By on May 26, 2009

Top Gear fans know that Europeans treat large American cars with contempt. Although they love our finned Cadillacs and suicide door Lincolns, they view modern “Yank tanks” as large, thirsty, ill-mannered dinosaurs that only escaped extinction thanks to government-sponsored petrochemical profligacy and car buyers’ lack of environmental awareness, taste and brains. With American car companies struggling for survival, with entire US car brands disappearing, this criticism begs a question: has the Yank Tank finally met its comeuppance? Price aside, can America produce anything to compete with BMW’s mid-sizers (never mind their luxury flagships)? To answer this burning question, I tested a trio of America’s finest luxury cars for a week each: the Cadillac DTS, Lincoln Town Car and Chrysler 300C. First, the standard to which these cars should aspire.

“American luxury” is all about size and style, boldness, brashness, blingness and soft rides. An American luxury car should be equally at home cruising between square states as it is motoring around downtown San Francisco or New York City. It should suit anyone over 45 (or 400lb) while inspiring—or at least not alienating—more youthful admirers. Engine-wise, it’s got to be a V8. Period. [Out goes the Lincoln MK anything.] The transmission has to be a silky smooth automatic. It doesn’t have to be the proverbial “armchair on wheels,” but it doesn’t not have to be one either.

From first glance, the Lincoln Town Car is a solid miss. It’s main affliction: a distinct lack of style, American or otherwise. The TC has a lumpy aerodynamic design that’s so “90s” you expect to hear the bass line of “Boombastic” every time it drives by. Nothing about the Lincoln Town Car says luxury or style; it manages to look more geriatric than generic (no small feat). There’s no bling, no zing, not even a hint of wow. In white, the Town Car looks as classy as a patent leather loafer with gold buckles. In black, it’s only at home at airports, funeral homes, in mafia garages or on Warren Buffet’s driveway. Style factor? Zero.

Once inside the Town Car, the observant among us will notice the other reason the car is so well suited to livery service: there are no driver amenities what-so-ever. Sure, the seats are large and plush, there are rear bun warmers and some leather oh-shit handles, but other than that it’s as Spartan as a base model Kia. Nerd Factor? Zero.

This lack of electronic gee-whizardry makes total sense in the Town Car’s market, no need for your rent-a-Jeeves to get distracted by a beeping nav system or too many extra gauges. The person paying for the ride ($40 from the airport to the hotel, please) doesn’t care if the car has a nav system, or real wood trim, radar cruise control or a multi-media interface. They’re only in the car for a few minutes and they expect a quiet comfortable taxi ride with some flair. The only problem with this thought is that the Town Car exudes no more flair than a taxi, which is exactly what it is. Snob factor? Zero.

Under the long hood of this portly American contender churns an aging 1991-vintage V8. With 4.6L of displacement, this engine rounds out the bottom of this trio with 239 HP and 287 lb·ft of torque. On the positive side, you might not want rent-a-Jeeves to get too hot and heavy on the go pedal, pulling 4,500lb of Detroit steel around is no easy task. Making this even less of a driver’s car is the dimwitted and ancient Ford four-speed auto that everyone else forgot about a decade ago. While the transmission will outlast the end of days, it will annoy eternal with its lumpy shifts. In a modern luxury market, a quad cog swapper is almost worse than no transmission; even the Asian competition offers twice the number of forward gears.

The portly dimensions of the Town Car coupled with the softest set of springs this side of the Slinky factory make for a ride that could either be described as ponderous or sea worthy. Steering feel is less than zero and makes a 1980s Cutlass Cruiser seem like a road carver. Toss a corner at the Town Car and the inevitable happens, it leans like cheap prom date after a bottle of tequila and then passes out from the effort. Performance Factor? Zero.

I know: criticizing the Lincoln Town Car plays straight into the hands of foreign car snobs. But the car is not without its admirers or virtues. Namely, the correct number of cylinders, its size and rear-wheel drive. These three characteristics form the American large sedan holy trinity, and qualify the Town Car for recreation. Meanwhile, well, what else can a traditional American luxury car buyer favor with his or her patronage? Do you really want to know? See you tomorrow.

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61 Comments on “Review: Yank Tank Comparo: Cadillac DTS vs. Lincoln Town Car vs. Chrysler 300C. 3rd Place: Lincoln Town Car...”

  • avatar

    “hear the base line of Boombastic”

    That would be BASS line. Unless you’re playing at Yankee Stadium….

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Town Car vs. Wichita City Hall (, edits are a bit deceiving)

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven a Town Car in decades, but the 2003 refresh supposedly improved steering feel–it used to be even worse.

    The 300C doesn’t really fit with the other two. So can we assume that it wins?

    TrueDelta has no reliability stats for the Town Car and its Panther sibs yet–this group of owners isn’t terribly likely to be discussing cars online. But we’d like to. I’ve ridden in Town Cars with nearly half a million miles on them that seemed almost new.

  • avatar

    Still a lot of car for the money, after the gargantuan discounts of course.

  • avatar
    Aloysius Vampa

    This comparison seems flawed from the outset. The 300C is not at all a Town Car or DTS competitor.

  • avatar


    My bad. Text amended.

