People who buy Town Cars like them; The Town Car is the highest-rated American car in the mid-luxury segment, according to a J.D. Power and Associates customer-satisfaction study; 60 percent of all Town Car customers are repeat buyers. Some 75 percent of limousine and livery fleets are made up of this large American luxury sedan. Yet individuals still account for more than 65 percent of all Town Car sales.
The Town Car was extensively re-engineered for the 2003 model year with a new frame, a new rack-and-pinion steering system, a new brake system, and new front and rear suspensions. This resulted in improved handling. Revised front and rear styling distinguished the changes, but the styling revisions were subtle.
Changes have been minimal since then. The 2006 model features new aluminum wheels at every trim level, plus new colors inside and out.
Signature ($42,055); Signature Limited ($44,920); Designer ($46,435); Signature L ($50,525)
Aside from that, however, little has changed since Lincoln last re-styled the Town Car for 2003. Up front, a chromed, waterfall-style grille is flanked by quad-beam headlamps with a jeweled appearance. (High-intensity discharge lamps are available, and they double the output of the standard halogen lights.) A stand-up four-point star hood ornament reminds owners that they are driving a Lincoln. The Division tried to retire the stand-up ornament earlier in the decade, but customers complained that they used it as a lane marker on the road and, to better locate the front of the car's long hood when parking.
The trunk lid opening is wide and low to make loading and unloading easier. Inside the trunk, the spare tire is stowed vertically behind the right rear tire, so you don't have to unload the trunk to get at it. A covered and removable storage tray fills the deepest part of the trunk well. When in position, the tray's cover raises the trunk floor and thus makes loading and unloading easier.
Like all Lincolns, the Town Car comes with a 48-month, 50,000-mile warranty, free maintenance through 36 months or 36,000 miles, 24-hour roadside assistance and transportation assistance, travel expense reimbursement, destination assistance and trip planning services, and a dedicated customer assistance center.
The up-level wood-and-leather steering wheel features buttons for cruise, audio, and climate controls. The instruments feature large, easy-to-read numbers. A digital speedometer easily monitors your speed as you drive quickly and quietly down the road.
The doors open wide to make it easy to get out of the front and rear seats. Storage space abounds: A fold-down front armrest with a double-hinged top can be opened to either the driver's or passenger's side. Cupholders and a storage tray come out from the front edge of the center front seat. Storage pouches are sewn into the front cushion of the front seats. There are also hinged storage bins in the front doors, a large glove box. Atlas-sized pockets in the front seatbacks, and a fold-down rear armrest with storage and cupholders.
The interior is very quiet, with thick insulation in the floor, firewall and pillars. This allows maximum fidelity from the 145-watt Alpine sound system, which includes AM, FM, cassette and single CD play (a trunk-mounted 6-disc changer is optional on all models except Signature). The audio system offers CD and cassette players for buyers who enjoy books on tape.
The long-wheelbase Signature L offers 45.4 inches of rear seat leg room, with 116.3 cubic feet of total passenger volume, compared to the standard model's 108.7 cubic feet.
Lincoln is selling several different kinds of luxury with the new Town Car, starting with its quietness, materials, and pure spaciousness, and the Signature L has more of that than any other luxury car on the market. Its rear-seat armrest contains controls for the rear climate control and the audio system, two additional 12-volt power points, an ashtray and lighter in each door, and a separate control that can adjust the fore/aft position of the right front seat. Heated rear seats are standard on the Signature L.
All Town Cars have the same engine, a 239-hp 4.6-liter V8. The four-speed automatic transmission produces quick downshifts. The engine and transmission in our Signature L moved the big car from place to place quietly and efficiently, but lacked excitement and do not represent the current state of the art. Other cars in this class come with more powerful engines with a great deal of technical sophistication. The new paradigm in transmissions is five speeds, not four, with full electronic control of upshifting and downshifting and an electronic torque management program for smoothness. The Town Car transmission has partial electronic controls and only four speeds, which offers less flexibility, eats into gas mileage and dates the car.
The suspension system, which includes automatic load leveling in the rear, keeps the car relatively flat in the corners and provides a smooth, quiet highway ride and substantial amounts of understeer, just the right thing for a big, long, heavy car. However, while ABS and traction control are standard equipment, the chassis and suspension are completely devoid of any type of electronic yaw control system like almost all of its price and class competitors have, and it offers no electronically variable shock absorbers like those that come on the Cadillacs. Years ago Lincoln promised increase power, an upgraded transmission and yaw-control technology, but we haven't seen it.
The Town Car offers what Lincoln describes as a creamy on-center feel to its steering while cruising down the Interstate, and it requires little effort to turn into parking spots. But steering and body movements are reasonably controlled for driving on curving country lanes and mountain roads. Careful positioning of the rear shock absorbers, plus directional rear body mounts, has reduced skating, the tendency of many rear-drive, live-axle cars to hop sideways in tight turns. The Town Car belies its size and weight when pushed through the curves in the hill country. The modestly sized P225/60R-17 all-purpose tires are very quiet and relatively grippy. It's not just a Town Car; it's also a country car. Lincoln designed the latest Town Car to appeal more to younger, enthusiast drivers, but traditional customers should not notice any deterioration in the soft ride they expect and enjoy.
The brake pedal is responsive, completely without that when-is-this-thing-going-to-stop feeling and the high pedal pressure that was prevalent in older-generation full-size cars. Braking performance is exemplary for a 4500-pound sedan. The braking system features 12.0-inch ventilated discs in front, 11.5-inch ventilated discs at the rear, with stiff twin-piston calipers a large vacuum booster. The system comes with Brake Assist, which delivers maximum braking force when it detects quick, hard brake pedal inputs. ABS (antilock brake system) is, of course, standard. Brake pads are formulated not only for long wear but to produce less dust, so owners who insist on immaculate wheels may not have to wash them as frequently.
The Lincoln Town Car is the only game in town if you are in the market for a large, traditional American rear-wheel-drive V8 luxury car. (There's the Cadillac STS, of course, but that's aimed at a different, more import-oriented buyer.) The Town Car remains the vehicle of choice for limousine services and for conservative buyers who want lots of room and a soft and quiet ride. It appeals to businessmen and women who need to carry lots of people and cargo but who also enjoy the driver's seat. But buyers looking for technical sophistication in a luxury sedan may find themselves looking elsewhere.