By on July 19, 2018

The other day, among the urbane, informed chatter happening in the TTAC Slack room, Adam Tonge suggested a little Buy/Drive/Burn trio to me. The year is 1999, and the subjects are full-size luxury sedans of the front-drive and comfort variety. Lincoln, Cadillac, and Chrysler are all represented, all wearing their conservative, double-breasted suits.

Come along, and select your turn of the century American luxury sedan.

Cadillac Seville SLS

Up first is Cadillac’s Seville SLS. A new, fifth generation G-body Seville debuted for the 1998 model year, and wore a more modern evolution of the styling which debuted with the fourth generation K-body version in 1992. Again, the Seville was available in two distinct models: SLS and STS. While STS stood for Seville Touring Sedan, SLS meant Seville Luxury Sedan. Softer, less intense, less powerful and less expensive, the SLS is our choice today. Powered by a 4.6-liter Northstar V8, the SLS was de-tuned a bit over the STS version, sending 275 (rather than 300) horsepower through the four-speed automatic.

Chrysler 300M

Chrysler returned to market for a third time with a “300” branded model, after doing it first with the letter cars of the ’50s and ’60s, and then the non-letter (plain number?) cars in the ’60s and ’70s. Today’s subject year of 1999 was the first for the brand new 300M. Sharing the LH platform with the similar Concorde, LHS, and Dodge Intrepid, its siblings were new for 1998. The original run of cab-forward LH vehicles was introduced back in 1993, as Chrysler finally phased out the extended family of K-Car variants. All North American 300M examples shared the 3.5-liter Chrysler-developed V6, itself an iteration of the 3.3-liter introduced in 1990. Aiming for the sporty-comfort class, the 300M was shortened 10 inches over its Concorde brother, making the 255 horses under the hood feel more zesty.

Lincoln Continental

The ninth generation of the Lincoln Continental would be the last for a while, but it’s 1999 and we don’t know that yet. Swapping to a front-drive layout and the D186 Taurus platform for the 1988 model year, a second D186 generation was introduced in 1995. That angular version was revamped for 1998, into the longer, more rounded, and Town Car-familiar shape we have here. A full 208.5 inches in length, the Continental has about seven inches on the Cadillac, and 10 on the Chrysler. Just as well then that it has the benefit of a 4.6-liter InTech V8, producing the same 275 horses as the Seville.

Three big sedans promising comfort. Which goes home with the Buy?

[Images: GM, FCA, Ford]

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113 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: A Large, Front-drive Luxury Party in 1999...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Buy: Lincoln Continental
    Drive: Chrysler 300M
    Burn: Cadillac Seville SLS

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Ooo, easy choice for me.

    Buy the Continental. Make mine a floor shift/buckets, please.

    What were the other two again? Oh yeah.

    Drive the Caddy and let someone else deal with the headgaskets.

    Burn the Chrysler. Twice.

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      This.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Was going to say buy the Caddy an drive the Lincoln, until you reminded me of the engine problems (sweet motor otherwise).

      I’m forced to comply with JohnTaurus’ assessment.

      The 300M is a no-brainer burn. Not their best work. Certainly not deserving of the 300 marker.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      True dat. Those “Northstars” became shooting stars when the head gaskets blew- as they did on the 4.9s, 4.5s, and 4.1 engines before them. Can you also say “V8-six-four”? WOW, GM engineering has sucked for the last 40 years.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Idealy i would pick the Caddy but the northstar problems keep me away and i have to burn this caddy. buy the Lincoln and drive the 300

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Corey, the LH cars were new for 1998, although the 300M may have been introduced in 1999.

    Also, some trivia: the 300M was supposed to be the Eagle Vision version of the LH, before that marque was phased out.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Buy the Chrysler/Drive the Caddy/Faulty wiring and Ford engineering will eventually toast the Lincoln. If you keep the Lincoln be sure to engage the parking brake.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Correct. I really like the looks of the Seville, if someone else is keeping the Northstar running I’ll be happy to drive it. A Taurus-based Lincoln is just wrong, kill it with fire. So that leaves the 300 for purchase. It looks a bit weird but I kinda like it, the V6 shouldn’t be too badly behaved, so why not?

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        So, a Taurus-based Lincoln is wrong, but a Dodge-based Chrysler is good to go.

        Its not like the Intrepid was so much higher on the food chain than Taurus. Especially the second generation, where most were saddled with that awful 2.7L engine and thus self-destructed early. And, the 3.5L in this car was based off the same architecture. The only Ford that shared the DOHC 4.6L was the Mustang Cobra, it sure as hell wasn’t in the Taurus.