  • avatar

    Ford need to order duplicate dies, tooling and molds for their Australian Falcon line, and tool up some bling-tastic Lincoln-esque grills, and put it into an American car factory – stat.

    The transplant the updated smaller V8’s and 6 cog automatics from the pickups.

    It’ll be ironic that the most “American” cars sold by Ford would then be engineered and developed in Australia. But at least the ancestry of the Australian Fords is American (1960 Ford Falcon – one of the worst cars ever built).

  • avatar

    I’m 36 years old and have to say that I’m a proud owner of a 2003 Town Car Signature. OK, reasons why I bought this car (I know you’re asking it): wife and I wanted a large car (we have one son and another one on the way in a few weeks) but with good realibility, decent mileage, safe and with unexpensive repairs if at all required. No, we were not interested in minivans, SUVs or CUVs. I bought it used last year from a one owner with 75,000 miles on it, the car was in great shape and only needed some attention (wax, detailed cleaning and small paint touch ups) and the depreciation made it a great buy. So far, my only expense was oil change and front brake rotors/pads that I decided to change when I purchased the car, everyone else think I paid much more for it. Memory seats, rain sensor wipers, parking assist, great quality heated leather seats, etc. Gas mileage: 17 city / 25 highway (going 75 – 80 mph)and the mileage I get is constant it does not matter much how I drive it, which I like a lot. I can tow my bike or almost anything I want with the V8 and plenty of torque (284 lb.ft) if I recall. Anyway, being 36, I never thought that I would owe one of these, but I don’t regret. Actually, my wife wants to drive it all the time and our Toyota Matrix stays more in the garage now, this was a surprise for me. Check some of the owners review and you will be surprised as I was. The best of all, you can get one of these in fairly good shape and that will give you thousands of miles with its “low stressed” engine and strong transmission.

  • avatar

    The way Ford has treated their large cars over the last decade, the platform that literally made them billions in profit over that time, is a complete travesty of stupidity and ego.

    The fact Ford is considered the best of the American automakers reflects even worse on this country.

    When the Panther dies, Ford may as well be dead as far as I’m concerned.

  • avatar

    I would say the Yank Tank holy trinity is body-on-frame, V8, RWD. The Lincoln is the only car in this comparo that meets that requirement; it’s a shame that it looks horribly bland.

    The late ’90s squared off Town Car was much better, and the final generation Fleetwood Brougham even better.

    The Towncar and DTS are modern day professional cars, they really aren’t designed to be owned by private owners.

    The real modern day Yank Tanks are the Navigator and Escalade. They should be the Lincoln and Cadillac in this comparo. Their 6-speed automatics show where the attention has gone.

  • avatar

    Considering that the 300C has german underpinnings and the DTS is FWD, this is probably the most authentic large American sedan around.

    I actually really like that car, because it’s such a caricature. But a cheap, fun caricature…

  • avatar

    The Lincoln rolling couch does just what it is suppose to do with one glaring exception: the incredible lack of headroom for such a large car.

    huge trunk-check
    seating for six-check
    highway cruiser-check
    reasonable mileage-check
    tow rating-check

    I just can’t understand why Ford doesn’t chat with any tall folks or rigor mortis seasoned citizens and realize how many people out there would be interested in a Town Car but have to go with an alternative with headroom.

  • avatar

    In a modern luxury market, a quad cog swapper is almost worse than no transmission; even the Asian competition offers twice the number of forward gears.

    What Asian competition?

    I don’t say that as an ardent defender of the platform, but because the Asians don’t make a competitor car for this class (or species, if you will), automobilis americanus.

    Moving on…

    Alex, you reviewed if I recall the Ford Crown Victoria back in 2007. You may agree that while the platform (esp. interior) works fine in a functional sort of way for the lower echelon of the Panther, when it tries to get gussied up for the luxury market, as Ford has done here, it doesn’t quite work.

    Something to do with Ford spending 10c on the upgrade, methinks.

  • avatar

    I always thought Chrysler screwed up (I know not like that was a rare occurrence) when they optioned the 300 all the way from a low $20’s stripper to something north of $40. The low end needed to be a Dodge (or Plymouth) it has no image as a high end car at all to me. More a Taurus than a Town Car.

    I predict by the way the DTS wins. Very underrated car IMHO.

  • avatar

    taxman100 :

    It may be stupid to go quite as long as Ford has without refreshing the Towncar and it’s twins, but the truth is they have made a fortune on them without changing a thing in going on 20 years. They should have easily come up with a replacement by now, but what incentive is there? At what point is a car “good enough”. These cars are very reliable, comfortable cars, that do 100% of what the people buying them are asking for. They don’t need to handle like a BMW, or bling like a 300, they just need to run well with little maintenance and ride comfortably for a good price. No one ever asked for more and Ford didn’t see a reason to give it to them. I think the fact Ford could go 20 years on a design with little changes is a testament to the fact that Ford got the design exactly right.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @no_slushbox: agreed, the BOF SUV’s are the true heirs of the Tank Yank nickname. Heck, the Expedigator/Navidition even has IRS.

  • avatar

    @ Richard Chen:

    Agreed as well, most everyone who used to drive Yank Tanks back in the 80s moved on to Tahoes and their ilk eons ago.

    I suppose they got older and wanted the perceived security of the 4 wheel drive and ride height.

