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The 2003 Lincoln Town Car has been completely re-engineered for 2003. The result is substantially improved ride and handling.
Town Car is appealing for its spacious seating for six people and a trunk that provides cavernous storage for luggage and golf clubs. This is a traditional American luxury sedan. It's roomy and comfortable. It's smooth and stable. Its V8 engine and rear-wheel-drive layout give it a traditional feel. And it's luxurious.
Those 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.
For 2003, Lincoln re-engineered the Town Car with the objective of improving its handling. The new Town Car boasts a new frame, a new rack-and-pinion steering system, a new brake system, and new front and rear suspensions. Revised front and rear styling distinguish the new model, but the changes are subtle and only careful observers are likely to notice. A new instrument panel and improved trunk space highlight the interior changes.
The 2003 Town Car is available in three trim levels: Executive ($40,270); Signature ($42,730); and Cartier ($45,240) ride on the standard wheelbase.
Also available are two long-wheelbase models: Executive L ($44,245) and Cartier L ($50,700) are six inches longer overall. The longer wheelbase provides more headroom for all passengers and nearly six inches of additional legroom for those sitting in the rear seat. Both long wheelbase models have larger rear doors and special rear seat amenities that include audio and climate controls, power outlets and a button to slide the front passenger's seat forward to create even more rear legroom. Cartier L models have heated rear seats.
Executive is a fully equipped luxury car minus some of the wood and leather trim items and standard equipment that pertain to the Signature and Cartier series. The 2003 Executive comes with a long list of standard equipment that includes brighter headlights, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, a new analog clock, new interior storage compartments, dual-zone climate controls. All Town Cars come standard with CD players, but a trunk-mounted six-CD changer is optional.
Signature and Cartier models come with an even higher grade of leather on the seating surfaces. Signature and Cartier versions have upgraded Alpine audio systems. The Signature version gets a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium leather seats (heated in the front) with a memory feature that positions the gas and brake pedals in addition to the seats and mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, 20-ounce Shiva pile carpeting, special 14-spoke wheels and a new extended rear park-assist system that uses both ultrasonic and radar sensors. A power-sliding glass moonroof is optional.
Cartier models add a power trunk lid that opens and closes at the touch of a button on the key fob. Cartier versions also have a specially outfitted trunk with a large, removable, covered storage bin that is optional on the other models. Cartier comes with fog lamps and nine-spoke alloy wheels that give it a more formal appearance. Cartier versions have seats and floor mats embroidered with the familiar Cartier logo as well as special headliner and roof pillar fabrics. The Cartier versions come with high-intensity-discharge lamps, which are optional on the Executive and Signature versions for $435.
Town Car options include the Lincoln Vehicle Communication System ($1,295) with a hands-free Motorola Timeport phone with such personal information services as news and stock quotes. Two-tone paint schemes will cost you $260, and white pearl paint is $375 extra. Whitewalls, on all but the Cartier L, are $105.
For 2003, Lincoln has given the Town Car a more formal and refined exterior. The front and rear ends of the Lincoln Town Car's exterior have been completely redesigned. The hood, front fenders and rear quarter panels are new.
Up front, there is a wider and lower grille that resembles the grille of the Navigator SUV and LS sedan. The chromed, waterfall-style grille is more upright and is flanked by new quad-beam headlamps. Not only do these lamps have a jeweled appearance, but they produce 60 percent more light to illuminate the road in the dark. And that's with the standard halogen bulbs. High-intensity discharge lamps are available and they double the output of the new halogen lights. A new stand-up Lincoln star hood ornament returns with the 2003 model. Lincoln said many customers asked for the upright emblem to return because they can use it as a lane marker on the road and it also helps them better locate the front of the car's long hood when parking.
Changes at the rear include a new trunk lid, fascia and taillights. Taillamps are larger and plainer than the previous model's.
The trunk lid opening is nearly eight inches wider and slightly lower to make loading and unloading easier. Inside the trunk, the spare tire has been moved from the forward package shelf to a vertical position behind the right rear tire. This Lincoln still has a very large and very deep trunk, but new for 2003 is a covered and removable storage tray that fills the deepest part of the well. When in position, the tray's cover raises the trunk floor and thus makes loading and unloading easier.
For 2003, the Town Car rides on standard 17-inch wheels and Michelin tires instead of the 16-inchers used in 2002. The standard wheel is called Euroflange and has a clean appearance because the balancing weights are out of sight on an inside rim.
Like all Lincolns, the new 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. Later in the year, the optional $1295 Vehicle Communication Service will be offered on Town Car for emergency assistance and concierge services using a Motorola TimePort cellphone and Sprint PCS service.