        But, subs gotta troll, because FCA had never, ever, EVER had a fire recall or rollaway recall. (“Ever” being defined as in the last few days, of course.)

        • 0 avatar
          MoparRocker74

          ” that awful 2.7L engine and thus self-destructed early. And, the 3.5L in this car was based off the same architecture.”

          Nope. The 3.5 and the 3.2 derivative came several years before the 2.7. The 2.7 was loosely designed off of the 3.5…which was patterned after the 3.3. The 3.5 is a damned bulletproof motor. Timing belt changes are critical. Early 2.7’s are sludger turds. Early in the ’00’s they were improved. LX cars with this motor are underpowered but 200K miles can be expected if you maintain them.

  • avatar
    Igoaround940

    It’s a somewhat, easy choice for me:

    1 Buy the Lincoln. I’ve always loved them (even the Versailles), although this Connie’s styling is a bit dowdy.

    2 Drive the Cadillac; the styling still looks current today.

    3 Burn the 300. Even thought it may be the roomiest of the bunch, the styling, hasn’t aged well at all. Never buy a trendy car; styles change all to quickly (does anybody DO cab-forward styling any more?). Also, Chrysler quality has never been up to par in my humble opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      The Jaguar iPace is described as cab forward.

      I always thought that a lot of VW group cars – Jetta, Passat, Skodas etc. were pretty cab forward, given the huge expanse of dashboard plastic top between the front seat driver/passenger and the actual windscreen?

      On a lot of modern FWD cars, if you draw a line from the end of the windscreen A pillar it ends at the top of the wheel arch. Is this not a sign of cab forwardness?

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Disagree on the styling. When a occasionally encounter a clean example, I’m always surprised at how well the 20-year-old styling holds up.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Friends Dad had Northstar El Dorado brand new when I was a teenager and his Dad would let my friend drive it. Teenagers driving around in a brand new Northstar Caddy, we thought we were so cool. Made my Dad’s V6 Camry, which I thought was fast, feel slow.

    Back then, I really liked the Northstar El Dorado and Sevilles. The Lincoln wasn’t as cool, and the Chrysler was a Chrysler.

    None of these cars were great reliability-wise, and the Caddy looks the best, so I pick the Seville.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My dad has 2 Seville STSes throughout the 90s and early 2000s. He liked them a lot. I believe the first was a 93 or 94 and the second was a 98 maybe. It’s odd to look back and think of how dated the early 90s Sevilles look now versus how good looking everyone thought they were when they came out. While I still think the final iteration of the Seville still looks handsome.
    He started having some problems that were hinting toward the typical major Seville repairs so he traded it in for a BMW 325. He’s had nothing but Bimmers since.
    It was really good to drive. But I wouldn’t buy one since it is a ticking time bomb.

    As my dad was still driving his Seville, my roommate fell in love with the 300M. He bought one and was in a much lower economic standing than my dad. I don’t recall it having a ton of problems other than relatively minor ones. I don’t think these had much of a history of catastrophic maladies. Did they suffer from the glass Chrysler transmissions?
    I really like the Special versions of these. I’d probably buy it.

    I have no experience with the Town Car. No one I knew had one. In fact, I’m not sure I know anyone who has ever had a Lincoln. My dad rented one a couple years ago, MKS maybe? It had touch controls for the climate controls and other things. Therefore, burn the Town Car.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Rather easy because we had 2 of the 3 in our family.

    Buy: the Chrysler. Because my FIL did. The cab forward was fairly radical when first introduced. However general Chrysler quality and inexpensive parts were problematic.
    Drive: the Cadillac. Because that is what my Old Man did. However he drove STS’s. More ‘powah’. Actually the Caddy was a comparatively satisfying car to drive for that time. He swapped his on a yearly basis and had only one N* failure. GM flatbedded it home from cottage country and gave him a new car. No questions asked.
    Burn: The Lincoln. Despite being a Ford family for much of the 1970’s, after the fiasco with my ’78 T-Bird, we only tried one more, a FILA edition T-Bird. It was, again for its time, a good car, but the loyalty had been broken.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Buy the Lincoln (if it’s one of the good ones)
    Drive the Cadillac (again, if it’s one of the good ones)
    Burn the Chrysler (was there a good one?)

