Nearly 19 feet long (that’s more than a foot longer than a 2011 Benz S-Class). Three-across bench seats. A solid axle rear – and a profile as conservative (and frozen in time) as Ronald Reagan’s shiny black pompadour.
I love it, but the market (not counting the limo market) doesn’t. Word is the great liner is soon to be sent off on its final voyage. 2011 looks to be the last year for the old gal.
Better get your ticket soon, if you want to set sail.
WHAT IT IS
The Town Car is a huge – not merely “large” or “full-size” – luxury sedan in the old American style. It’s not the least bit sporty and it doesn’t even try to pretend otherwise. But it will seat six and you could probably stuff a Lexus in the trunk if you wanted to.
Prices start at $47,165 for the regular (read, merely enormous) wheelbase Signature model and top out at $52,835 for the Battlestar Galactica 19-footer Signature L.
Since no one else makes cars like this anymore, the Town Car hasn’t really got any direct competition.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2011
Nothing. Not since the ’90s. And we like it that way.
A boat like they used to make ’em.
Seats six – really. Comfortably. Plus three more in the trunk.
If you hit another car, it’s gonna lose. Badly.
Simple, proven, rugged – timeless.
A boat like they used to make ’em. Thing is freakin’ huge. Better have a big garage.
V-8 is barely more powerful than many current fours. Less powerful than most current V-6s.
Slow – and thirsty.
People will think you’re retired (and over 70).
Or run a limo service.
UNDER THE HOOD
All Town Cars are propelled by an ancient (more or less the same as mid-’90s era Mustangs had) 4.6 liter V-8 that chuffs out 239 hp. That was an ok number 15 years ago. Today it’s pretty weak – for a V-8. (Just for perspective the roughly same-size 5 liter V-8 in the current Mustang GT rates 412 hp.)
The TC’s AARP V-8 is paired up with an equally ancient partner – a four-speed automatic transmission that’s got two or even three or four fewer gears than the current state-of-the-art in $50k (and even $30K) cars today.
Still, it moves out ok for what it is: Zero to 60 in about 8.6 seconds for the standard wheelbase version and about 9 flat for the heavier extended wheelbase version. It’s not quick relative to the current “par” for luxury sedans but compared with similar boats from the mid-late ’70s and ’80s it’s not bad at all.
Gas mileage, on the other hand, is horrendous. 16 city/24 highway. For some perspective on that, once again, consider the ’11 Mustang GT. Its 412 hp V-8 manages 18 city, 25 highway.
The 4.6 is “flex-fuel” ready – meaning it can sip ethanol-laced crap gas. So, there’s that.
ON THE ROAD
Serene. Like wafting gently down a lazy stream on a rubber raft. The back seat of this thing is the place to be for an eight-hour trek to the beach. If you still have teeth and haven’t put such things behind you, reproduction is possible – enjoyable – back there, too.
For two couples.
As the driver of this yacht, you may feel you need one of those jaunty little Skipper’s caps with the anchor and gold braid on it. Nineteen feet is a whole lotta automobile and the endless, flat expanse of sheetmetal ahead of you (the hood) adds to the sense of hugeness. There maybe should be marker lights at each corner, or tie-downs for the tugs to hook up to.
If you didn’t grow up with these barges, or at least get to drive them when they were still common back in the ’80s – it will be a new and very different experience. Other modern cars – including other large luxury sedans – have much less metal ahead of (and behind) the axle centerlines. It will take awhile to get a sense for where the car actually ends, which will make parking and driving in traffic more stressful until you do. The steering, too, is old school: Meaning, vague and overboosted. It’s one-finger drivable but if you’re used to the precision connectedness that is now industry standard, it’s gonna take some getting used to.
The TC does not “corner.” If you tried – and if it still came with pop-on wire wheel covers instead of the standard 17-inch alloy wheels (one of the very few concessions to modernity) they’d pop off. The body heaves like the SS Minnow in the trough of a swell. Your six passengers will be clawing for the barf bags that ought to be affixed to the seatbacks, 707-style.
That’s not what the TC is for, though.
What it is for is languidly cruising down the road like the old smoothie it is. Don’t try to make it do what it’s not built for – like taking Grandpa out for a six mile run – and you’ll love it and it will love you.
AT THE CURB
This is an imposing, elegant car – the aging formality of its shape still ageless in its own way, like Liz Taylor (RIP). Sexy, it’s not. But it does carry itself well, a dowager empress that still has its dignity.
The upright profile also allows easy entry/exit, especially for the back seat occupants. The big doors open wide and the step in height is not severe, nor are there bulkheads to duck under or steeply raked B or C pillars to contort yourself around. And once inside – the space. Wow. The Signature L beckons the long-legged with 45.4 inches of legroom, five-plus inches more than the regular wheelbase Signature. The three-across bench-type seats (heated in back in L versions) make both versions feel much roomier than other large sedans with bucket-type seats. Side-to-side (shoulder) room in both versions is about 60 inches in both first and second rows. This is 1-2 inches more than in a modern Kahuna like the Benz S-Class.
The vast breadbox dash and massive pillow of an air bag comfort you with a sense of impervious solidity. All the controls are very ’80s friendly. Speedo, tach, fuel and temp – all analog. PRND21. Column shifter. Whitewall tires.
No mice, no Matrix-esque “inputs.” Just normal buttons and dials, all obvious in their function and simple in their use. Love that.
Also, dig: There’s a huge ashtray drawer just below the AC and heater controls. Try and find that in a current-year politically correct luxury sedan.
Two full-frame .45s will fit in the glovebox. Seriously.
The trunk is 21 cubic feet – larger than the lots that come with some McMansions these days. Tow adult men can fit back there.
My main grip with the TC is its heavy price tag. $50k is a lot to pay for a well-padded Crown Vic with a few inches more legroom. Still, the fact is you can’t buy the Vic anymore – unless you’re a cop – and the TC is much nicer than the Perpmobile it shares its hardware with.
And, truly, there is nothing else like it available. Not new, anyhow. To get something comparable, you’d need to go classic – maybe a mid-’70s Sedan deVille or Continental Mark V. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore – literally.
And soon, they won’t make ’em like this at all. Fashions change; time moves on. If I could still buy a car like my ’76 Trans-Am brand-new, seats yet to be farted through, I surely would.
If you’re someone who appreciates luxury the way it was once defined, this may be your last chance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your ship’s about to sail. Don’t get left standing at the docks… .