The Town Car's interior is plush and luxurious. The entire cabin has been redone in terms of materials, graphics and appearance, with a completely new dashboard and instrument panel that is simply more elegant and more fun to look at than the previous model's relatively drab and quiet design. There's more burl walnut veneer all around the interior, a new winged analog clock at the top center of the dash, and more brushed satin metal panels.
The new wood-and-leather steering wheel features buttons for cruise, audio, and climate controls. The instruments feature large, easy-to-read numbers and a digital speedometer to more easily monitor your speed as you drive quickly and quietly down the road.
Front seats have been redesigned to provide better support and comfort. The front seats offer an additional 1.5 inches of fore/aft travel over the previous model. Reshaped seatbacks provide additional knee room for those sitting in the back seats.
Interior space is more accessible and more user-friendly, though it's no larger than the previous model's. The doors open wide to make it easier to get out of the front and rear seats. New storage units provide 44 percent more volume. This is provided by a new fold-down front armrest with a double-hinged top that can be opened to either the driver's or passenger's side, storage pouches sewn into the front cushion of the front seats, hinged storage bins in the front doors, a 20-percent larger glovebox, cupholders and a storage tray that out from the front edge of the center front seat, atlas-sized pockets in the front seatbacks and a fold-down rear armrest of storage and cupholders.
The interior is even quieter for 2003 with thicker noise insulation in the floor, firewall and pillars. It's very quiet, allowing 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 for $605). The audio system offers CD and cassette players for buyers who enjoy books on tape. Or, you can listen to the new, more powerful exhaust sound deliberately engineered into the Town Car.
Long-wheelbase versions offer 47 inches of rear seat leg room, with 120.5 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the standard model's 113 cubic feet. The rear doors of the long version have been redesigned with 17 percent more glass area than before for better outward vision.
Lincoln is selling several different kinds of luxury with the new Town Car, starting with its quietness, materials, and pure spaciousness, and the Cartier 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 Cartier L.
The driving character of the Lincoln Town Car has been transformed. The Panther platform on which it is based is so thoroughly changed from the original 1990 version and its successors that there's really nothing left of the original Panther design. From the steering wheel out, the Town Car is much more entertaining and rewarding to drive than any previous model.
Lincoln wants the character of all of its vehicles to be similar, so drivers will know they're driving a Lincoln regardless of whether the vehicle is a Town Car, an LS sedan, or a Navigator SUV. To bring the Town Car more in line with the other Lincolns, it has been extensively revamped beneath its skin for the 2003 model year. The changes include much stiffer hydroformed rails for the front part of the car's frame, a new front suspension with lighter components and a cast-aluminum cross member, a revised rear suspension, monotube shock absorbers, new front brakes, new tires, revised body and suspension mounts and a switch to a lighter, more precise, variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering equipment.
For 2003, all Town Cars have the same engine, a 239-horsepower 4.6-liter V8. For the Signature and Executive versions, this represents nearly a 20 percent increase in power compared to 2002 models. The four-speed automatic transmission produces quicker downshifts. These powertrain changes along with reduced internal friction losses, new tires and the car's new more aerodynamic shape contribute to a 2-mpg improvement in highway fuel economy.
The engine and transmission in our Cartier 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 dowshifting 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 and a whole new set of arms, springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer bars, keeps the car flatter 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. Lincoln says it is looking to increase power, upgrade the transmission and add yaw-control technology in coming years.
The Town Car still 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 the new Town Car's steering and body movements are much more controlled for driving on curving country lanes and mountain roads. Repositioning the rear shock absorbers and using new directional rear body mounts has reduced skating, the tendency of many rear-drive, live-axle cars to hop sideways in tight turns. Changes to the front suspension not only improve handling, but also make the ride smoother and quieter over potholes and other rough road surfaces. The Town Car belies its size and weight when pushed through the curves in the hill country as it shows off its new dynamic capabilities. The modestly sized P225/60R-17 all-purpose tires and bigger wheels are very quiet and relatively grippy. It's no longer just a Town Car; it's now also a Country Car. Lincoln designed the new Town Car to appeal more to younger, enthusiast drivers, but traditional customers should not
The new Lincoln Town Car is the only game in town if you are in the market for a large, American rear-wheel-drive V8 luxury car, at least until Cadillac converts the DeVille and Seville back to rear-wheel-drive in a couple of years.
The Town Car remains the vehicle of choice for limousine services and for traditional buyers who want lots of room and a soft and quiet ride. But the changes for the 2003 model year enhance this car's appeal to businessmen and women who need to carry lots of people and cargo but who also enjoy the driver's seat.
Repeat buyers and lessees of Executive and Signature Town Cars will love the new car because it's so much nicer, quieter and easier to drive than the previous model. Airport and limousine companies will love the Cartier L, especially, for its roominess and improvements in the rear compartment. But buyers looking for technical sophistication in a luxury sedan may find themselves looking elsewhere.