    Over the years I have heard so much good and bad about all three of these cars that right now I’m judging by least bad heard to most bad heard, but it seems to me that depending on year, engine and trans combination you could either get a very good or very bad one

  • avatar
    northshoreman1

    Buy the Chrysler. I had the LHS version of this car, was bullet-proof, “fast” in the best American sense of that word, handled like a much smaller car, good mileage.
    Drive the Cadillac. Coworker had one of these, it had many of the Chrysler’s qualities, but reliability (engine, AC, power accessories) and a more cramped interior score against it as a “buy”.
    Burn the Lincoln. AS much as I have a thing for Lincolns, this one missed the Mark. (Sorry!) Although Lincoln was going after a technological tour-de-force with adjustable suspension, electronics inside, and “In-Tech” engine, the furnishing/fit/finish didn’t quite make the cut. Not as big inside as the exterior bulk suggested, relibility wasn’t wonderful, and ride and handling were nothing special. It was not a wonderful Taurus clone…NEXT.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Buy the 300M, ironically enough I truly believe that it would hold up the best of the three over time. Drive the Caddy, it’s the best looking of the bunch, the Northstar is potent (but so is the 32 valve Mod motor). Burn the Continental unfortunately. Although my brother had a customers Continental with 240k miles on it that finally needed the water pump replaced so maybe they’re not all bad. Mostly I see them dragging their saggy butts around the hood with prolific rust in the dog legs. And that is also where I see most of the 1990s Cadillacs, spewing blue smoke out their quad exhausts. Now that I think about it that’s where I see most of the LH cars these days too, tinted out and on at least one space saver.

  • avatar
    ernest

    All three of these cars are poster children for why Lexus received such immediate acceptance in the marketplace.

    1. Cadillac’s Northstar was, as mentioned, a ticking time bomb.

    2. The Air suspension and the transmission continually held races in the Lincoln to see who would fail first. The Air suspension generally won.

    3. Chrysler transmission was as durable as a potato chip.

    Burn all three of them, call it a day.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Buy: 300M. It was simply the best overall car of these three, and as others have noted it would probably even be the most reliable.

    Drive: SLS. The Northstar is a fun engine until it blows up, and the Lexus-apeing interior is vaguely convincing until it, too, disintegrates at around 20K miles.

    Burn: Continental. Too much tech on too feeble a platform.

    Minor point, Corey: The Chrysler 3.3L V6 was introduced in 1990 (although ’93 marked the first longitudinal application for it in the LH cars) and while the 24-valve 3.5L was indeed based off the 3.3L, in the end nothing was shared between the two except the oil pan.

    The 3.5L in the second-gen LHs was also a much more potent engine than the 3.5L in the original cars, making 250 hp (not 255) versus 214.

  • avatar
    paxman356

    Knowing what we know now, it’s:

    Buy: Connie
    Drive: 300
    Burn: Northstar

    But, back then, when the Northstar was new and full of promise:

    Buy: Caddy
    Drive: 300
    Burn: Connie

    Mostly because I’m a GM guy. The 300 is stuck in the Drive position because it’s a Chrysler, and while they aren’t hated in my family, they aren’t loved like GM is either.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy: 300m. I’m actually going to eschew my V8 love here. Although I prefer the LHS and the 3.5L never felt to me like it made an honest 250hp, these were decent enough back in the day. If I bought it from new I could probably keep it in decent shape and an inevitable transmission repair won’t be as painful as an inevitable N* repair.

    Drive the Cadillac. It’s the most familiar, probably the fastest, and I think it is the best looking. But N* explosion anxiety is a real thing.

    Burn the Lincoln. Don’t hate it but never really thought about it one way or the other.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    I loved all of these terrible things as a 16 year old kid. My family owned a Concorde, that lasted a long time, so I am partial to the LH cars. I remember them having so much space and had fast V6s. Downsides were that you could start them with a butter knife, the interior materials weren’t great, and the A/C compressor liked to take a $hit.

    Buy: 300M

    The other two are a pick em, but since I am supportive of Corey’s rules, and discuss BDB questions before they go to print, here we go:

    Drive: Conti
    Burn: SLS

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Buy: 300. My ex-father in law had one for 15 years and it was surprisingly good.
    Drive: Continental
    Burn: Cadillac (Don’t tell Silvo Dante, though)

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Hmm. This is a hard one.
    Drive: The Seville. Also the best looking of the lot.
    Torn between buy/burn on the other two.
    The Continental is probably better to drive long distances.
    The 300m hasn’t aged well but would be somewhat unique.

  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    As an unshamed Chrysler fan in the early 2000s (blame my dad for having a great relationship with our local CDJ dealer), I always dreamed over having a 300m. Idk why, I just always like the more modern, curvy late 90’s cars opposed to the toaster looking Caddy. Our family ended up getting a 01 Stratus which was kinda a POS, but the V6 did sound good.

