They are not gone but they are becoming forgotten. They bear the great auto code name "Panther."
These relics of an earlier time are known as the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car.
Together they are remnants of a vehicle that once ruled the road: the Great American Sedan. It had room for six passengers – adults. The trunk was cavernous. A V-8 engine drove the rear wheels. It was a home on the road.
The Ford trio is still hanging in there bought by those for whom the trailing edge of technology is just fine. They're happy to leave the avante garde to others.
Ford is trying to make the Ford Crown Vic the fleet/police special. (The grille is blacked out for fleet, chromed for civilians.) The Grand Marquis is sought by those who recognize its similarity to the luxury Lincoln Town Car.
By any name it's a venerable platform that has received updates through the years. "People still want to buy them so we continue to make them," says George Pipas, Ford's U.S. sales analysis manager.
He adds, "As long as there are customers in volume who want to purchase these vehicles, we're happy to provide them. All three have established reputations. It's not a growth market.
"There is a group of people who prefer that boulevard ride and the perceived security of size. That's still a lot of customers."
But the trend is a shift from the big sedans to midsize vehicles, Mr. Pipas says. The new Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable are smaller outside but bigger inside and comparable to the Panthers.
Panthers can prowl better through a handling suspension and firm up the ride, but it's still a boulevard ride. Turns can be taken fast and the car is well controlled with a minimum amount of lean. Panthers take curves like a fullback digging in his cleats. The driver leans more than the car thanks to unbolstered seats.
|Lincoln Town Car
•Engines: 4.7 L V-8
•Dimensions: 117.7" wheelbase; 215.4" length
•Base price: $47,240; As tested $54,165
•Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg
The 4.6L V-8 engine gets the Panthers to 60 mph in a leisurely 9.6 seconds. Straight ahead, the Panther lopes – it gets 25 mpg on the road and 17 around town. There are oceans of legroom.
There are only two cupholders that pop out of the ashtray and no place for a cellular phone.
Yet there are anti-lock braking, speed-sensitive steering and power-adjustable pedals. The posh Panther Town Car has more bells and whistles and a higher price tag.
The Grand Marquis Premium Sedan is $29,495 base and $34,285 as tested. The Town Car Designer Series was $47,240 base and $54,165 as tested.
And worth every penny, at least to some.