If the new Town Car is any indication of Lincoln-Mercury's intent to change minds about what a luxury car should be, then they are well on their way toward attracting a new group of buyers. Lincoln-Mercury wants to keep all of its current customers -- they give the Town Car one of the highest loyalty and repurchase rates in the industry. But, at the same time, the division wants to use the new Town Car to attract buyers away from other domestic and Japanese luxury brands. Lincoln-Mercury plans to do this with fresh styling and a greatly improved driving experience achieved through better handling, better brakes and a more controlled ride quality. The Lincoln Town Car is 85 percent new for 1998. While the designers, engineers and product planners have maintained the interior space and trunk space of the previous, boxlike Town Car, they have thrown away the rectilinear design, the square corners and some of the formality of the car. In its place is a new shape that owes something to the Jaguar, something to the Bentley, and quite a bit to Ford's New Edge design philosophy. The car was designed at Ford's California facility and it shows. It's round, but it's not a jellybean; it's formal without being frumpy; it's trim, yet still substantial. It's the first all-new Town Car in eight years. And it's about time. As always, Cadillac's deVille is the arch rival for the Town Car, but nowadays there are a number of smaller European and Japanese cars in the $40,000 luxury sedan bracket: Acura 3.5 RL, BMW 528, and Mercedes-Benz E-class.