    Buy: 300M. Something about it is cool. It was modern with a V6 near as powerful as the other two’s V8s. Probably have a buyers guide buried somewhere in my parent’s house.

    Drive: Cont. Keeping with my theme of round 90’s look, I would drive this sucka all over. Back in the day it looked to me as a more modern Town Car.

    Burn: SLS. Sorry GM, I always end up burning your cars. Give me STS or get the torch. No, I just never liked the design of these. Late 90’s Cadillac reminds me of old people and trips to Florida.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    Buy the Cadillac. My folks had two Northstar STS’s and my grandparents have had a few Northstar DeVilles, and if it weren’t for the internet I would never know about Northstar anxiety.
    Drive the Chrysler.
    Burn the Ford.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    My barber had a Seville.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Burn all three and buy/drive a 99 Buick Park Avenue Ultra with the supercharged 3800. It’s as comfy as the Caddy (and built on the same platform) but without the dodgy Northstar. It’s faster than the 300 or the Conti, and gets better MPG than all three. It’s also more reliable and repairable than the others.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Buy the Caddy – Cadillac was just starting to get it’s mojo back. Northstar issues not withstanding
    Drive the 300 – I like the 300 but it just in the same class as the Caddy or Lincoln
    Burn the Town Car – For all of it’s size it was very cramped up front – for me anyway. I don’t think I fall into the category of Panther Hate. But I sure don’t understand all the Panther Love

    • 0 avatar

      NOT A TOWN CAR

      • 0 avatar
        IanGTCS

        Getting frustrated? It also says something about just how similar they looked when multiple people have got it wrong.

        Buy/drive – either or the Lincoln or Caddy. I have no strong feelings either way about them.
        Burn – Chrysler. It probably isn’t much worse (or better) than the other two. However my experiences with Chrysler products haven’t been great. My FIL is a Chrysler man despite constant issues with every one he has owned. His newest has been in the shop more times in the past three years than the three cars my wife and I own have been in combined over that same period (despite all of ours being older). This is after he traded in his previous one due to all sorts of issues. Also, only vehicle ever to strand me 150km from any town was a 3 year old Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      road_pizza

      What are you, 8 feet tall??? I’m 6’3″ and fit great in a Panther, and BTW, THIS ISN’T A PANTHER!!!

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack7G

        I agree about the Panther front room. I’m 6’3″ and i fit just fine, but they simply don’t have as much room inside as the dimensions suggest. The floor is too high (BoF), the seats too puffy, the pedals squished between the dash and floor, and the steering wheel too close (and not adjustable for reach). And in back the seat is ok, but the floor wells are hilariously deep and narrow (high trans tunnel). Some of these complaints don’t apply to the Town Car L.

  • avatar
    MLS

    As the most luxury-focused of the LH quartet, the Chrysler LHS would have been a better choice for this comparison. Also introduced for 1999, with an identical drivetrain but greater length and a softer suspension, LHS was the traditional luxury car to the 300M’s sport sedan.

    https://www.autodata1.com/media/chrysler/pics/chrysler-lhs-ii-%5B1358%5D.jpg

    The LHS interior, otherwise identical to 300M’s, also featured a bit more “wood” trim around the gearshift lever:

    https://img.autobytel.com/2000/chrysler/lhs/2-800-oeminteriorview-55212.jpg

    The LHS was folded into the Concorde lineup for the 2002 model year, with the entire Concorde range adopting the LHS body. Curiously, the low- and mid-level trims retained the existing Concorde interior, with the former LHS interior was reserved for the Limited trim. I can’t recall many other cases where two trims of a given model offered significantly different interiors.

    Concorde interior:
    https://s1.cdn.autoevolution.com/images/gallery/CHRYSLERConcorde-2154_5.jpg

    Anyway, to play the game,

    Buy: 300M
    Drive: Seville
    Burn: Continental

    • 0 avatar

      I know the LHS had a console shift (or at least as an option) and the Concorde didn’t Then when the Concorde got folded in, it was console shift only.

      Another contender against the 300 might’ve been the Olds LSS.

      • 0 avatar
        ernest

        Bonneville SSE as well.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        Actually, the pre-2002 Concorde could be had with either bucket seats and console shifter or bench seat and column shifter.

