By Jeremy Cato
Ford’s luxury division, Lincoln, recently introduced a redesigned Town Car, the first major update since 1998 of this favourite of chauffeurs everywhere. Back then Lincoln trotted out an old automotive buzz word to help describe the 1998 Town Car remake — “tumblehome.”
No, that’s not what car stylists do after a wild night. Tumblehome is a design term that refers to the inward slant of a car’s upper body. The 1998-to-present Town Car has a most pronounced tumblehome. That, and liberal doses of chrome found everywhere from the massive door handles to the 19-spoke grille. Overall, there is an art deco air to this big, rear-drive luxury car which is now on the cusp of a major upgrade.
All told, about 80 per cent of the Town Car was made all-new for ’98. So, if you’re shopping for one of these cars – and there are bargains to be found because prices haven’t held up well – the upgrades and refinements for ’98 are important to note.
Of course, aside from new looks and shapes outside and in the cabin, the ’98 car got more horsepower (can you believe a 0-100 km/hour time under eight seconds?) from a smoother powertrain, a re-tuned and modified suspension, tighter steering, better performance in crash tests (four stars both sides) and a leap in overall ride quality.
Those shopping should also take note that the most desirable used Town Car is the Signature Touring Sedan. The Touring package added dual exhausts (boosting horsepower, which eventually topped out at 240 and started at 200), a slightly smoother shifting transmission, stiffer shocks and front springs, thicker anti-roll bars, bigger tires, unique aluminum wheels, finer steering and a more aggressive rear axle ratio.
The 1998 Town Car cabin is very much a limousine look. There’s plenty of wood dressing up the dashboard, and room for six seated three across, front and rear. The padded centre armrest has a lidded compartment for storing CDs and so on. But if you push up the armrest for a middle passenger, take care of the jutting seatbelt fittings. Also, some of the controls on the linear dashboard are a reach for the driver, but steering wheel controls make up for much of that.
Wherever you’re driving, you’ll be hard-pressed to hear anything but the sound of your heart beating. It’s that quiet. Ride quality is comfortable and the suspension only has trouble soaking up really nasty bits of pavement. Up and down motions are well controlled. Just don’t try to take corners too fast.
Ford did a reasonable job in re-doing the 1998 Town Car, although some limo drivers have complained about its trunk being smaller than the rival Cadillac DeVille. In fact, the 1998 car is smaller than the 1997 one – at 5,470 mm. (215.3 in.) the newer Town Car is more than 900 mm (3.6 in.) shorter. The wheelbase is a smidgen shorter than on the ’97 car, and the trunk is 10 per cent smaller.
The Town Car, even in 1998 was the last American brand, rear-drive, full-size luxury sedan. It’s a traditional car, then. If that’s what you’re looking for, a 1998 Town Car can probably be found for less than half its original sticker price.
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.