Used 2003 Lincoln Town Car Review

A big American luxury car that can transport multiple people and their associated material with little effort. The 2003 revisions are welcome, though the 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis offers a similar experience for less cash.




what's new

Lincoln's full-size luxury car receives an extensive reengineering for 2003 designed to make it safer, quieter and more luxurious than before. Major hardware revisions include a redesigned frame and modifications to the suspension, steering and braking systems. The standard V8 engine is also more powerful. Visually, the Town Car is more formal in appearance, and the old-fashioned Lincoln "star" hood ornament is back by popular demand. Creature comforts are addressed by the addition of newly standard equipment, increased storage space, additional safety features and improved interior materials.

vehicle overview

Model History/Marketing Philosophy: Lincoln first used the Town Car nomenclature to define an upgraded interior trim on the 1969-71 Continental, but a Town Sedan version of the 1949 Cosmopolitan is probably the true source of the name. The Town Sedan lasted just one year, and it wasn't until 1972 that Town Car was used to delineate the most luxurious versions of the Continental sedan. Continental coupes of the time were called, not surprisingly, Town Coupe.

Since the early '80s, the Town Car has been Lincoln's flagship sedan. The 2003 Town Car benefits from some of the highest owner loyalty in the luxury car segment, with 60 percent repeat buyers. Aimed at Lincoln's older, more conservative and traditional clientele, the 2003 model incorporates many changes and upgrades that customers have desired in recent years, such as the return of the stand-up hood ornament and significantly improved cabin storage space. Lincoln also caters heavily to fleet operators such as livery services and limousine converters.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Lincoln Town Car is offered in regular- and extended-wheelbase models dressed in Executive (regular-length only), Signature and Cartier trim. (Extended-wheelbase models are labeled Executive L and Cartier L). The majority of Executive buyers are fleet operators, leaving the majority of better-equipped Signature and Cartier models to be purchased by the general consumer.

New standard equipment for all 2003 models includes dual-zone climate control with heat and air conditioning vents for rear passengers, 17-inch alloy wheels, a new analog clock for the dashboard, remote keyless entry with a power trunk pull-down feature, power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, an eight-way power driver seat and automatic headlamps that turn themselves on at dusk or when the wipers are activated.

The Signature trim adds a leather-and-wood-trimmed steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery and deep-pile carpeting, a memory system that retains seat and mirror settings for up to two different drivers, heated front seats, a parking assist system and rain-sensing wipers.

Cartier includes a first-aid kit in the trunk, embroidered seats and floor mats, chrome wheels, halogen driving lights and heated rear seats (L models only). Powertrains and Performance: All Town Cars are powered by a 4.6-liter V8 making 235 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque driving the rear wheels. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. Performance is adequate for a large car, thanks in part to the ample thrust provided by the standard V8, and with the engineering changes to the frame, suspension and steering, the 2003 version should prove more responsive, quieter and more stable on the road. Safety: Heading up the list of Town Car safety features is the Personal Safety System, which is comprised of dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, three-point seatbelts for all outboard seating positions and a BeltMinder chime that regularly reminds occupants to buckle up. LATCH child seat anchors have been added for 2003, along with a new 5-mph bumper system. All-speed traction control is standard, as is four-wheel ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist technology, which applies full braking power in a panic stop.

Also new is standard traction control and power-adjustable pedals. By allowing the pedals to move relative to the driver, proper positioning from the steering wheel can be obtained. Rain-sensing wipers are standard on Signature and Cartier, and buyers of the latter trim level can specify high-intensity discharge headlamps if they desire. Optional on all models is the Lincoln Vehicle Communication System (VCS), which includes, among other features, automatic airbag activation notification, initiated emergency assistance, roadside assistance and hands-free dialing of the fully transportable Motorola Timeport telephone that comes with VCS. Interior Design and Special Features: Boasting gargantuan interior dimensions and one of the largest trunks in the luxury car class (20.6 cubic feet), the Town Car's primary mission is to transport multiple passengers to their destination silently and comfortably.

If the standard-wheelbase Town Car isn't enough car to manage your needs, you can select the L version of the Signature or Cartier, which offers a whopping 47 inches of rear legroom thanks to the 6-inch-longer wheelbase over the standard model. Lincoln is one of the few luxury sedan manufacturers to offer a factory-built, stretched version of its flagship model.

For 2003, designers have increased interior storage space by 44 percent, thanks to a larger glovebox, new door-panel armrest bins, larger map pockets, redesigned cupholders and a new center console that opens from both the driver and passenger sides for easy access. Legroom is also increased, thanks to 1.5 additional inches of front seat track travel; taking into account the standard adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, it seems the Town Car is designed to fit almost any driver. Also, restyled front seatbacks net half an inch more rear seat legroom in standard-wheelbase models.

Soft-touch materials are improved for 2003, with a new milled-pebble texture, but real wood inserts are not available. The fake burl walnut wood is reasonably convincing and is accented with satin-nickel trim. Driving Impressions/Opinions: Thanks to the engineering enhancements made for 2003, the Town Car has no peer when it comes to transporting large (or large numbers) of people down the highway in comfort and silence. But compared to other luxury flagships like the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS 430 and Mercedes S-Class, the Town Car's mediocre levels of refinement and quality quickly stand out. Of course, all of those vehicles cost considerably more. Buyers in this class also might want to consider the Ford Crown Victoria or the Mercury Grand Marquis, as both offer similar underbody hardware for a lot less cash than the Lincoln.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.