1997 LINCOLN TOWN CAR SIGNATURE
Used Car - 1997 Lincoln Town Car Signature in Gainesville, Fl
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1997 Lincoln Town Car ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Last of the traditionalists.
With the recent demise of the Cadillac'sBrougham, the Lincoln Town Car remains as the only rear-drive traditional luxury car made by an American manufacturer. It's also the biggest production car sold in America.
This big cruiser was part of a price realigment strategy at the beginning of the 1997 model year that put the Town Car, Continental and Mark VIII all at the same starting price--$37,950, including $670 destination--a substantial reduction for the other two, a $370 increase for the Town Car. But even with the increase, the Town Car is selling 25% better than last year.
The Town Car competes primarily against the Cadillac DeVille and Concours. It comes in three trim levels--the base Executive Series, the volume Signature Series and the fully loaded, top-of-the-line Cartier ($43,870), for those who don't care to waste time checking option boxes on order forms.
For 1997, some of the standard luxury content that has crept into the Town Car over the past few years has been thrifted out of the car, small items that most of us won't miss because we didn't notice them when we had them (illuminated rear ashtrays, robe cords on the seatbacks, the trunk key cover, an extra power point underneath the dashboard, cellular phone wiring, etc.).
What's new and improved for this year is an entirely new recirculating-ball steering system that is more precise, smother and more durable than the previous system. There's also a more durable cloth used on interior trim. Other than the major system change, the Town Car is as it was last year, which is to say, loaded. The changes were minimal because a substantial redesign is due next fall.
We tested the mid-grade Signature Series version, which starts at $40,310. It comes with power disc brakes with antilock, tilt steering, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, a new AM/FM/ cassette sound system with digital signal processing, a keyless entry/alarm system, six-way power seats with three-position memory and lumbar support, and auxiliary controls on the new steering wheel for audio and climate controls, as well as cruise control.
In addition, our test car had traction assist, the auto-dim mirror, the power JBL sound system, heated seats, leather seating surfaces, and a six-disc CD changer. The bottom line on the window sticker totalled $42,790.
The essence of what you get in a Lincoln Town Car is effortless cruising, easy fingertip operation of every system, hushed mechanical operations, high-end materials, and plenty of that traditional American road-hugging size and weight.
The Signature Series has almost everything you can get on a Town Car, with room left on the option list for just a few more items. The Cartier gets special wheels, larger tires, rear vanity mirrors, a JBL sound system, leather seating, traction assist and heated seats, most of which our test car had as options anyway.
If there is a single attribute that places the Town Car above the rest of the cars in this class, it is sheer interior spaciousness. The Town Car's interior is simply huge.
The instrument panel uses blue-green electronic digital readouts for all of the instrumentation, which are somewhat incongruous in a car like this, but they are large, easy to read and not cramped together. The main display is recessed and hooded so that sunlight never obscures the information, and some of the lenses have been changed to reduce reflection and glare on 1997 models.
We should all be more concerned about automotive seats than we are, and the Lincoln designers have addressed some of our concerns by giving us orthopedic equipment masquerading as lounge chairs. While they don't look even remotely sporty, and they won't hold you in place in a hard corner, the Town Car seats have more adjustment techniques than a chiropractor, with long tracks, front and rear tilt, and power recline, not to mention a five-zone heating system. We found the seats enormously comfortable and supportive, and we thank the designers for finally removing the embossed Lincoln star from the seatback, where it was neither luxurious nor necessary.
Five-star seats coupled with generous head, hip, leg and shoulder room make the Town Car interior ideal for two couples living together, and the 22.3 cubic-foot trunk leads the industry in width, depth, breadth and utility. The electrically-operated trunk lid goes all the way down to bumper level, and is easy to load and unload. Our only criticism here is the trunklid itself, which should open a little more toward the vertical.
Like many luxury cars these days, the Lincoln Town Car has a single powertrain combination, a 4.6-liter single overhead cam V8 that makes an adequate 190 horsepower (210 in the dual-exhaust Cartier version) and a useful 265 pound-feet of torque (275 for the Cartier), coupled to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. While these engines are adequate for the need of most Town Car customers, even those who tow light trailers, they are not a competitive match for the powertrain sophistication found in the Cadillac Northstar engine--275 or 300 hp--or most of the import entries in this class.
Ford's corporate 4.6-liter V8 is a smooth, quiet and economical engine and has an enviable record in terms of durability, but this two-ton car really should be using the 290-hp version from the Mark VIII or the 255-hp version from the front-drive Continental.
Ford's corporate product planners undoubtedly rationalize the Town Car's engine in terms of fuel economy, and the car does escape the gas-guzzler penalty. But even so, it could use more muscle.
Engine quibbles aside, the Town Car covers ground quietly, almost serenely, when it is in its element, tooling about town or cruising the highway. A new intake manifold takes induction noise down to the lowest level yet, and the four-speed automatic is quiet and efficient. Steering effort can be adjusted by a sliding-bar switch on the left side of the dashboard, although effort does not equate with road feel.
The Michelin XW4 tires, coil spring/air suspension and gas-filled shock absorbers do an outstanding job of separating a Town Car's occupants from the lumpy realties of the outside world, coping admirably with potholes and broken pavement. The P215/75R-15 tires are quiet, though we would prefer more rubber on the ground, such as the optional P225/60R-16 all-weather tires, even if there were a slight noise penalty to pay.
There is lots of lean and wallow in the Town Car's luxurious ride, and the speed-sensitive power steering is numb on-center, these factors combine to make this car unhandy on winding two-lane roads, but quite stable and comfortable on interstates and boulevards.
The ABS brakes were authoritative in their power and especially quiet when the antilock circuits were active, emitting only a mild, high-pitched buzz when we encountered icy pavement.
This is the seventh and final model year for the current Lincoln Town Car, and we think they have got it about right by now. We looked all over the car for loose threads, body panel misalignments, poor sealing and less-than-luxurious materials, and we came away impressed. There were some things in the trunk area that could use improvement in terms of materials, fit and finish for a $43,000 car, but the body fits and interior quality were the best we have ever seen on a Town Car of any vintage.
Unlike many of its competitors, the Town Car is not a treasure trove of leading edge technology. It doesn't offer the front-drive traction or the electronic chassis sophistication of the Cadillacs, the security of the Lincoln RESCU system used in the Continental, or the handling of the import sedans.
But for the traditional American luxury car customer who treasures lots of space and quiet operation--a category that includes tens of thousands of unswerving Town Car loyalists--it's still a favorite.
Options As Tested
Premium AM/FM/CD audio, traction assist, heated leather seats, auto-dim mirror.