I’m a TTAC reader and longtime poster on LincolnsOnine. My question is: why has outward visibility gotten so much worse over the past two decades?
I’ve been driving Panthers for more than 20 years (’87 Town Car, ’89 TC, ’97 TC, ’04 TC, and now a ’08 MGM), and the visibility out of them is fantastic.
However, my wife has a 2011 Buick Lacrosse. Although we really like the car, there are several times where both of us have almost hit someone or something by the huge obstruction of the A-pillar. I’ve noticed this in other newer cars I’ve driven as well. Am I missing something?
Your Panther Love and your dislike of modern sedan visibility is no coincidence: the final nail in the Panther’s coffin was likely our government’s roof crush standards.
If Ford wasn’t using R&D money for SYNC integration, why bother re-engineering the roof?
But first, a digression: while I’m ashamed for neglecting Lincolnsonline, my first internet home, your timely question validated a recent Town Car experience. I was driving my aunt’s Town Car Signature Series upon completion of a six-month restoration. The stress-free lane changes were shocking, even when the auto dimming mirror buzzed from day-to-night in combating Texas Brodozers and their illegal HID/LED illumination. The Townie’s greenhouse kept visibility available via the breadth/width of the other windows. It’s reassuring to be surrounded by so much glass.
I loved that mirror so much, one found residence in my Fox-body Cougar.
Back on track: the days of skinny, upright-ish pillars that gave Panthers (and others) their stodgy styling and brilliant visibility are gone because of federally-mandated roof crush standards.
Don’t forget, people die or suffer paralysis from rollover accidents. Vehicles meeting the latest metrics do far better in head/neck protection, as witnessed in this IIHS video. Still, roof crush standards have been a point of contention for decades. Take either side of a visibility vs. roof strength debate and you’ll make a compelling argument.
My take? Newer sedans are unquestionably safer in rollovers, but don’t discount the role of mandatory electronic stability control. Even with their valuable head airbag functionality (hat tip to featherston), I loathe chunky cab-forward A-pillars and over-sexed fastback roof lines for their shameful lack of visibility, and I reckon it’s the prime mover in our Midsize Sedan Death Watch. Why put up with this visibility nonsense when a better(-ish) CUV isn’t much worse on a monthly payment basis?
[Image: IIHS, © 2010 Sajeev Mehta]