  • avatar

    AKM, the statement that the 300 and Charger are based off of the last generation E-class is a very, very common misconception. The LX platform is a Chrysler design. Some bits and pieces are from the E-Class, such as the transmission and suspension, but that’s it

  • avatar

    Price aside, can America produce anything to compete with BMW’s mid-sizers (never mind their luxury flagships)?

    To attempt to answer this question by turning to the Town Car and DTS (never mind the 300C) displays a serious misunderstanding of which cars fall into which segments; a misunderstanding which borders on intentional misrepresentation.

    The Lincoln Town Car is a giant livery service car. The Panther platform has been a mainstay of fleet service for literally decades, and it does its job very, very well. It’s not a driver’s luxury car. It’s not meant to be. I’m less familiar with the Caddilac lines, but I’m also willing to bet that the same thing goes for the DTS. These are not answer’s to the BMW 5-series. They were, again, never meant to be. They are not now marketed as such. To pretend that they are is just silly.

    Why don’t you turn to the actual answers that Detriot is putting forward? If you wanted to look at actual, American luxury cars meant for driver pleasure, I’d point you to the Lincoln MK-whatevers and the Caddy CTS. Those are, after all, closer in body and engine size, and concept, to a BMW 5-series. But that would be no fun — you’d lose the comic effect of driving a hearse around the Nurburgring and complaining about its handling.

    The “Yank Tank” is a class of its own. Nothing coming out of Europe can be compared to these cars, except for perhaps the Maybach. But that wouldn’t be fair, right? The Lincoln would win.

  • avatar

    Richard Chen:

    It’s simply that the SUVs have gotten all the design updates. I prefer big sedans to SUVs, but the DTS and Town Car are not at all designed for regular consumers, so it’s unfair to compare them instead of the much more modern and updated Navigator and Escalade.

    The Town Car and DTS are sold to people who say, “Please, just stick to the 4-speed, it’s possibly less likely to fail after 200,000 miles, and it will be cheaper to rebuild if it does.”

    The Town Car and DTS are sold to people who say “Please, don’t change the frame/doors/unibody hard points (on the DTS), I’ll have to change all my hearse/limo stampings and jigs.”

    With customers like those they cannot be expected to be modern cars.

  • avatar

    I suppose this just underscores no_slushbox, but I had an interesting encounter just the other day at the gas pumps.

    Struck up a conversation with a Town Car limo driver. I asked him how he compared the Town Car vs. the DTS for their purposes. A look of distaste crossed his face as he told me about the “mistake” they made a couple years ago when they bought a batch of six DTS’s. All kinds of major mechanical problems, he said (and he itemized them – I wish my memory was better). His description of the Town Car: “These are 375,000-mile cars.”

    I have read elsewhere in more than one place that GM never has completely trouble-shot the Northstar. Oil leaks and other problems. Many don’t make it past 100,000 miles, which today isn’t good enough.

  • avatar

    Wow, the Town Car falls 3rd to the 300C? Is that even the same class? Actually I think I see why the 300C is here, the only other sedan by Chrysler is the Sebring and we all know what a failure that is. The 300C gets the 1st place award for styling hands-down, but rides like a piece of crap.

    The Town Car may be a boring car but the ride quality is quite appreciable, especially on long trips.

    I drove a DTS before I purchased a CTS and the DTS had less room even though it’s supposed to be a larger car. I never understood that one. The majority of owners of the DTS on MSN Auto’s also did not find it comfortable after owning it for a while. It does have a very nice ride to it with that magnetic ride thing, quite impressive over holes.

  • avatar

    As a former New Yorker, the ubiquitous Lincoln has earned my begrudging respect over the years. Nothing soaks up the potholes like that suspension. They spend their lives driven with reckless abandon and less than regular maintenance, and yet keep on going for what seems an eternity. Most bear the scars of many too close encounters. Battle worn and weary they are true survivors. And continue to provide a comfortable ride despite the rough and ill mannered treatment of their handlers. You drive a BMW in NYC and then the Lincoln and tell me which is better suited to the environment.

  • avatar

    Will someone PLEASE do a take two of the Town Car and only describe its strengths, highlights, and/or other positives? You know, fair & balanced – a yang to the yin of this report?

  • avatar

    Wow. Harsh words indeed. I have to speak up for the wee beastie. Yes, the looks are bad. The proverbial bar of melted soap. But the one to get is the rare Signature L model. The stretch in the back door transforms the looks into something much more imposing. I think the handling is better than stated. Especially considering the very smooth (and quiet) ride.
    Oh, and the Slinky reference falls a little flat…the T/Cs have air springs.

  • avatar

    Recently I was mulling over the claims of efficiency for the Panthers by their defenders.

    It happens that CR publish info in their annual Best/Worst car issue on both the EPA and road test mileage they get.

    Where does the Panther really fall?

    Well…midsize cars and fullsizers like the Avalon and Azera w/ V6s that have better back seat room (yes, no front bench and smaller trunks) outrun them and deliver better mpg. Easily.

    What is sad is that most minivans deliver better mpg on both measures with similar acceleration and better towing capacity. And they take up less room to park.

    The group that seems to have the closest typical mpg to the Panthers are large, midsize CUVs (lambda, Highlander, Pilot etc.).