        Console:
        https://s1.cdn.autoevolution.com/images/gallery/CHRYSLERConcorde-2154_5.jpg

        Column (unfortunately could not find a professional photo):
        https://3-photos7.motorcar.com/used-2004-chrysler-concorde-4drsedanlx-12402-14816133-7-1024.jpg
        http://images.buysellsearch.com/image/orig/d4cfc13debed01112028380de7dd8e0f/chrysler-concorde-lxi-cars-in-new-port-richey-fl.jpg

        LHS was console only. When LHS was folded into Concorde lineup, I believe (but couldn’t swear) that lower trims continued to offer the bench option. But top-end Limited trim (with transplanted LHS interior) was obviously console only.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        My personal feeling is:
        Bonneville – Intrepid
        LSS – Vision/ early Concorde
        Aurora – 300m
        Park Avenue – LHS/later Concorde

  • avatar
    seth1065

    ok playing by the rules w my input that driving takes the top prize here goes

    Buy the 300 My dad always wanted one so I need to buy one of them, well popular less so than either of the other.
    Drive The Caddy , my day had one of these and they were ok and the best looking of the bunch
    Burn the top of the line Taurus I mean the lincoln it did and does nothing for me.

  • avatar
    FWD Donuts

    Buy the Caddy. Don’t care about the other two.

    My parents had tons of Caddies and Lincolns and never had any issues with them. As for the Chrysler, I liked the design of the Concorde (the LHS was the best of the lot) — but that hacked off trunk on the 300M never did it for me. The wheels and tires on them were way too narrow, too.

    Speaking of LHs, there was an Eagle Vision TSi for sale a few weeks ago on AutoTrader. Very low miles. Absolutely mint. Very, very pretty car that has aged well. Should’ve bought it — but had no place to keep it. Ugh.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    This is a difficult one, partially because one only nominally belongs in the same class as the other two.

    That said…
    • Buy the Caddy — Granted, I’m not a fan of sedans of any type but up to this point GM, despite its faults, seemed to be making the better cars. They had their issues in the ’80s but they seemed to have resolved most of them by this time–though they still had some, as the ignition switch recall demonstrated. Still, the Caddy is an easy drive and reasonably agile for its size, though a bit too soft for real comfort.
    • Drive the Chrysler — Notably smaller than the others, it doesn’t really belong here. However, the platform wasn’t bad and the ride is decent, if more pedestrian than the others. Certainly not as sore on the tailbone as the other two.
    • Burn the Lincoln — If the Caddy is too big for me, then the Panther here is worse. Add to this Ford’s legendary lack of quality (F.O.R.D.) and it’s simply not a car to be trusted as far as I’m concerned. This thing felt like a barge built in the ’70s rather than a true luxury car. Too big; too soft; too unreliable.

  • avatar
    fleeno

    I had a new STS in 2000, and it’s probably the car I miss the most. So smooth, comfy, and powerful (at the time anyway). I’ve heard about the head gasket issues on the Northstar, but are they really that bad or just something people like to bring up?

    I had the nav on it, which is funny now because it had no data for my area other than the interstate!

    I occasionally see nice looking examples for sale, and wouldn’t mind having one again just for fun. Is the head gasket thing something you can reasonably and proactively fix?

    • 0 avatar
      road_pizza

      Yes, they really are that bad. That damn engine’s a grenade looking for a place to go off.

    • 0 avatar
      Yaemish

      I imagine that an accountant at GM realized that they would save some money with smaller head bolts. The ones originally used weren’t coarse enough and no matter how well cared for, they pulled from the aluminum block starting at around 90K. A guy up in Canada makes a kit that uses larger, more coarse bolts and it fixes the poor engineering problem entirely. GM actually wised up by the 2004 model year and began using bolts with similar threads; at which time the head gasket problem disappeared.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Imagine how much money GM could have saved if they had gone with a supercharged 4.9L instead of building the N* in the first place.

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          Keeping the 4.9 and making steady improvements to it would have been the most sensible thing to do, but GM thought the Cadillac brand would have taken a big prestige hit if it didn’t have a DOHC engine to compete with ze Germans and Japanese.

          GM managed to coax 170 horses out of the 4.1 for the Allante, so coaxing an extra 70 or 80 horses out of the 4.9 would probably be no sweat if GM wanted to go that route.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Buy: 300M. I like the way they look and apparently it drives pretty well for a heavy FWD cruiser. It’s no faster than my 4-cylinder Camry, though, which is disappointing from a 3.5 V6. That’s what being fat and strapped to a 4spd auto will do to 250hp, I suppose.

    Drive: Cadillac. Solves the 300M’s power issue. But a mechanic friend picked one of these up for cheap a few years ago from an owner intimidated by the head gasket issues. He fixed that inexpensively but still offloaded it a few years later because he was tired of dealing with other issues. Another vehicle offloaded for similar reasons? A MKIV VW.

