By Chris Haak
It’s well known that the Panther platformed-Lincoln Town Car is being put to pasture later this year (as is its platform-mate, the Ford Crown Victoria). Lincoln does not intend to concede those sales (over 11,000 Town Car sales in 2010, and over 75,000 sales on the platform), so just as Ford is crossing its fingers that taxi operators will flock to the Transit Connect, and law enforcement will flock to to the Explorer-based and Taurus-based Police Interceptors, it’s hoping that livery buyers will consider the new MKT-based Town Car.
To create the MKT Town Car, Lincoln actually split the line into two variants. The first is the standard-length MKT Town Car Livery model uses the same body shell as the regular retail-sold MKT, but adds a few touches to make it more appropriate for livery duty. For instance, the rear seat has been moved rearward by 1.5 inches to increase legroom. When we reviewed an MKT EcoBoost, we found the second-row accommodations to be perhaps the best seats in the house.
Further, the right-rear passenger can control the front passenger seat’s position to give him or her even more room. Passengers can also take advantage of a 110-volt charging outlet, a USB outlet, and a wifi hotspot. Rear-seat passengers can also control the MKT Town Car’s audio system.
The second variant is the MKT Town Car Limousine chassis. Though not a factory stretch, the factory adds a number of heavy-duty components to facilitate up to a 120-inch (10 foot) stretch without compromising the MKT’s durability or driveability (that is, if you can handle an extra 10 feet of vehicle length when it comes to parking and turning). The Limousine model comes with standard all wheel drive, a heavy duty transmission, and heavy duty electric power steering, and ditches the MKT’s standard third-row seat. Ford is likely confident that coachbuilders will have their own plans for that space.
Though the technology and comfort, and likely the fuel economy, will improve with the change from the Panther-based Town Car to the D4-based Town Car, it remains to be seen whether livery buyers will accept a crossover silhouette – despite the on-paper advantages – and a platform that is unlikely to be able to stand up to the kind of abuse that the Panther’s antediluvian body-on-frame layout could. Limo drivers shouldn’t expect to hit curbs at 40 miles per hour and damage only a wheel in the MKT.
The thing is, there isn’t really another alternative for the old Town Car buyers that would give them exactly what they had before. If they want to stay on the body-on-frame architecture, there are no more passenger cars sold in North America with that layout, so only trucks like the Navigator and Escalade are options. If those buyers want the traditional sedan body, they could go across the street to the Cadillac dealer and pick up a front wheel drive also-ran in the Cadillac DTS (and, within a year or two, a larger front wheel drive Cadillac XTS).
The higher roofline and additional passenger and cargo volume when compared to the old Town Car, however, should prove reasonably popular with the folks who will actually be sitting in the back seats, being chauffeur driven. And Ford surely likes the idea of increasing MKT sales, while being able to shut down the St. Thomas, Ontario plant that built the old one. It sounds to us as if the benefits of this change are fuel efficiency and plant capacity efficiency. In 2007, I rented a 2006 Town Car from Hertz, and it felt like I was driving an SUV with a sedan body. It’s odd that the truck-looking MKT will actually provide a more car-like driving experience than the car-looking Town Car did, but that’s just a result of the different architectures.
To paraphrase something we once said on Autosavant, the Town Car is Dead. Long live the Town Car.