    Lets face it, not many families will go (new) for a Panther when they can get a more compact vehicle with more interior room (by far) better towing cap (by far) and if they want it AWD, equal or better mpg and vastly better resale.

    Not saying I don’t understand that they have there charm.
    But don’t tell me they are a sensible new vehicle purchase…for anybody.

    Caterham 7 buyers don’t try to tells us their cars are practical, they love them for what they are.
    Panther People, follow their example, you love a charming, but flawed machine. That’s OK. And a used one could make sense.

    But there is a real reason they are not selling.


  • avatar

    Bunter1: Not saying I don’t understand that they have there charm.
    But don’t tell me they are a sensible new vehicle purchase…for anybody.

    Interestingly, Ford has a better idea of where these cars fit into the grand scheme of things than their fans do.

    At every auto show I went to this year – Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Harrisburg – the Panther-platform cars were tucked away, in a corner of the Ford or Lincoln Mercury display, if they were present at all.

    Crown Victorias have been fleet-only for years, and even a Grand Marquis is tough to find at a Lincoln Mercury dealer.

    I’d be worried if Ford were making these central to its revival, but from what I see, Ford is phasing these out for retail sale, while making them for fleet customers who appreciate their qualities. Which is the right strategy.

    And I have to second what tonycd said about the Cadillac competition. The Northstar V-8 does not have a good reputation, and for a good reason. It’s not a high-mileage engine.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @no_slushbox: With customers like those they cannot be expected to be modern cars.

    Many years ago, saw an article about the TC’s and the livery services in NYC. In addition to durability, they found it easy to get cheap parts and swap them out between different limos, STAT if needed. So, yes, the TC’s customers like it exactly the way it is. No clue what they’re going to do if/when Ford cans the Panther, build “new” cars with readily available parts?

  • avatar

    cool, I spend LOTS of time in all three. The Town Car and DTS are essentially how I get home late night from work (NY dial a car) although I get the occasional Prius as well. Obviously I’m in the back seat for this. I drive a Magnum RT nearly every weekend and have driven (the slightly nicer) 300C also. It’s very rare to get a 300 for livery duty, but it has happened.

    The DTS handles the worst of the three by far, I’ve felt understeer on exit ramps as a back seat passenger (!). Sure the drivers are fairly aggressive, but that still doesn’t explain away the handling fail. The DTS is by far the most comfortable and cushy of the three for the passengers. Still, it’s waaaay too heavy, has waaaay too much fwd feel. They didn’t finish this car.

    The Lincoln drives circles around the DTS, but the transmission is old sounding and feeling in almost every car I’ve been in (could just be the cars). The ride is soft, but also creates nausea on bumpy highway stretches, while the suspension does crash into potholes pretty badly at the same time. This isn’t chosen for taxi duty because of any ride characteristic, it’s about cheapness. The cars may be durable, but the ones I’m in are all beat to hell mechanically, regardless of how nice and clean they look (or how new they are). It’s become something of a game diagnosing suspension and drivetrain faults for the drivers on the way home. They all rattle, they all sound broken in that “initial quality” superficial way.

    The LX cars are in a different league. They settle after bumps, can take a set in turns that dosen’t get destroyed by floaty suspension rebound and have a fantastic engine that isn’t destroying turn in grip everytime power is asked for. They are definitely not cushy in the same sense as the other two, but it’s still on the soft side. I’ve heard creaks in LX cars, almost always from the trunk, but nothing like the rattle pandemic that is the Town Car. Seriously, it isn’t even close. Unless every turn in the country is eliminated for straight line freeways the LX is king.

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought of cars such as the Panther platform as “thumb-drivers.” You don’t have your hand(s) on the wheel when you operate them, you only have your thumb…left-hand thumb with the hand itself resting on the door. Right-hand is for smoking, shoving Big-Mac into face, discharging firearm into fellow goombah, etc.

    Critical thumb-driving parameter is how over-boosted the steering is on these things. I had a friend in my teenage years who had a ’76 Buick that was so over-boosted it felt like the steering column had nothing on the other end from the wheel, like just air or something. Total novacaine. Mr. Dykes, how overboosted is the steering on this Lincoln?

    For all the faults of such cars, they do eat the interstate miles in the “square” states quite nicely.

  • avatar

    “I have read elsewhere in more than one place that GM never has completely trouble-shot the Northstar. Oil leaks and other problems. Many don’t make it past 100,000 miles, which today isn’t good enough.”

    My MIL had a Caddy that she had to put two new Northstar engine blocks in. After the second one the Caddy was gone!

    My dad drove a TC for many years but once he got an Accord and lately a Camry, he said he’d never go back to the big barge.

  • avatar

    When the Panther dies, Ford may as well be dead as far as I’m concerned


    There will be no bland, FWD, Toyota-like appliances for me.

    Once the Panthers are dead, you might as well call Ford the “North American Division” of Toyota.


  • avatar

    Why don’t you turn to the actual answers that Detriot is putting forward? If you wanted to look at actual, American luxury cars meant for driver pleasure, I’d point you to the Lincoln MK-whatevers and the Caddy CTS.

    Believe me…NOTHING Lincoln puts out is anywhere near BMW competition. Buick? Yes. BMW? No.

