1996 LINCOLN TOWN CAR SIGNATURE
Used Car - 1996 Lincoln Town Car Signature in Sharon Hill, Pa
Actual costs may vary.
1996 Lincoln Town Car ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Cross-country luxury and roominess.
There are still only two choices in the traditional American luxury car segment of the market, the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and the Lincoln Town Car. No matter what Chrysler does, or the European or Japanese luxury car manufacturers, they will not venture into the neighborhood where the Brougham and the Town Car rule.
There are still lots of American buyers who crave automobiles on a bigger-is-better basis, and it's for these buyers that Cadillac and Lincoln persist with large, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered luxury sedans. For these buyers, size, weight, and interior roominess are the major reasons to buy, along with a desire to expend as little personal energy as possible in the act of getting from place to place. They want all the options there are to have, all the luxury touches that come as standard equipment in cars like these.
For the manufacturers of such cars, this means a great deal of engineering time, continuous application of new luxury technologies, and very high costs, leading to sticker prices that are well above the $40,000 threshold for cars that many drivers look down upon as antiquated, plutocratic, and wasteful of energy resources.
We don't count ourselves as members of that group, however, especially in the case of the 1996 Lincoln Town Car. Rather, we see the Town Car as a vehicle equipped for a specialized mission, and one that does its job very well indeed. We have driven Town Cars from Washington to Florida on numerous occasions, and from Detroit to Los Angeles, and we have rented them countless times for week-long stays away from home, and we find them simply wonderful for long-distance runs with our favorite musical software playing. Music performance in this case is through a Ford JBL premium sound system with digital signal processing (DSP). We found the sound reproduction excellent up to about eight tenths of full volume.
The current generation of Town Car has been with us since 1990, built on the same Panther platform as the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. It got a completely new instrument panel, new headlamps, and an adjustable steering effort system for its fifth birthday last year. It also lost the vertical glass supports in its rear windows, allowing for the use of a much larger single pane in the rear doors and cleaning up the appearance a bit. So, while it hasn't lost any of its original bulk, its appearance is cleaner and crisper than a 1990 version. Not surprisingly, after a year of heavy investment, the 1996 Town Car is virtually identical to last year's car.
Accommodation is this car's long suit. It has huge doors, tall windows, deep leather-clad seats for five real people, plenty of storage space, and generous interior illumination for night maneuvers. The trunk is among the largest in the entire industry, wide enough and deep enough for all of your first apartment's furniture, with a remote-control decklid latch that can be operated from the car's key fob or an inside switch.
One of the things we enjoyed most about this new Town Car is the modern-looking, high-function instrument panel, a panel which is fully integrated into the car from side to side. The curved, hooded instrument panel houses a combination of analog and digital instrumentation that's a long way from the old square-face instruments with beveled glass covers. The function display, safety check, and trip computer all make the car much more fun to drive on a long interstate highway journey, and everything is very accessible and easily understood. There's a minimum of chrome on the instrument panel, with some nice wood-look trim, and large control knobs that make you feel like you're operating, not fiddling. The 5-range back-and-cushion heated-seat system may be the best there is.
While Town Cars of the past have had engines up to 460 cubic inches, today's Townie moves about with the aid of a 281 cubic inch single-overhead-cam V8 that is by any measure a world-class engine in terms of output, smoothness, quietness and fuel economy. It gets about triple the mileage of the old 460 on the highway and produces 210 horsepower, adequate for most of us, but without the accelerative snap provided by the Cadillac's 350 cubic-inch, high-torque V8. The induction system has been changed for 1996 to a center-entry system that is quite a bit quieter at wide-open throttle. The Town Car's transmission is an equally good Ford 4R70W 4-speed automatic overdrive that gives away some shift smoothness to the Japanese luxury cars, but not much.
The Town Car in its most opulent rendition, the Cartier, is the one we tested for this report, a model that adds twin bucket-bench power 6-way heated memory seats, electrochromic mirrors, traction assist, and 16-inch spoked aluminum wheels and tires to the already huge list of Town Car standard equipment. But it drives and rides like all the others, which is to say very quietly and very smoothly, unless and until it falls into a 5-star pothole, in which case the suspension fails to protect the occupants from considerable noise and harshness. This is a luxury car, and its coil spring suspension is designed to soak up intrusions and isolate the spacious cabin from the outside world to the maximum extent possible. It is not designed to do sporting maneuvers, and offers a good deal of controlled body roll when cornering at high speed, even when equipped with the $100 ride control package option.
The new power steering effort level switch is plumbed into a speed-sensitive power steering system, pointing the Town Car's 16-inch alloy wheels and big P225/60R-16 cruising tires. It's controlled by a horizontal slider located to the left of the steering column, and when switched to the High position, it does make a profound difference in the effort required to move the car off center, a much more pleasing situation than when it is in the Normal or Low positions, when the steering goes all ropy and unpredictable, which you don't want to do with a 4000-pound car. Until you have to park it, and that's when the Low effort range comes in very handy.
We found the standard all-disc ABS brakes on the Town Car to be authoritative and powerful in winter driving conditions, and fade-free after a series of hard stops.
What we don't like about the Town Car has to do with materials and design rather than function. We think the car functions pretty well for what it is. But we really didn't care for the red plastic material used on the dashtop, door panels and kick panels. No one in the industry has found a way to make red plastic interiors appealing to these old and seasoned eyes, and we wish someone in Ford's design activity would permanently ban red and blue plastic materials in favor of real luxury colors like grey and black and tan. Red plastic, no matter the grain or the maker, looks cheap, and it shouldn't be in a $43,000 car. The red leather seats fore and aft are exemplary in materials, finish, and comfort, although they offer next to no lateral support and will let you slide around a bit in a sharp turn.
The Cartier Lincoln Town Car, essentially a one-price, all-inclusive luxury car, starts at $42,350. Our car had a conventional spare ($220), an extra aluminum wheel (N/C), and the ride control package ($100), for a grand total of $43,310 including $640 for delivery. At that price, it competes with quite few of the imports for your attention, but if you want an American car company's idea of what an American luxury sedan should be, this is the one for you.
Options As Tested
twin bucket-bench power 6-way heated memory seats, electrochromic mirrors, traction assist, 16-inch spoked aluminum wheels and tires, conventional spare, extra aluminum wheel, ride control package.
Lincoln Town Car Cartier.
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