- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Lincoln Town Car is built to impress. My test drive of the Cartier L model left a big impression on my passengers and me. The tester was the 2003 Town Car — the model that has received significant revisions. The 2004 sedan receives a higher torque capacity transmission.

Town Car is available in Signature, Executive and Cartier models. The Executive and Cartier come in long-wheelbase versions in addition to the standard short wheelbase. My tester was Cartier L, with a base price of $51,000. The most prominent physical feature about this model is its rear passenger door, which is a dead giveaway that it is the extended-wheelbase version.

As I opened the rear door, my passengers were amazed at the length of the door and likened the Cartier L to a limousine. There were times during my week with the Cartier L when, driving alone, I had pangs of guilt. A car this large begs to be put to full use. The Town Car seats six passengers very comfortably. The L version has a wheelbase of about 124 inches, compared with the regular model’s 118-inch wheelbase. Differences in overall length between the short- and long-wheelbase Town Cars are 215 inches and 221 inches.

Front legroom in the short and long versions of the Town Car is identical at nearly 46 inches, but the amount of rear legroom makes for a big difference between the two models. Back-seat passengers in the Cartier L get almost 47 inches of legroom compared with 41 inches in the regular Cartier.

Exterior changes include a stand-up hood ornament, a new chrome grille, headlamps and taillamps. The glass area was panoramic around the entire car and the dual-tone interior treatment of Light and Dark Stone worked well.

The Town Car is powered by a 4.6-liter V-8. It produces 239 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 287 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 rpm and is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Lincoln improved highway fuel economy by 2 miles per gallon, made the powertrain quieter and increased the engine oil capacity by 20 percent. The Cartier L tester had fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

The brakes have been made more powerful. The four-wheel antilock brake system includes electronic brake-force distribution, which boosts braking power during emergency braking. The Town Car now uses a rack-and-pinion steering system, replacing the old recirculating ball gear and offering the driver more precise maneuvering. Ride quality on this rear-wheel-drive sedan has been improved by changes engineers made to the front suspension.

The Lincoln is now built with front frame rails of hydroformed steel. The torsional rigidity is increased by 24 percent and the new rails are designed to improve offset crash performance.

I appreciated the extra attention the Town Car’s best-in-class trunk space received with the addition of a new portable truck organizer. On the Cartier L model, the cavernous trunk space included a removable covered bin, which was ideal for safely transporting breakables. The bin cover, carpeted with typical trunk flooring, allowed me to stack other packages on top of it without any concern that the fragile cargo would be crushed during my excursion. The trunk fully opened — not just popped open — with the touch of a remote button on the driver’s door.

The trunk has a power-closing rear deck lid, so there is no need for slamming the trunk shut.

The Cartier L is one big car that leaves a big impression on just how elegant and capable the Town Car really is.

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