Review: Yank Tank Comparo: Cadillac DTS Vs. Lincoln Town Car Vs. Chrysler 300C. 3rd Place: Lincoln Town Car

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
review yank tank comparo cadillac dts vs lincoln town car vs chrysler 300c 3rd

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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  • Tbandrow Tbandrow on Jun 05, 2009

    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.

  • Joeveto3 Joeveto3 on Dec 02, 2009

    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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