Some of the fondest memories from my childhood involve a Lincoln Town Car. Lincoln’s legendary land yacht was basically the official car of my grandparents on both sides of my family when I was growing up. From road trips across half the Nation, to learning to drive in the snow…the Town Car will always have a soft spot with me. With Lincoln bringing back the Continental name and speculation that the Aviator name may return as well, it just has me all kinds of sentimental to see the Town Car return as well.
Born at the tail end of 1989, I’m a child of the 1990’s. The first TC I ever experienced was a grey 1989 model that my Mom’s parents had. That side of the family is where the lion share of gearhead has been inherited from with a grandfather that has matched the years I’ve been on Earth with vehicles he’s owned since I was born. Needless to say, we’ve spent a lot of time at shoddy little desks haggling with car salespeople. We can also tell you more about Ford or GM’s vehicle order process than most dealerships, but now I’m veering off-subject.
With the advent of the MKC, new MKX, revamped MKZ and now the Continental, it’s obvious Lincoln is serious about this attempt to revitalize. While a major case of “it’s about time…”, the brand is attempting to carve out a niche in the crowded luxury car brand arena by being the quiet, polite one. They seem to be aiming for that authentic luxury brand vibe; the unpretentious premium car that the family doctor or local attorney drives. This sort of image is just perfect for a modern-day Town Car.
By today’s definition of luxury, the Town Car was like shopping at JC Penny’s – it’s not Wal-Mart, but it’s sure as hell not Nordstrom’s either. The Town Car was an old school type of luxury in the sense it was huge, quiet and glided down the road like you were riding on a really fancy mattress.
I can recall a 2,000-mile road trip my family took back in the early 2000’s in my grandparents 2003 Town Car. Since I was still not of legal driving age, I was resigned to the backseat the whole trip, but I hardly cared. The sofa-like backseat and ample leg room paired up with the floating air suspension in a way that felt more like we were flying first class down the road instead of climbing out of the West Virginia hollers on I-64. There’s no modern-day car that can rival the road trip comfort of that Town Car, even if there was no rear-seat entertainment system to spoil my ass. Today I’d probably struggle to travel half that distance without a USB port, satellite radio and navigation system. Times have clearly changed a bit.
Another more jaded memory of this car serves to its usefulness. The other side of my family exceeds basically every stereotype of an Italian American family, down to a family restaurant. In my early years I can vividly recall the ginormous trunk of a teal green 1994 Town Car filled with a vast array of tools, random parts and five-gallon jugs of homemade Grappa. While the legality of such cargo may be questionable, my grandfather (rest his soul) never lacked the necessary materials to fix something or perhaps engage in some trunk transactions. Yes, the Town Car was remarkably useful.
The car’s usefulness wasn’t just reserved to good weather. Back before global warming we actually got at least one decent snow every year in Kansas and it never once stopped my grandmother from going anywhere in a Town Car. I can recall being dropped off to grade school or simply going shopping while the roads were completely snow packed. The ol’ Town Car would plow through it with ease while small front-wheel drive cars were off in the ditch like peasants moving out of the mighty Town Car’s way. My grandmother would be borderline offended when people questioned the Town Car’s winter weather integrity.
I actually learned to drive in the snow with the 2003 Town Car, and I am grateful I did. With a solid rear axle, rear-wheel drive and the omission of any sort of stability control system, you’re a pro if you can handle a Town Car in the winter. I recall the recirculating ball steering rack that was like hanging onto the wheel of a Little Tike’s Cozy Coupe, only one that weighed as much as an armored tank. Hell, I’m sitting here having a hard time even remembering what it was like to drive a car without an electronic nannie.
In contrast, luxury in automotive today means tons of technology, mass efficiency, and an abundance of power. It’s the recipe that cross-town rival Cadillac has employed for their new CT6 flagship sedan, because emulating the Germans is clearly the only strategy that has any remote possibility of success, right?
The novelty of the CT6 stems from the fact General Motors managed to churn out—what appears—to be a decent flagship luxury sedan; not in the strategy that yielded the car in the first place. This is where I see an opportunity for Lincoln to execute their new strategy into the full-size arena with a modernized Town Car.
So here’s my take on this. Lincoln should revitalize the Town Car on a new rear-wheel drive chassis. It doesn’t have to be as large as the original—the front and rear overhangs of the old Panther platform are not necessary—just give it a huge backseat and trunk. Throw in that 400 horsepower 3.0-liter twin turbo V-6, and use this new Town Car as the car that debuts Ford’s autonomous driving technology to the mass market.
A primary driver of people avoiding large cars was the hassle that came with them. They’re harder to park and most “large” cars on today’s market still aren’t as large as the comparable crossover. A properly sized, automated Town Car address both hassles. The big sedan could pilot itself on that cross-country road trip while the family sits back on leather thrones, passing the countless crossovers that adorn today’s interstates. The trunk would also have to be large enough to accommodate anything, and I mean ANYTHING, as we covered earlier.
Where this Town Car could carve out a niche for itself is, frankly, by being the antithesis of the German flagships. Instead of focusing on performance and status, the Town Car could harken back to what it was great at – comfort, size and luxury. A more authentic character than the “me too” CT6, if you will. Which, as luck would have it, seems to be the strategy the Lincoln brand is vying for anyway.
At the very least, a new Town Car would undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms from the livery market.