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Old 10-15-2002, 05:45   #1 (permalink)
Mr. Embargo
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Embargoland
Posts: 3,745
Review: Lincoln Town Car Cartier L

It is impossible to drive the Lincoln Town Car Cartier L and not imagine a credit card being handed over your right shoulder at every destination.

Every inch of the 18-foot-long Cartier L, from the pool-table hood to the refrigerator-sized trunk, screams, "Let us handle all your executive transport needs." If there's anything the $51,000 bottom line doesn't include but should, it's a blue uniform with matching visor cap.

Cartier L is the last of a mostly dead breed. But its hide is soft, its gentle temperament that of a shrub-eating, subdivision-sized land lizard.

And that, thank you very much, is precisely what the Town Car's owners want.

Lincoln says that some 60 percent of Town Car owners are repeat buyers, and 65 percent of them say they do not even consider another vehicle.

Town Car owners have no use for a car where "performance" refers to anything other than the climate control, sound system and rear seat mood lighting. And on those accounts, the Cartier L is unparalleled at its price.

Town Car in its basic form rides on a 117-inch wheelbase that grows 6 inches in the long-wheelbase form. Overall length, at 215 inches, swells to 221.

Our Cartier L (for long), at $51,000, carried not a single extra-cost option at that price. Save for maybe a navigation system, there isn't much an owner could want. The front seats are heated, of course, and so are the backs. Rear-seaters get their own vanity mirrors and a console with audio controls and two power outlets.

Up front, the leather-trimmed wood-rim steering wheel feels just right to the fingertips, and the fancy analog clock at the center of the dash is a pretty little thing, even if it is hard to read at night.

It doesn't take too many trips around the block to realize that the 4,500-pound Town Car is aimed at those who ride, not those who drive.

And what a ride.

The interior banishes noise from the outside world to the far corners of the kingdom. Engine sounds are distant muted laborings. Town Car's engine is so quiet it leaves the impression you could blow its 4.6 liters to bits and never realize it but for the fact that those 2-plus tons will eventually glide smoothly to a stop.

Surely, though, Lincoln must be kidding in describing the Town Car as a six-passenger vehicle. Driver and front-seater are comfortably accommodated, and two back-seaters are spoiled rotten, with MINIMUM leg room of 47 inches, an inch more than the MAXIMUM leg room in front. That is no misprint; no one, including NBA stars, suffers in the outboard back seat positions of a Town Car L.

But the second-row mid-seater gives up some comfort, and what Lincoln calls the sixth spot, up front, is a narrow perch. The bottom of the center console flips up to form a seat back, and unless both pieces of the split bench are aligned, the passenger would be better off riding on a milk crate.

Or in the 21-cubic-foot trunk. Other big cars give you enough room for a couple of sets of golf clubs. Town Car lets you carry all nine holes.

With but 239 horses sauntering out from under of the Town Car's hood, this car is anywhere from mildly to wildly underpowered in the V-8 lux class. The V-8s of the Mercedes S-Class start at 275 horsepower and reach 362 and probably ought to, as the cheapest is 20 grand more expensive than Town Car.

EPA fuel economy, at 17/25, is typical of larger cars but matches that of a mid-size SUV, at a comfort level where there's no comparison.

For 2003, Lincoln has finessed a number of features on its highest-volume model. The TC has a new frame, steering, brakes and front suspension, and modifications to the rear. Hood, fenders and quarter panels have been redesigned, and the trunklid has a power opener so users can dispense with the effort of lifting it. Cartier owners get to close their trunk with the push of a key fob button. Other improvements cut noise of all sorts.

The 2003, on the advice of a panel that came to be known as Town Car "executives," also features the return of a gun-sight-style stand-up hood ornament.

That's important on a car like this, where appearances are everything. Not to mention stretch-out leg room in back, so you can snooze all the way to the airport.
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