    The Lincoln version of the Taurus is the saddest excuse for a drivers/luxury on the road. It is the Brilliance of luxury cars…fake and sad.

  • avatar

    All is right with the world.

  • avatar

    This makes me think back to when the GM RWD’s were disco’d at the end of the ’96 model year (Caprice, Roadmaster, Brougham). Oh, did the fleet buyers cry, especially the LE departments. State troopers in Mass. pleaded to hold on to their aging Caprices rather than be assigned a new Crown Vic. It was no comparison. I was even prompted to order a Roadmaster Wagon because I wanted to haul 4X8 sheets of wallboard without burdoned with owning a truck.

    Over the years since, the Crown Vic has filled the shoes of the former Caprice, et al, lovers and now this platform is going the way of the dinosaur. I better buy that 2009 LE Crown Vic on ebay while I still can.

  • avatar

    A real comparo would be to put on your Chauffeur uniform and drive around NYC, pick up some people and take them to the airport 10 times a day.
    Now, see how long can you do it with each car on NYC “great and smooth roads” , how many times you get stuck with each car and how much time you spend with each car at the shop.
    After some time and some 300k miles you will have only one choice, the Town Car!

  • avatar

    @ commando1:

    I remember that – it was like the apocalypse. “The Last of the Mohicans” was the title of one article I read back in early ’96, celebrating the B-Body.

    In fact, my old man saw the end coming early and bought a 1994 Roadmaster wagon to tow his boats with. LT1/ 4L60E, 3.73 Posi rear end, dual exhaust, tranny cooler, and a 5000# tow rating.

    PS – The panther platform hasn’t been rated to tow anything more than 2000# in at least a decade, maybe two. (IIRC) Not that it couldn’t, but Ford won’t rate it to do so.

  • avatar

    I think that the current TC would make a great Grand Marquis. And that Lincoln needs to upgrade the current TC with a new body, engine and transmission. And suspension.

    But the old TC still has one attribute of a genuine yank luxocruiser – it is stone durable. None of this european “hi your scheduled maintenance was $6000” nonsense.

    It is a testament to this car that Ford has basically let it sit there with no attention since about 1992, and it is still in this 3 way competition for ultimate Yank Tank.

    With some upgrades, the long wheelbase Panther frame and front suspension could take on the big Lexus. It just needs some real power, a modern transmission and some looks. If the current car had the Chrysler’s engine and suspension, it would be a contender.

  • avatar

    Really, who cares what the Brits think? Their just jealous of America, not to mention slightly neurotic with a bad sense of perverted humor.

    Personally I love the 300C. Every time I see one, I love the design. It’s really a great looking car… IMHO.

  • avatar

    Upon reflexion, the problem with this comparo is that there IS no other car like the TownCar. They have all gone away. Everyone forgets what these cars are supposed to drive like. A generation of people have lived with front drive or european sport sedans. These cars are smooth, quiet with low steering effort.

    I have been driving big V8 rear drive luxocruisers for years. If you want to complain about the roadability of the Town Car, just spend some time in a GM C-body from the 80s. The panther feels like a sports car in comparison. I went from 4 years in a well-maintained 89 Cadillac Brogham into a 93 Crown Vic. The Vic is quieter, smoother, faster, handles better and gets better gas mileage. I can only imagine how much better the Town Car would be.

    I also kind of like the look. This generation always reminded me of the 49-51 Lincoln Cosmopolitan.

  • avatar

    interesting. we use company supplied cars at work, cause we need to cart clients around, we have the choice of caddy dts, caddy escellade, or the mentioned heren lincoln. I have driven all three.

    No one wants the lincolns. They drive like boats, make the dts seem like a sports sedan. The escallade is like driving on stilts, they are frightening. By far, the requested drive is the DTS.

    The dts has good suspension, quiet as a monastery, excellent large drivers car. Incidentally, my personal car is a VW Golf, which I also like alot. They are very different, tho. The dts is quiet adn reserved, the golf extorverted.

    I am anxious to hear the next reports.

  • avatar

    “… taste and brains.”
    Let us not get too close to the truth.
    Unwritten media law carved in stone.

  • avatar

    Yank Tank?
    A 300C?
    I don’t understand this comparison.

    And I have always thought the market truly reflexs consumer taste.
    You can opinion poll yourself to death.
    You can review all reviews until frozen to indecision.

    But the real vote has always been sales, no matter what the professionals say.
    And, if not mistaken, this yank tank Linciln has made Ford money.
    Lots and lots of money.
    Because the market bought it.

    Last year the yank tank Lincoln was selling nearly 2000 per month!
    Yes, its down to around 700 now, but it was solid for a long, long time.

    Can the Caddy claim this?

  • avatar

    When I read that your TC had no nav system I said to myself “what?” and looked on the Lincoln website. It must be available as an option, right? Uhh, no. In fact there are hardly any option packages for the TC.

    I shouldn’t have been surprised because last year I looked semi-seriously into buying a new Grand Marquis until I found you basically can’t buy them any more in any trim other than “taxicab.”

    This didn’t used to be the case. FoMoCo has been de-contenting the full sizers for several years. I saw a 2004 TC on eBay not too long ago that must have been one of the early cars with a built in nav system. The last Town Car Cartier was 2003.