    Burn: Continental. I’m not drawn at all to the Panthers, and despite the different platform this just reminds me far too much of the Town Car inside and out. Just not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Got the email. I clicked on:
    “Read more of this post”

    But the first thing that popped into my mind was:

    READ MORE OF THIS POS!

  • avatar
    Mn12Fanatic

    Buy: Conti and swap the powertrain into a taurus wagon like god intended and SHO manual trans swap.

    Drive: Caddy

    Burn: Chrysler 300M. I had another chrysler cab forward car for a few years; the Cirrus. It was an complete nightmare to work on but had a decent enough interior but not nice like the Caddys. The transmission setup was really strange with the engine being longitudinal and a chain driving the diff or something like that?

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Actually, I’ll amend my below comment about the Seville’s interior. The leather actually was really nice, definitely better than what you’d get in today’s “first option package up” leather (and that includes foreign cars). The 300M’s leather wasn’t as soft and acquired a worn look after 120,000 miles or so (thought it didn’t split or anthing; it was just significant patina).

      I would hope that in the spirit of “you get what you pay for,” the premium leather of today’s German cars is as good or better than that ’99 Seville’s, but the Seville’s hides definitely were nicer than what my friend’s F30 328i has. (His is one option up from vinyl.) I’m not picking on the F30 in particular; I think the industry is in a place where the good vinyl actually is better than the cheap, heavily treated leather in all ways except snob appeal. That wasn’t the case in the ’90s.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    I have to put aside the Continental, having zero experience with them beyond seeing them in the wild back in the day.

    Beyond that, the growing consensus of “drive Cadillac, buy 300M” is totally on point. Source: a good friend drove a 300M from new in ’02 until 2015, racking up about 175,000 miles. Close relatives drove a ’99 Seville SLS from ’01 until ’10. The SLS came from another relative’s estate; the decedent was a retired mechanical engineer, so the Cadillac was as near to perfect as two-year-old example could have been. It was traded in with about 115,000 miles.

    I think one of the magazines actually asked at the time (paraphrasing), “Our main question is, How is the 300M $15,000 cheaper than the Cadillac when they’re fundamentally so similar?” I totally agree with that.

    Seville thoughts . . .
    The good
    – I really like the styling, and it’s held up well over time. Just clean and handsome.
    – FWIW, the family had no issues with the Northstar, not that 115,000 miles is “to the moon and back” mileage.
    – Suspension tuning was excellent, as good a comfort/composure blend as I’ve experienced in the past 30+ years. (Newer cars are handicapped by stupid tire/wheel choices, of course.)
    – But for the anxiety its reputation engendered, the Northstar was terrific to drive – great smoothness and power.
    – Interior was cleanly styled and comfortable.
    – Observed highway economy was closer to 29 mpg than to the published 26.

    The bad
    – Steering was overly light. I imagine the STS rectified this. I’m not a FWD hater, but an engine like that really would’ve been nicer in a RWD car. (I think a commenter or two has owned the RWD, Northstar STS at some point and liked it.)
    – Interior was not quite as nice or as durable as an analogous German or Japanese interior would have been.
    – The power steering pump conked out at 60,000 miles or so. Not expensive to fix, but kind of in keeping with “c’mon, GM” stereotype.
    – Climate control got wonky at about 110,000 miles. Auto heating worked on the driver’s side zone and auto cooling worked on the passenger’s side (or vice-versa). Relatives didn’t investigate it. Could have been a $15 part or a $1,500 fix. Who knows?
    – Depreciation was huge.

    300M thoughts:
    – Like the styling to this day, though not as much as the Seville’s.
    – Friend’s was remarkably trouble-free for about 150,000 miles. Thenceforth, it suffered a dead rear window (fix not investigated) and a dead driver’s seat heater (investigated, and an expensive fix since it would’ve entailed sourcing an entire seat). At about 170,000 miles, the front suspension was worn out. The repair quote exceeded the trade-in value. I’ve heard that access issues make it labor intensive. As with the Seville, depreciation was huge.

    Assuming they’re both working at 100%, I definitely preferred the Seville’s engine, though the 300M had good power for its day. Apart from that, the 300M did everything the Cadillac did nearly as well, as well, or slightly better. And it did it at about two-thirds the original MSRP. Definitely the “buy” of the two. And anecdotally, 300M’s seemed to have stood up to stupid 2nd and 3rd, and 4th owners better, though most examples of both cars are in sad shape today.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    You can’t really own any of these, but the 300M was supposed to be the “driver” of these three.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy-Lincoln Continental-Much better refined than the previous 3.8 version. I never understood why they never did a SC or SHO based one. Torque steer?
    The 4.6 Intech is powerful and reliable plus the air suspension is less trouble prone. Buckets and console of course.

