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Completely redesigned and re-engineered last year, the Lincoln Town Car is softer and quieter than any of the European luxury cars. Lincoln Mercury has one of the highest loyalty and repurchase rates in the industry. Now the division wants to lure buyers away from Cadillac and Lexus.
Lincoln Mercury moved its headquarters to Irvine, California, last year to get out of Ford's shadow and establish its own identity. Even before that happened, this newest generation Town Car was being designed at Ford's California facility. And it shows with a trimmer look and rounded lines that replace the square, formal lines of the previous generation.
For 1999, side air bags have been added to the Town Car. A new Alpine stereo comes standard, and Executive models come with new door trim and a new rear center armrest with cupholders. Five new paint colors are available.
Cadillac's DeVille is the direct competition for the Town Car. But there are a number of smaller European and Japanese cars in the $40,000 luxury sedan bracket: Acura 3.5 RL, BMW 528i, Lexus GS 400, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Town Car owners will notice greatly improved steering and handling response. Ford has redesigned the steering system with more expensive components that yield improved steering precision and feel. The air suspension system boasts new twin-tube shock absorbers. Another more expensive solution is the rear suspension that uses a Watts linkage between the axle housing and the frame designed to improve both handling and ride quality. Trailing arms have been redesigned to be parallel to the frame.
All this adds up to a much more pleasant ride. The 1999 Town Car feels glued to the road in a way that the previous-generation could not match on its best day. Handling is much more predictable in lane-change maneuvers, without the momentary indecisiveness that characterized the old car. The Touring Package comes with shocks that are 50 percent larger for a firmer, more controlled ride.
Even with the Touring package, 3.55:1 rear-axle ratio and 220 horsepower on tap, the Town Car lacks the acceleration performance of its fastest competitors. Equipped with a 282 cubic-inch engine, it just doesn't accelerate like a $40,000 car should. Its chief competition has 275 horsepower, a palpable difference.
Transmission feel and function are greatly improved over the old automatic, with quicker, more positive shifts. The fourth gear overdrive can be turned off for climbing and descending long grades. The full-time all-speed traction control system can be switched off for climbing out of snow banks or other special situations.
The Town Car's brakes have been upgraded with bigger, thicker front discs and twin-piston calipers. With 25 percent more swept area, the brakes are much less likely to fade away when hot. ABS is standard.
The Lincoln Town Car is an attractive, appealing car, with its huge cabin and trunk. Though it lacks the power of some of its Japanese competitors, the powertrain is smooth and refined. The styling is more sensual and modern than any previous Town Car. The Touring Package improves handling response.
In a world of front-drive cars, the Lincoln Town Car is a traditional rear-wheel-drive American luxury car that looks like no other luxury car on the road today. It comes loaded with amenities and extras that luxury buyers demand and appreciate.