    Cadillac and Lincoln used to be innovative. They had features you couldn’t get on other cars. It would be so ridiculously simple for Ford to do better. Want more power? Well, the Mark VIII LSC got 290 HP out of the same block 15 years ago, so that shouldn’t be too hard to remedy. Want it to handle better? Start with the Panther cop car parts and tweak them a step or two more. Check. Want more gears in the tranny? Ok, add a couple, dammit, although personally I have never felt a shift in any TC I have driven, so how the devil would I know how many gears it has. Now create an option package that (a) includes every gee whiz thingie currently put only in the MK-Whatever crapmobiles and (b) adds the best of any other gee whiz thingies they put inside cars these days. Now put all this in the L (longer wheelbase) platform, because you are going to dress up the interior with the writing tables in back that fold into the front seatback, like some livery versions do and like the ’66 Caddy Fleetwood. Oh, and by the way when you open the table it reveals a monitor screen, Slide open a waterproof cover on the table and there is a full keyboard. Wi-Fi is on. Next, offer the interior leather in some colors other than Bake-Oven Black, Catatonic Gray and Sleep-Inducing Saddle. Nothing too garish. Just a tasteful burgundy red, a deep blue, a darker green, and white. Maybe a few not-boring exterior colors too. Last but definitely not least, go through the interior and replace or cover EVERY piece of plastic with something else. Leather, wood, fabric or even metal, where you can get that past the safety gestapo. Once again, an excellent model would be any 1961-66 Cadillac or 1961-63 Lincoln Continental or 1964-65 Imperial. The goal is to make every square inch of the car exude CLASS like each of those role models does.

    On the exterior, go back to the 1998-2002 front and rear styling which while not perfect at least says something other than “generic big car.”

    If you do all that RIGHT, you will have something that could leave the Daimler Benz guys scratching their heads and saying “Let’s try slapping a Maybach badge on it and selling it for twice as much?”

  • avatar

    I would happily own any of these cars and someday, even if it means finding one stored in gramps garage on Ebay I will. I love the big American monsters. RWD or AWD only though please, which means I’m looking at Town Car, Grand Marquis, Crown Victoria (I don’t care if it’s an old cop car I have to buy), 300C, Challenger/Charger (can never remember which one has 4drs), or an old one from Generous Motors (which is what my UAW member Granddaddy called them.)

    Four door sedans and wagons only please! That was a by god American car, no excuses!

    BTW my second car was a 1987 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan with EVERY option, 307, 4-barrel q-jet, posi-trac, and miles of chrome. Stolen in Detroit, MI in 2000. Sigh, I miss that old tank.

  • avatar

    You should compare these fullsize cars to other fullsize cars like Bmw 7-series, Mercedes S-series, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and Lexus LS.

    BMW or Mercedes is probably the best cars, but i know the outcome on TTAC;
    3.Lincoln Town Barge
    4-8 Lexus and the Europeans.

    Patriotism is not the same thing as “The Truth About Cars”, or is it?

  • avatar

    No question the old gal is past her prime, but she is very reliable, something that can’t be said for the other two. I would not buy a Chrysler because of reliability issues, and would be fearful of buying that Northstar Cadillac. Plus, with better tires and heavier sway bars, the TC can be made to handle better. Finally, for $24k for a low-mileage one-year old TC, the value can’t be beat. Get them while they are still being built!

  • avatar

    What Alcibiades said, the used value of the Lincoln or Caddy can’t be beat. I think the Lincolns devalue a bit more than the DTS specifically, but both offer a lot of value with regards to ride quality and reliability. Refinement… arguable. Quite arguable. But at least you will enjoy the ride in either one.

    But not the 300C.

  • avatar

    A little off topic, but some of the above is scaring the crap out of me.

    I own a 07 Lucerne CXS with Northstar. Basically a Buick DTS (built on same line)

    I REALLY need to get 150,000 miles minimum out of this car. I drive over 30,000/year and right now it is sitting at 62,000.

    Several posts above indicate I would be lucky to get 100,000 out of a Northstar. Why? What’s the weakness? I’ve used synthetic since new and so far this car has had zero repairs other than one set of brake pads/rotors on the front last week.

    If I can’t over maintain whatever the supposed weak link is, should I bail on it now, take the hit, and move on? Wasn’t planning on that until at least 150,000. My driving is 80% highway (that’s why I have averaged over 20 mpg since new.)

    What do the best and brightest recommend?

  • avatar

    Like others have said, this is a strange comparison. Suitability to what common purpose is being evaluated here? Otherwise, what is the point?

    Also, as others have said, you might not like the TC or its ponderous handling, but it is very good at its raison d’être, including excellent reliability.

    I am not even sure the 300 has a “reason for being”, let alone be good at it.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I think Alex doesn’t understand the Lincoln Town Car in the least. Further, the Chrysler is too mean and the Cadillac’s unibody FWD configuration disqualifies it from Yank Tank status regardless of size or bulk.

    It might be difficult to remember now, but when the 1998 Town Car debuted the current styling, it turned heads and pulled a lot of 35 – 50 year old buyers into their first American car. The design has held up well, still distinctive and polished. That it doesn’t ape the tired utilitarian luxury car aesthetic of the Germans nor the bland visual signature of the Japanese shouldn’t be a criticism. A Town Car burbling with alacrity across Nebraska, up I-5, along the New York State Thruway or the Mass Pike is still an image of automotive serenity in stride.

