- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

Whether it’s making an airport pickup, taking your best friends to the early bird special at Red Lobster or transporting your Saturday foursome with their sticks to the country club, no sedan is better suited for hauling people and large amounts of cargo than Lincoln’s Town Car.

The quintessential domestic luxury sedan, the Town Car is big, quiet, smooth and fairly powerful. A throwback to the glory days of large domestic rear-wheel-drive four-door haulers, the Town Car has quietly evolved over the past couple of decades. If you owned one in the 1980s, you’ll feel right at home in a 2007 edition.

While familiarity and capacity are its most obvious attributes, the Town Car goes about its work as a carrier of people and their stuff with class and comfort. This isn’t a car that will kick your heart rate up a notch; but if your definition of value is based on capability and price, the Town Car fills the bill.

Three trim levels and two lengths provide plenty of choices for Town Car shoppers. I drove a $48,110 Designer Series for this evaluation. A $43,045 entry-level Signature version anchors the lineup, while the Signature Limited at $45,910 is the top-end regular wheelbase trim level.

If your requirements include an extra six inches of rear-seat legroom, the $51,515 Signature L delivers limo-like backseat space in addition to a few extra rear-seat perks not found in the regular-wheelbase versions.

In its regular 117.7-inch wheelbase configuration, the Town Car, with a total length of 215.4 inches, is long even by large-car standards. The Mercedes S-Class is 205 inches long, while the new Lexus LS 460L measures a comparatively measly 202.8 inches in length. Stepping up to the Signature L adds six inches to the Town Car’s already land-yacht length.

All Town Cars are propelled by a 239-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8. This doesn’t sound like a lot of grunt to push around the Town Car’s more than 4,300 pounds of mass. With a full compliment of passengers and cargo, the total weight could easily approach 5,500 pounds. A four-speed automatic transmission shuffles engine production to the wheels.

Although the horsepower sounds puny for a sedan of Orson Wells proportions — the 3,400-pound V-6-powered Honda Accord has 244 horsepower — the Town Car doesn’t struggle off the line. It accelerates with smooth determination. While not boasting the most sophisticated powertrain, the Town Car posts decent fuel economy for its size and power. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Four-wheel antilock disc brakes back up the 17-inch chrome wheels.

Traction control is standard; however, stability control isn’t offered even as an option. The steering is responsive and the handling predictable, if a bit soft.

Having said that; this sedan doesn’t wallow in the corners as much as one might expect. It behaves itself, remaining remarkably composed.

What attracts most owners to Town Car is its interior volume. Five adults — six in a pinch — can comfortably motor about for hours in this coliseumlike cabin. Rear legroom measures a generous 41.1 inches in the regular wheelbase editions. Add six inches to that for the Signature L.

By comparison, the long-wheelbase BMW 7-series has just over 43 inches of rear legroom. Town Car also trumps other large cars in trunk space.

It has 21 cubic feet of cargo room as opposed to about 20 cubic feet in the S-Class, and 18 cubic feet in the LS 460 and 7-series.

Styling inside is elegant, if not opulent. It’s a tidy layout that keeps the high tech to a minimum. All instrumentation is clear and easy to find. Maintaining space for a third passenger in the front seat, there is no center console; however the center seatback folds down to form an armrest.

Covered in leather, the seat cushions and backs are nearly flat, offering just a bare hint of hip and lateral support. Side-impact air bags for the front seat are standard, but head curtain air bags aren’t available.

Among the standard features in every Town Car are power accessories, dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, rear parking sensors, audio system with CD player and power adjustable pedals. Moving up the food chain adds such equipment as heated front seats, in-dash CD changer, automatic full power trunk open and close, adjustable rear headrests and heated rear seat. Opting for the navigation system adds $3,600 to the bottom line; while the optional power moon roof will set you back another $1,595.

“Nice” is the best term to sum up the Town Car — actually “nice and big” works better. There is nothing spectacular about it, but it is functional and pleasant to drive.

It certainly isn’t the most luxurious sedan out there, but it offers a degree of elegance sufficient to make everyone inside feel pretty good about themselves. And, when that “everyone” can number up to six full-size adults, that’s a big deal indeed.

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