    Drive-Chrysler 300M-The 3.5 and auto stick make it a nice driver. If only Mopar built a AWD version as an Audi beater.

    Burn-Cadillac Seville SLS-Nice driver with the MagneRide but the Northstar is fragile. 3800SC swap?

    Honorable mentions Bonneville SSEi, Park Avenue Ultra.

  • avatar
    Yaemish

    This one is easy for me. When I was in high school, the Cadillac was my dream. When I got my grown-up job, I bought a nearly new SLS and was happy as can be. I’m still attached to it and still driving it at nearly 200K (at this point only the body and interior is original. Yes, the head gaskets went. However, the aftermarket stud kit uses studs that should have been installed at the factory. Once repaired correctly, the engine is very solid. The rest of the car however… lets just say that it is a labor of love keeping the car in top condition. If you see a good example on the road, the driver is well-off or foolish; most likely a little bit of both.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Buy: all 3 negotiate a really great price.

    Burn: the Continental. Continentals and Town Cars, of all years, are always in demand by airport limo companies. With a few phone calls I could turn around and resell it before it hits my driveway.

    Drive the Chrysler 300. Put out word with the local Classic Chrysler community, and in a few months I should have a buyer.

    Keep and completely Restore the Cadillac Seville SLS. Drive only on the weekends and show it off at car shows.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Buy the Lincoln, drive the Chrysler, burn the Cadillac. Actually, park the first two right next to the Cadillac THEN light the fire and let all three of these turds burn to the ground.

  • avatar
    NTGD

    Buy the Lincoln – Knew someone that had one and it was a pretty nice car, and I had a same platform Taurus that was a solid dependable car.

    Drive the 300M – Always loved those cars based on looks and I test drove a used on back when I was broke and loved the drive, my brokeness required that I buy a same year used Taurus instead.

    Burn the Seville – That last batch of Sevilles always looked a little off to me, I almost like the styling but they seem oddly long to me.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I realized I wasn’t playing the game by the rules with my earlier comment.

    Buy: 300M. A nice size for a bigger car, with proper care runs forever. A former co-worker had one up until recently, almost 18 years with the same car. She traded it for a Hellcat Chally. No kidding.

    Drive: STS. The N* gives me pause, but I still like these cars all these years later.

    Burn: Connie. I’m sorry Ford Fans, this thing was not well thought out. As others mentioned, when you saw one of these after the age of 2, they were usually in some sort of distress. FWIW, I can still find a few 300Ms and tons of STSs & SLSs in regular service. Connies? Virtually none.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That’s funny, none lasted longer than two years, yet I still see them in acceptable (running, driving, all one color, respectable condition otherwise) in the wild and for sale online.

      Its widely known that old luxury cars have a terrible life more often than not, or at least it’s something we’ve discussed here before. That being said, I see more Continentals of that generation than I do STSs or 300Ms.

      Lets face it, none of these are the most reliable car ever, but the 4.6L in the Conti would defiantly outlast a Northstar, unless you routinely plan on doing headgaskets every five or six years. And the less said about Chrysler’s pre-Pentastar V-6s, the better.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Defiantly and definitely! LOL

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I can only relate what I see in my area. This and especially the previous gen of Continental have all but disappeared. The STS/SLS and 300Ms are still plying the roads of Western Michigan. I saw a STS(?) this morning running some errands. However, I wouldn’t discount the 3.5 V6 from Mopar, it was a good runner. I had several friends and acquaintances with them, no issues with the motor. The rest of the cars were mixed bags.

        I guess my reading comprehension has gone down the tubes, I somehow missed that these had the InTech motors, which were leagues ahead of the aluminum 3.8L V6s that were less than stellar. But, by the time these cars were released, the previous gen Connie had damaged the brand.

        Yes, definitely vs. defiantly…

  • avatar

    Having spent a considerable amount of time in all three vehicles (and having owned several Cadillacs and Lincolns, as well as a 300M Special), here’s my list:

    Buy: Lincoln Continental

    Drive: Seville SLS

    Burn: Chrysler 300M

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    With the odd alum block/iron head setup I’m not sure how that would have reacted to additional horsepower. I recall reading years back about 4.x that it had reached its zenith and needed replacement. I believe the 4.5 was something like 170bhp by MY88 the 4.9 only improved on the power figures slightly.

    I do understand why they did what they did (GM mindset at the time) but a slightly modded “4.0” 3800 as at least a base model motor would have done wonders for the marque.

