Avalon? Perhaps better, but maybe not enough to justify the price.

I once grudgingly admitted that my last trip through NY, NJ and PA was far more pleasant because the (last gen) Camry LE (with those tall sidewalls) did a good job obliterating every bump on the road. While it wasn’t that unique blend of isolating-while-inspiring-confidence like RWD Panther Love, it worked. Aside from the lack of torque, the Camry might be the best bet here.  And I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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44 Comments on “New Or Used? : What Isn’t Better Than A Panther Edition...”


  • avatar
    cwallace

    So is the bench seat completely extinct now?

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    The Chrysler 300 really was the best bet, next best options would be a squashy Toyota/Lexus or Hyundai Azera or Genesis.

    Most Ford dealers still have 1 or 2 of the last new 2011 Panthers on the lot at slashed prices, why not get one of those?

    • 0 avatar
      Pebble

      Compaq Deskpro is right–every Ford dealer I see has lightly used 2011 Crown Vics between $15K and $20K. (One dealer here had 8 or 9 ex-fleet CVs, all 20-25K on the clock, lined up in a row for $18,900 each.) That’s like giving them away. Grab one while you still can!

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I’m thinkin about a last gen Caddy DTS. I have one as a work car. Bench seat available, V8, isolation chamber. Cheap too on the used market.

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    I have a crazy idea.

    Why not just a final-gen Crown Vic?

    I didn’t catch the model year of the car in the post but why buy anything other than another Panther?

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    He says the ES is too small, so why recommend the Camry?

    I suggest LaCrosse with eAssist. She’ll hippest and the only one with a battery. Something the ES and the others don’t offer right at $20,000. She’ll manage 30 mpg combined in the eAssist LaCrosse.

  • avatar
    SlowMyke

    I would suggest an 08-09 Taurus/Sable. They’ve got plenty of oomph with 260 hp/ 240 tq and far more interior space than the current gen Taurus. Get a limited trim and you’ve got the same quality interior she’s used to. An added bonus is that you can see out of them just fine with their tall roof lines.

  • avatar
    2011TCCE

    Sounds like quite the dilemma. Fomoco left big car lovers out to dry at the end of 2011. Be sure to explain to her that no one makes the kind of car she loves anymore and that really the 300 and Charger are it when it comes to that style of car (and the SS when it comes out). For a compromise, the Impala is sufficiently torquey since it has less weight to haul around than the XTS and the 200 is actually a very nice riding car and quick with the Pentastar. Most mid size cars are plenty roomy since they don’t have the Panther transmission hump. Every time I get a MKZ loaner I am usually impressed enough, but I bet a MKS would fit the bill nicely. Sounds like foreign cars are not your families thing, so you might be wasting your time on that one, even if many are made in the US (and many US cars aren’t, including the old Panthers!). If it was me, I’d check out both generations of Impala, the 200 and 300, Lacrosse, MKZ and MKS, and if desperate, the Taurus. Good luck, because nothing beats a Panther.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Last of the W-bodies. Works very well for me, just get the LTZ trim, the improved ride is worth it.

    Besides, she’ll be able to still see out of it. A Lacrosse? Not so much…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      And she certainly won’t be able to drive the Taurus at her height, not without the blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and rearview camera…

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I can haz the Biz Marquis?

  • avatar
    morbo

    I started driving and buying the type of cars she’s used to (88′ Caprice, ’96 T-Bird, ’03 Bonneville), ignoring the trucks and midsize FWDs in that mix. When I was buying my ’11 300C, I test drove Ford Taurus, Lincoln Taurus, Genesis, Charger, and 300C. The 300C is by far the closest thing to the classic American sedan, though stiffer and without the wallow/roll. The Lincoln Taurus is MUCH more comfortable and spacious (to my big butt) then the regular Taurus, though the blind spots will prolly get her in more trouble then you’d like.

    Get her into a 300C with the HEMI, but without the big wheels. I actually regret getting the 20′s on mine. The 17′s on the rental grade are actually more comfortable for long trips. The dealer (as always) will play games, but they should be able to special order the rental grade 300 with a HEMI and tecjnology package (backup camera, blinfd spot detection, etc.), without the luxury package (Big wheels, panaramic sunroof etc.).

    Otherwise the 300 and Lincoln Taurus, everything else drives like a Fusin/Altima/Camry

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I wonder if there will eventually be a big enough market in refurbished Panthers to make profitable an industry dedicated to gutting and refurbishing from the ground up the big kitties. If you have a first generation Mustang, for example, you can get new-build replacements of just about any part, and there are shops where (if you have the money) you can send a hulk and get back a car that looks like a showroom special.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Now THAT’S a great question! Could be just enough of demand in the livery market to facilitate that!

      Cannot think of who on here had a URL for it, but there’s a place in Maine, maybe, that refurbs Grand Wagoneers. I’d think the Panther demand would be higher than the G/W niche.

      Too bad some enterprising start-up couldn’t buy the rights, tooling, etc., from FoMoCo, then build new vehicles for the livery market.

      Sajeev, what say you?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If you’re into Panthers, there’s nothing better than one of these with low miles.

    http://www.supermotors.net/registry/media/684546_1

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    If she’s barely over five feet tall, she’s going to hate all of the current bunker boxes on offer, especially if she’s lived her whole life on the Panther Preserve up to this point. Make sure she gets a good taste of that high belt line, low visibility driving before selling her current car. She may just decide to stay in her perfectly good 3 year old Grand Marquis after all.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    With my 64th birthday just a few days away, I’m not sure I like the tenor of the article. ;-) And I have no particular fondness for Panthers. I like my boats to have keels and sails, not wheels and tires, thank you.

