Buy/Drive/Burn: Floaty American Luxury Sedans From 1988

buy drive burn floaty american luxury sedans from 1988

In the late Eighties, American auto manufacturers still sold large, traditional luxury sedans in decent numbers. Their aging sedan consumer base fondly remembered the vinyl and chrome of yesteryear and still relished brougham-style accoutrements.

Up for consideration today are three comfortable, luxury-oriented sedans from 1988. It’s hard to lose here.

Lincoln Continental

1988 was an important year for Lincoln’s Continental, as a brand new model stepped forward with a shared Taurus platform and front-drive (a first-ever for Lincoln). Gone was the archaic Fox platform with its senseless rear-drive and V8 power plants. On offer now was a single engine: the 3.8-liter Essex V6, mated to a four-speed AXOD automatic. Leather seats came standard on all Continentals, while a bevy of options included a power moonroof, memory seats, and an InstaClear windshield. The square Continental seen here gave way in the Nineties to a more angular version, as Lincoln tried (to no avail) to attract a sportier, younger clientele before moving on to the rear-drive LS. Continental is the midsize choice, at 205.6 inches in length.

Chrysler Fifth Avenue

The only rear-drive offering of the trio was also the oldest in 1988. Underneath the formal, upright styling of the M-body was actually the F-body, which debuted on the Aspen and Volare in 1976. The Fifth Avenue began in earnest for 1982, a replacement for the larger and terrible R-body New Yorker and a derivative of the short-lived LeBaron Fifth Avenue Limited Edition. By 1984 Chrysler started more name games, and New Yorker became Fifth Avenue. Changes were slow through the years, but notably in ’88 the vinyl roof was made larger; interior components were updated. New that year was an overhead console shared with Chrysler minivans that held sunglasses and displayed a compass and the outside temperature. Power was provided by the optional (and carbureted) 5.2-liter LA V8, paired to a throwback three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. Overall length is a winner at 206.7″.

Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

The once-grand Fleetwood name was turned into a front-wheel drive model of Cadillac’s DeVille for 1985. Sharing the C-body with several other GM vehicles, the upmarket Sixty Special was the top-tier Fleetwood offering. The ’88 model year was the last for the maligned and stumpy styling, as Cadillac reworked the C-body in 1989 with nine additional inches of overall length. Sixty Specials received nicer interior trim than other DeVilles, including optional Italdesign seats with a bevy of power adjustments. New for 1988 was the much-improved 4.5-liter Cadillac V8, paired to the usual four-speed 4T60 automatic. Sixty Special takes up 196.5 rather compact inches in the driveway.

Comfort and luxury harking back to a different time in the American automotive landscape. Which one’s worth the Buy?

[Images: GM, Chrysler, Ford]

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2 of 102 comments
  • Ptschett Ptschett on Sep 10, 2019

    Buy: Cadillac. My grandparents had a garage-full of '88 Coupe de Villes for 2-3 years; both blue, with my grandma's (RIP this year) being a steel-roof car in a normal medium blue color close to my since-traded-in 2010 Challenger's Deep Water Blue; and my grandpa's car being a more "stone washed jeans" pastel blue with a landau-style vinyl roof. Grandpa later replaced the '88 CdV with a '93 Sedan de Ville, 4.9L powered, that I spent quite a lot of time either riding in or driving in my teenage years on long-distance parts-runs for the farm, or helping to go see and test-drive trucks that might have been useful to the farm at distant dealerships. Drive: the Chrysler. I'd be more interested in seeing how it drives, at this point in time, than seeing how the Lincoln drives. Burn: the process of elimination puts the Lincoln here. I don't make the rules.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Sep 10, 2019

    I would replace Continental with proper RWD Ford Scorpio with 3.0L engine, preferably Cosworth. Transmission to be manual of course.

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.