  • avatar
    Mark Thompson

    Are there any left in the Walmart parking lot or did they all burn in meth related fires?

  • avatar

    I think we made it through this whole day without anybody picking the same choices I had in mind.

    Buy: SLS
    Drive: 300M
    Burn: Continental

    If we’re assuming it’s 1999, then either I don’t know about Northstar issues, or I think they’ve fixed the issue. The 300M seems desirable to borrow for a more sporty drive. And the Continental is a Taurus with giant overhangs, and too-complicated-everything in my view.

    Today, I think the SLS styling has held up rather well, especially when you see them in clean condition (which you might). The back of the 300 works okay, but the front of it is very early-00s to me, and the Continental is just an old whale (I never see them anyway).

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    “I think we made it through this whole day without anybody picking the same choices I had in mind.”

    — That little fox over in the corner made the same picks, if not the same wording. But then, I have a lifetime of experience in not trusting Ford products for longevity.

    Uh, oh… “… and the Continental is just an old whale (I never see them anyway).”
    Don’t get that little fox started on Road Whales. You’ll never shut him up. ;p

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Burn them all. Give me a 99 Aurora.

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    Approaching this from the perspective of someone who’s shopping for one of these cars on the eve of the new millennium:

    Buy: The SLS. I can’t pass up a strong V8 and GM V8s have historically been the strongest. I’m also a sucker for those Optitron-style gauges.
    Drive: The 300M. I always thought the 1st-gen Eagle Vision was the best looking of the Cab Forward cars and the 300M carries a lot of its looks over (seeing as it was supposed to be an Eagle before that marque’s wings got clipped).
    Burn: The Continental. Too much Taurus in its blood for my tastes, plus the interior looks less sophisticated than the SLS’s.

    Now, approaching this from the perspective of a 1999 buyer with 2018 knowledge:

    Buy: None of the above. Give me a used LS400. Someone suggested a Park Avenue Ultra, but it’s still got too many gray hairs for my tastes.
    Drive: The SLS. If it wasn’t for the fact that the N* had yet to receive the post-2000 MY improvements that would have made it slightly more reliable, it would have been a buy. Also, the CVRSS shocks it came with are gonna cost a fortune to replace.
    Burn: The Conti and 300M. The former for the reasons above (and its fragile transmission) and the latter for its fragile front end and….yep….transmission. The 300M also didn’t age as well as the SLS did.

    Confession time: I actually own a 2002 STS. When everything’s sorted out, it’s actually a pretty nice car to drive. Smooth, powerful and reasonably good handling. The N* also received longer head bolts and a revamped casting process for the 2000 MY in an attempt to address the head bolt/head gasket issue, so it’s slightly more reliable.

    With that said, I did have to put some elbow grease into it when it bought it for an absurdly low price. Part of that was addressing…you guessed it…an overheating issue. I thought I had screwed up and bought a pumpkin, but flushing the coolant, cleaning the hollow bolt that’s part of the purge line and cleaning the coolant surge tank brought things under control.

    The real ticking time bombs are the CVRSS shocks. Since mine was built before January 2002, it didn’t benefit from the changeover to Magneride shocks. The OEM CVRSS shocks are hard to find and expensive to buy at a whopping $500 to $600 per shock. There’s a much cheaper workaround, but you’ll also lose the active damping benefits of the CVRSS system.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ Hydromatic – Wow, I had a fair amount of wheel time in my relatives’ SLS and didn’t realize it had active dampers; I had thought that was an STS thing.

      I’m seeing conflicting info online, but per your comment and some of the information I’m reading, it sounds like early 4th-gen SLS’s had CVRSS as an option, while later 4th-gens and early 5th-gens had it standard. That would explain why I liked the comfort/composure balance so much. My relatives always had good tires on it too, which didn’t hurt.

      You learn something new every day.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Buy: 300M. Loved these when they came out. Drove a couple, and , for the time period, they were very quick and enjoyable. (Side note – I arrived in northern Poland yesterday and saw a very nice-looking-at-a-glance 300M in a driveway shortly after we left the airport in Poznan.)

    Drive: Caddy. Beautiful timeless design, would be a joy when the Northstar issues aren’t mine.

    Burn: Lincoln. I’ve seen too many of them driving around when new billowing on those air suspensions they had, and, in later years, sagging in back on those air bladders.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Buy the Continental, most unique and best looking, and has smells the least of Eau de White Trash.

    Drive the Chrysler, wishing it was a Special though.

    Burn the Cadillac, no positive memories of these.


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