    I didn’t like the prior gen squared-off TC at all and its design was the least of it. The sloppy steering and frame flex were horribly out-of-date and unacceptable. But beginning with the 2003 model three refinements transformed the car: 1/ the front frame members are hydro-formed; 2/ steering is via rack & pinion; 3/ the rear solid axle is located by a Watts Link. Add mono-tube shocks with “performance” suspension option and further interior upgrades and the Town Car became something desireable, unique and quite well made.

    I discovered this quite by surprise on a vacation that year when Hertz upgraded my rental free upon arrival. The handsome metallic deep red Town Car rolled out for me had less than 80 miles on the odo and the cream leather was unexpectedly supple and glove-like.

    A modern Mercedes is not a notably comfortable car. A BMW even less so. A big Audi is confining and sterile. A Lexus surrenders too much participation. But after a couple of hours in the big Lincoln, I realized the ease of the car, and how it affected me. Soon I had fully embraced the “Zen of the Lincoln Town Car,” and I understood what Ford had been up to. You wouldn’t think of driving like Jack Baruth in this car, not because you can’t but because you just don’t want to. In a Town Car, you’re an adult. You find new consideration for your fellow man. You’re the big fish the school makes room for. You are unperturbed and imperturbable. You can drive precisely and vigorously, but why bother with the latter when the former is at hand. In fact, my 10 days with that car impressed me enough to return home and promptly by the highest-performance factory version of the platform, a 2004 Mercury Marauder. A little less Zen but still present, just at a higher cruiding speed.

    The steering is communicative in the 2003 and later model years. The hyfro-formed front frame rails dramatically stiffened the platform. The Watts Link sharply improved the steering precision by eliminating the axle drift in hard cornering, allowing the stick axle to behave more like an IRS car. And the car could for awhile be ordered with upgraded dampers and a bit more stiffly sprung but even the base suspension was leagues ahead of the earlier cars. The base suspension floated but didn’t wallow. And at 6’3″ I fit, even with the seat height cranked to put my eyes nice and high in the car.

    The Zen of the Lincoln Town Car encouraged serene driving. Not numb or uninvolved by any means. Once you grok the car, it’s entertaining and engaging for a long drive of the right kind. The bottom rung version of the 4.6L mod V8 has enough torque for the car to get out of its own way and while it’s not a top end breather and only musters today’s V6 horsepower, there’s no trouble cruising competently and quietly at 85mph. Today, the Town Car is the only passenger car to earn 5 stars in every crash test. It can be throttle steered; brakes are quite good; handling is predictable and unfussy. Want to make it stickier and more incisive? Upgrade the tires.

    Regarding the transmission, four cogs are enough, in this case. All the magic in that Ford AOD-E is in judicious use of the O/D off button on the tip of the shifter.

    There’s another thing. We drivers often completely neglect the experience of being a passenger in a car. Sure, the Town Car has the dorky shift selecter on the tree. But for a passenger, what passes for a luxury car in 2009 ain’t so luxurious. The driver’s sedan impresses much less when you’re not behind the wheel. Here, the Town Car still excels, old school B-o-F stick axle platform notwithstanding. Go ahead, roll with it for 400,000 miles. Even Alex will eventually come to understand the car.


  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I REALLY need to get 150,000 miles minimum out of this car. I drive over 30,000/year and right now it is sitting at 62,000.

    Several posts above indicate I would be lucky to get 100,000 out of a Northstar. Why?

    Relax. I’ve seen 6 Cadillacs in the past year with over 200,000 miles on their still-factory-sealed Northstars unopened for any internal service whatsoever.


  • avatar


    The miles on the AAA-supplied flatbed don’t count.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The miles on the AAA-supplied flatbed don’t count.

    Nor would flatbed miles show up on the odo.

    My own Northstar-derived mill is closing in on 55,000 trouble-free miles, still a youngster though not a pampered one. It’s not leaked a drop of any fluid nor had so much as a hiccup. Well, there was the matter of the lazy supercharger belt tensioner that was noticed during unrelated service and replaced gratis under warranty. I’ll report back as it rolls past 100K. -Phil

  • avatar

    Phil is right on. I rented a 2002 Grand Marquis, and thought it was just a boat. Two years later I rented an ’04 Grand Marquis, and was very impressed. I traded in my WRX (so busy and noisy all the time!) and bought a new Grandma, with the digi-dash and everything. Then I rented an ’07 Town Car and drove 1300 miles in three days. Great car for a road trip to the flatlands of western Kansas. The panthers are not sports cars (although the Crown Vic Police Interceptors come somewhat close), but they are very good cars–well thought out, comfortable, rugged, time-tested, and cheap. And unique.

  • avatar

    My neighbor down the street is some sort of foreign official and has a limo come by his house every few days. One of these is a Lincoln Town Car, with a Rolls Phantom grille and some front end bodywork to match the grille. Nicely done mod, too, I must say.

    The Town Car is probably the only vehicle on which the ersatz grille actually improves the appearance (until you get close enough to see the rest of the car…)

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought that a decent 5 speed auto and a 5.4L would brighten up the Town Car’s prospects. Hell, even a few updates on the 4.6 would brighten things up.

