Ford sure got a lot of use out of the venerable Panther platform, with Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models utilising it from 1979 all the way until 2011. Towards the end, Ford was quite comfortable to leave these models predominantly for fleet purchase: there were scores of Crown Victoria police cars and taxis, Grand Marquis rental cars and Town Car livery vehicles. Purportedly Lincoln’s flagship, the Town Car received little in the way of updates after a 2003 chassis revision. Ford didn’t much care: by then, the Panther platform represented pure profit.
And so, the public’s views on the Town Car were split: some viewed it as an honest-to-goodness American sedan (“they don’t build ’em like they used to!”) while others saw it as an outdated relic. My experience with the Town Car would place me in the second category. While I see their charm and admire their handsome lines, it was all too clear that towards the end Ford had deprived it of the modern technology, features and performance a Lincoln flagship deserved, although it had its advantages in reliability and servicing costs. Eventually though, Ford had to axe the Panther platform. But what of the crucial livery market that accounted for so many Town Car sales? Enter the MKT Town Car.
Despite comparing favorably to rival luxury crossovers in features, dynamics and build quality, the Ford Flex-based MKT never really took off, sales-wise. Its challenging styling was most likely to blame. Despite the presence of the Town Car-replacing MKS in the Lincoln lineup, Ford instead saw the higher ride height and roofline of the MKT as a boon for a livery car. Two livery MKTs were developed: a base, front-wheel-drive model and an all-wheel-drive limousine that could be stretched by up to 120 inches.
While the all-wheel-drive limousine came standard with a 3.7 V6, the regular livery model received a 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder not used in the retail MKT. This 2.0T has 237 horsepower and 250 ft-lbs, or roughly the same power and 37 fewer ft-lbs than the Town Car. EPA gas mileage ratings pegged the 2.0T at 20/28 mpg, noticeably better than the Town Car’s 16/24 mpg. Still, the MKT weighs a good 200 pounds more and has less low-end torque, so one must wonder how it feels to drive compared to the old Town Car, not to mention how its modern, turbocharged engine compares to the old 4.6 V8 in reliability and ease of servicing.
Lest you think the MKT Town Car represents little in the way of progress, you need only look at the features list: all Town Cars come with a reversing camera, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), SYNC, USB charging ports in the passenger compartment, push-button start and a stereo system with an AUX jack. Although initially only available with two rows of seating (the back row being pushed further back for extra legroom), a third row did become available as in the retail version.
I’m not sure how well the MKT Town Car has sold. Interestingly, Ford also offers a livery package for the MKS sedan and the Navigator L. I noticed when I lived in NYC that the MKS was very popular with livery companies, but the MKT was gradually becoming a more common sight. Seeing as the Town Car became almost exclusively a livery vehicle, I pose to you this: was it the gold standard, or is the MKT Town Car a better ‘town car’ than the Town Car?