    DeeDub’s advice is best, IMHO. The idea of replacing a perfectly good car that you like every 3 -5 years strikes me as mildly insane and. . . when the OP’s aunt finds that there’s no new car out there which is analogous to what she has owned, the 3-year old Panther might look pretty good. The best suggestion I have heard is the LaCrosse — Buick takes silence really seriously. Second best is the Avalon, which is Toyota’s interpretation of the classic Buick . . . and a pretty good one at that. Although I’m a big fan of the 300, I agree that the chop top styling is not for everyone . . . and visibility is compromised. But, FWIW, driving the current rental Taurus, I found it had at least as many visibility issues and was inferior to the 300 in every other way as well. I can’t imagine the Lincoln version fixes all of that.

    And, whatever you get, don’t get the option that has the car riding on 40-series tires, or run-flats.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I would take a look at the new Avalon, those look really nice. Another idea would be to try a 2013 Honda Accord as it is pretty much a full size car. If you are willing to bump the budget up a notch, the Audi A6 and Mercedes E350 are excellent.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Hey guys I’m the OP here so thanks for the advice and suggestions so far. A couple things. As far as interior space goes, I don’t think she cares as much about back seat room as front. People can fit comfortably in the back of the MGM so they don’t need anymore than that. She likes that super wide, open, spacious feel of the MGM front, as well as the oversized trunk for when she and her friends (frequently) raid the malls around Miami. This is where I think the minivan in particular, or perhaps the Flex, will come closest to providing that airy open feel up front. While the Taurus does have that massive console, somehow it also seems to feel quite big up front, whereas the Lacrosse and Camry have felt much more close in and intimate feel (one of my jobs involves me driving rental cars a lot so I have extensive experience with the aforementioned 4 vehicles). I’ve mentioned a used panther, and while she hasn’t ruled it out, she doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the idea (since it wouldn’t be a significant change from her car). She and her husband up to this point have always bought new cars. I should add that he has been a consumer of Japanese FWD 4 cylinders for a while now, with his last 3 cars being an Integra, Camry, and currently a first gen Mazda 6, so she’s well acquainted with that genre of car as well. I assume if she was interested in another Camry it would have come up already. To those who say trucks, she has ruled them out because of the difficulty in climbing in or out. That’s one of the reasons I considered the Flex. It still has a pretty low step in, and it’s quite huge.

  • avatar
    zenith

    My only objection to a bench seat is that the wife is 11″ shorter than me and I’d have to ride in the back when it’s her turn to drive.

  • avatar
    mealsonwheels

    Certified Hyundai Equus? They can be had for mid 30s, if AutoTrader is to be believed.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    A nice feature of the 300 and Charger is the availability of adjustable pedals. Given your aunt’s height it might be useful so that she isn’t sitting 2 inches from the airbag.

    I don’t understand all you other posters pointing out all these used cars. The OP made it clear his aunt wants a new car. If she has the cash I don’t blame her. Spend nothing on repairs and the absolute minimum on maintenance. The car is always under warranty; if something acts up you shrug and tell them to fix it. There’s worse ways to spend money.

    • 0 avatar
      mealsonwheels

      The OP also made it clear that she likes a style of vehicle which is extremely limited in today’s marketplace; as it happens, for whatever reason, she doesn’t like the most closely related approximation (the 300). The reason she buys new vehicles isn’t discussed, nor does the OP state emphatically that she won’t buy used, just that she hasn’t historically. As other posters have pointed out, she may have to make a choice between the style of vehicle, the specific amenities or the newness. And so we, collectively, are trying to provide the broadest range with which the OP can solve the problem.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    There’s gotta be a new-old-stock 2011 Town Car sitting on a lot somewhere nearby. Sounds like the perfect fit.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    I just checked autotrader and I find 3 brand new Lincoln Town Cars
    available for sale. All are shown as black with black interiors,
    which may be (hell, will be) a problem in Florida in summer. I did
    not find any new Crown Vics for sale. Maybe this helps.

  • avatar
    readallover

    While I think Lacrosse or Azera are more in the neighborhood, she should consider the nearly-forgotten Maxima. A bloated joke of its`former four door sports car past, the 3.5 has got tons of torque.

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    Here’s a left-field idea: how about a Passat TDI SEL Preium? I mention because its diesel has gobs of torque that she seems to be used to, plus it has a plenty big cabin and trunk. Should come in at $35k fully loaded, with leather, touchscreen navi, sunroof, big wheels, 3 years free maintenance, etc. She’s also be rockin the Fender premium audio :)

    Since it’s designed for Americans, the suspension and steering are a bit softer than typical V-dubs, but it of course doesn’t have the floaty ride or bench seat of old. Might be worth checking out.

    I believe Gunther VW in Miami is the largest Volkswagen dealer in the U.S. Heard he’s got a bunch of old Beetles and Vans and lots of other retro VW memorabilia. Could be a fun experience!

  • avatar
    markholli

    Around here it seems like everybody who used to buy Buicks and even Cadillacs now drive Avalons. Maybe find one of the last new 2012 models. It looks like they tried to make the 2013 model a little more sporty.

    Perhaps an unconventional suggestion here: Infiniti M45 with the smaller wheel package (for a more comfortable ride). It’s RWD, and that V8 has smooth and effortless low end torque…at least the last time I drove one.

  • avatar
    Jethrow

    In Australia we would have the Holden Calais or the Holden Caprice. Wonderful large cars that cruise effortlessly, but also can move it when required.
    You are about to get a derivative of that in the Chevy SS, and sure whilst it is sporty, it will still drive nicely when just out cruising. Its a pity you wont get the Calais version.
    Else find a used Chevy Caprice police car!!


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