What's New for 1996
A new steering wheel and gas cap are standard, and some equipment has been dropped from the roster, including the JBL sound system and trailer towing package.
The bean counters in Dearborn are ecstatic this year. Not only are Crown Victoria sales consistently surpassing those of its main competitor, the Chevrolet Caprice, but General Motors announced in May that the Caprice would be going out of production after an abbreviated 1996 production run. That means Ford can expect sales of the Crown Victoria to increase next year, helped along by orders for police cars and taxi cabs that would otherwise have gone to the Caprice.
Why is the Crown Vic surviving in a market segment that has dwindled to nearly nothing during the past decade? With base prices starting at just $20,000, the Crown Victoria represents exceptional value in an era when run-of-the-mill compact sedans routinely reach that same price. The Crown Vic is big, powerful, and attractive; just the thing for families who shun minivans and sport utilities.
Last year, the Crown Victoria got a facelift, sporting new tail lights and a revised grille. Newly styled wheels also debuted, and the instrument panel was updated with better controls and switches. For 1996, Ford introduces an alternative fuel model of the Crown Vic. Running on natural gas stored in tanks in the trunk and under the body, the modified 4.6-liter V8 pumps out 178 horsepower. Alternative fuel Crown Victorias will be base models equipped with the police package frame, brakes and suspension. Ford expects the car to be labeled an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle.
Improvements this year include a new steering wheel featuring horn activation from any place on the center hub pad, improved transmission performance, better variable-assist power steering and a new gas cap. Gone from the Crown Victoria is a trunk cargo net, trailer towing package, JBL sound system and locking lug nuts for the alloy wheels.
Think about this: the Crown Vic costs just over $26,000 fully loaded with electric everything and a leather interior. In contrast, a similarly equipped Toyota Avalon runs more than $30,000, and the much smaller Toyota Camry XLE costs $25,000; despite a wimpy (in comparison) V6, tight seating for five, and a comparatively minuscule trunk. Sporting a big car floaty ride and twitchy chassis dynamics at speed, the Crown Victoria is nonetheless comfortable. It actually feels smaller when underway than the exterior girth would have you expect. Still, we think the soon-to-be-extinct GM full sizers are more accommodating, and the Chevrolet Impala SS is easily the better driver. Until the Impala SS is no longer available at the local Chevy dealer, the Crown Victoria finishes second best in the full-sized sedan class.