1998 Ford Crown Victoria
1998 Ford Crown Victoria, Click image to enlarge

Police departments everywhere use the Ford Crown Victoria, a big, traditional, four-door sedan with room for up to six people. The Crown Vic, with its body mounted on a separate frame, got an update for the 1998 model year (new front and rear styling and a new rear suspension). Before that there was a major re-do in the fall of 1991 for the 1992 model year. The 1992 re-make brought a new 4.6-litre overhead cam V8 engine (190 horsepower, or 210 with dual exhausts), four-wheel disc brakes and a driver’s side airbag.

This engine is a solid, smooth performer. It allows the Crown Vic to accelerate well and handle highway speeds even better. The only transmission choice for these years was a four-speed automatic. Used buyers should take note of the automatic transmission issues highlighted under Buyer's Alerts.

It's hard to believe, I know, but this big four-door handles surprisingly well. Even the base suspension does a good job of absorbing bumps and road bruises. My advice is to steer clear of the optional air suspension. In an older car, it offers the potential for expensive problems. The truth is, you don't wallow and float in a Crown Vic, at least not to the extent you might think. An optional handling performance package was taken up by some buyers, but honestly, it makes for a somewhat jittery ride.

The power steering for most of these years was over-boosted, making it light and almost numb. Only in 1997 did Ford revise the power steering to provide for more precision and better on-centre feel. And keep in mind that a rear-drive car of this size can be a handful in snowy weather if you do not have proper snow tires.

At speed, the Crown Vic is dead quiet, the better to allow police officers to hear their calls, I suppose. In any case, Crown Vics of this era have logical controls which work properly. Beware of the tiny horn buttons, though. Exterior visibility is pretty good for such a big car. The trunk is cavernous.

For safety, the 1991 car was offered with a standard driver's side air bag; a passenger air bag was optional (until 1994, when it became standard), as was anti-lock braking. The Touring version with a handling and performance package added traction control.

Recommended years? Oh, that would be 1995 and newer. That year, the Crown Vic came into its own with a host of comfort and convenience upgrades and an emerging record for good build quality - although not perfect, as the Buyer's Alerts and Recalls underline. But I'd say 1995 versions stand out as excellent value for anyone looking for a largish six-passenger sedan.

Going back further in Crown Vic history: this car traces its roots to the fall of '78, when the Crown Vic was introduced as a 1979 Ford LTD. By 1980, the Crown Vic name was officially in use, along with an industry-first four-speed automatic overdrive transmission.

Through the years, Ford introduced an electronic fuel injection to the pushrod 5.0-litre V8 engine (1983), increasingly sophisticated engine control computers (1980, 1984, 1996), airbags (1990 for driver; optional in 1992 for passenger, then standard in '94) and various other refinements.

A minor styling update came in 1983, followed my more major ones in 1988, 1992 and 1995. In 1992, Ford made its then-brand new overhead cam 4.6-litre V8 standard. Better performance, greater smoothness, lower emissions and improved fuel economy were all most welcome.

Ford of Canada no longer sells the Crown Vic to civilians, preferring to focus on fleet sales to police departments and the like. But a mid-1990s model is quite a reasonable large sedan purchase on the used market.

Current Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) October 2002:

Year Model Price today Price new
2000 Crown Victoria $18,525 $32,095
1999 Crown Victoria $15,500 $31,895
1998 Crown Victoria $13,350 $30,995
1997 Crown Victoria $10,675 $29,995
1996 Crown Victoria $7,725 $27,995
1995 Crown Victoria $7,625 $25,495
1994 Crown Victoria $6,500 $23,295
1993 Crown Victoria $5,050 $24,095
1992 Crown Victoria $4,275 $22,895

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada's web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

Connect with Autos.ca