    I went from 4 years in a well-maintained 89 Cadillac Brogham into a 93 Crown Vic. The Vic is quieter, smoother, faster, handles better and gets better gas mileage. I can only imagine how much better the Town Car would be.

    Along with my 1990 Town Car, I had a 1989 Caddy Brougham. The Caddy’s interior dated back to 1978 and while the 307 Olds-sourced engine had only 10 less hp than my 5.0L TC’s 150hp, it felt absolutely weak-kneed and gutless. The TC also got 17-18mpg city while the Caddy got anywhere between 8mpg (when I bought it) and 12.5mpg (when I finally replaced the carb on it, among other things). It looked good until the infamous plastic fillers disintegrated. The Caddy felt inferior to the TC in nearly every single way manageable. The LS400 I would pick up a year later just blew the both of them into the weeds.

  • avatar

    A “Yank Tank” comparo and the Town Car not only doesn’t finish first, it’s DEAD LAST???

    The 300C barely even registers on this comparison anyway. Compared to a Town Car, it drives like a cheap Mercedes.

    The DTS is a FWD turd. I just drove a 2006 with 22K miles on it the other day that was falling apart literally and drove accordingly. Worn down climate control and radio knobs, blown struts, exhaust leak, and cabin noise rivaling my 1989 C1500. And what SOFT seats? The leather ones in the DTS I drove were comparable in softness to a concrete bench.

    The Town Car’s sole remaining body-on-frame rear-wheel-drive sedan platform dates back to 1979, good for half a million miles, with unmatched crash test ratings, acres of hood and trunk, comfort of driving your living room sofa, how much more “yank tank” can you get than that?

    Not that I’d know anything about “yank tanks”, I’ll go crawl back into my Roadmaster now.

  • avatar

    American car companies have completely forgotten that people who like big cars don’t necessarily want to out corner a porsche, but they do not want to get passed by a Civic on the freeway. I don’t want to feel the road when my autistic son is sleeping in the back, but I don’t want to be groaning up the on-ramp either…

    I remember being really enthusiastic about the Mercury Marauder, figuring it to finally be the super sled that I dreamed of – a big American car rear wheel drive, with a v8, that I could either car the family around with, have my wife sleep comfortably in the passenger side, and, when the kid’s at grandma’s, uh, do other stuff stuff on those bench rear seats.

    But man, they only put 300hp engine in it, mated in such a way that it was pretty slow. They were close, but they executed just wrong. I like the lead sled concept, always have, but you can’t have a supposed performance car that loses to a Honda Civic. The cornering doesn’t matter – even, just 0-60 that’s not embarrassing, and don’t feel the road.

  • avatar

    Because I rarely drive the autobahn or the Nurburgring, but instead spend the bulk of my driving time in either rural settings or on turnpikes, and occasionally in bumper-to-bumper Dan Ryan traffic,  I drive a Grand Marquis (for all intents and purposes, a Crown Vic/Lincoln TC).
    As someone else posted, I’m 38, a dad, and I love it.  In two years, I’ve put over 80,000 miles on my Grand Marquis, and the car feels like it will go at least 200K more.  What convinced me to buy the Mercury, was every Chicago taxi driver I spoke with…
    “How many miles you got on this baby?”
    “355 Thousand”
    “What have you done to it?”
    “Nothing sir, nothing…”
    I don’t need the halo of a blue and white propeller to boost my ego and make me feel better about my choices in life.  And I don’t need a Hemi.  I had a Northstar equipped Caddy.  It was very reliable, and very fast.  But it wasn’t as big a car as I needed (Eldorado ETC) and the suspension didn’t feel very buttoned down.  What I do need, is a reliable car that can seat six, and more importantly, my two daughters, old school, on the bench next to me.  We think it’s a kick.

    I also like checking out my fellow Grand Marquis drivers, each and every one, well into her 80’s, struggling to see past the steering wheel, and I smile.  What’s even more fun, is when someone tailgates me, honks like crazy, then speeds around to flip off the old biddie driving the boat, only to come face-to-face with me….Smiling.   Makes my day.
    The Panther has respectable power, can tow 5000 pounds (disregard the books, this baby will tow all day), handles well (the 2003 and up has rack and pinion steering), and returns over 30 mpg if you don’t push it too hard down the highway.  Push it, and she’ll still return over 26.  Put your foot in it, and the engine sounds great.  The tranny only has 4-speeds, but I’ve never wished for more, not with as much torque as the engine has.  On the freeway, the engine is barely turning.  The switchgear feels better than the last Audi S4 I drove (this weekend).  When the snow threate ns, I mount steel wheels with Firestone Winterforce tires.  The Grand Marquis is transformed into a great snow vehicle that will kick out the tail when I want, but get me where I’m going, safely, the rest of the time.  The trunk is HUGE, and will easily swallow all the luggage we need to carry, even more than our old Grand Caravan would haul, behind it’s rearmost seats.  And on Saturday nights, when I’m going out to enjoy myself, and some good tunes are on…the car has a style a minivan or Camry can’t equal.
    Maybe it’s the narrow white sidewalls…
    Frankly, I’m sad they aren’t going to keep making these cars.  The Panthers are an end of an era, one that made sense, an era we’ll probably never see again.  Too bad.

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