1998 Lincoln Town Car Road Test

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1998 Lincoln Town Car Sedan

(4.6L V8 4-speed Automatic)

I've always been attracted to the glamorous life of organized crime. Movies like TheGodfather, Casino, Goodfellas, LA Confidential and Heat have only reinforced this strange obsession I've had since I was a little boy. Sure, the despotic characters in these violent movies are not something to be celebrated, but the beautifully tragic stories crafted by Mario Puzo and his ilk have convinced the black side of me that I would have made a damn fine don.

I see myself running a ring of mobsters out of some dilapidated warehouse in the seedy downtown area of some nameless city. I have this vision of barking commands at my improbably-named henchmen, Three-Fingered Joe, Stump and Mookie, to go shake down some local grocer or liquor store owner who is late with this month's protection payment, while I coolly contemplate the large piles of cash stacked before me on a giant antique desk.

Yes, life would be dangerous. I'm certain that there would be rival organizations trying to rub me out, and the coppers, the feds, and Mr. Tax man would pose problems that could only be resolved with a little payola. But, it would definitely be a change from my somewhat predictable life as a journalist living in the milquetoast suburbs of Denver, Co.

Undoubtedly some of the seduction of organized crime lies with the look that Francis Ford Copolla created for the likes of Michael Corleone and his family of thieves. Suave clothes, expensive watches, giant mansions and powerful American sedans all contribute to the image of luxury that is so much a part of the mobster mystique.
Although the salary restrictions of my profession do not allow me to wear Armani suits, sport Piaget watches or live in a modern day castle, it does sometimes indulge my desire to drive big American sedans. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks with the new Lincoln Town Car, and realized that when the Whitmore crime family finally gets off the ground that this will be the standard issue car for my goons.

Why the Town Car? That's easy. First off, the Town Car looks the part. Dramatically revised this year, our Cartier model came to us painted jet black with brushed aluminum wheels. Moving quietly down the street the Town Car's broad shoulders, formal grille, and hefty girth presented an air of confident power, just the sort of image that an aspiring mob boss wants to express. The fact that the Lincoln Town Car is one of the only vehicles left on the road today that has factory options for hearse and limo conversions was not lost on us. Mess with the owner of this car and you might end up dead. Make the owner happy and you might end up the head of state. Yeah, from the outside, the Town Car is definitely the real deal.

The inside of the Town Car is pretty impressive too. A huge cabin means that you can sit comfortably in the back seat with a couple of molls while your beefy driver and bodyguard have plenty of room in the front seat. Speaking of your driver, he will undoubtedly appreciate the ease with which he can pilot this 17-foot long car. The driver's seat offers commanding views in all directions and the new Town Car's well-positioned controls mean that he will be able to keep his eyes on the road instead of trying to fiddle with the out-of-reach radio buttons and air conditioning knobs that afflicted the former model. Audiophiles will appreciate the clarity of the Cartier's standard JBL sound system; it's perfect for playing the "Carmina Burana's" Oh, Fortuna loud enough to drown out the screams of terror emanating from the trunk.
Let's talk about the trunk a bit. Some trunks, like the one found in Chevy's Lumina, are pretty nice. Big and roomy, they offer most people enough space to haul the groceries home on Friday or the luggage for a family's summer vacation. The Town Car's trunk is a little more impressive. Not only will it haul a family's groceries home, it will haul the members of a competing crime family to their, ahem, final destination. (As a test, we had a couple of our staff members climb into the Town Car's trunk. They fit like sardines in a can.)

None of this would matter if the Town Car didn't have the goods to move in a hurry when things get sticky. The bright folks at Lincoln recognized that, and have infused the Town Car with the same 4.6-liter V8 engine found in the Ford Mustang. This engine makes 205 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque on the Executive and Signature models. The Cartier has a freer-breathing exhaust system that adds 15 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque to the engine's output. More than enough to get this car's occupants out of harm's way.

The steering gear and brakes have been improved this year, somewhat increasing the chances of surviving a hit from a competing business interest. This is not the car of choice, however, when fleeing from tommy-gun wielding gangsters on a lonely mountain road. The Town Car suffers from an unrefined suspension that makes quick direction changes a bit scary. It's fine for long freeway trips to Las Vegas, soaking up bumps and potholes without a thought, but it lacks the elements necessary to hustle the Town Car through quick turns, despite the addition of a Watt's linkage rear suspension to the car this year that gives the rear axle dramatically improved rigidity, reducing excessive side to side motion.

I'm certain that there are rival mob-bosses-to-be who are laughing in their sleeves at my choice for transportation. Perhaps they think that a newer model like the Lexus LS400 or Acura 3.5RL would be more impressive, or that a big BMW or Mercedes might be more satisfying. To them all I have to say is "fugheddaboutdit." If Michael Corleone trusted his hide to American manufacturers, it is good enough for me, capiche? The Town Car is the perfect car for organized crime. Big, imposing, powerful and full of history; it conveys the perfect image of refinement and strength. One note, however: the Town Car can only be purchased in black. Any other color would make me look like a retiree setting out for his weekly golf game. Nothing very imposing about that.

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