When I call this the last fresh Crown Vic, I realize the Panther cars received extensive chassis revisions in 2003. But by then, Ford had all but given up trying to broaden the Vic’s appeal and attract new buyers. Both inside and out, the ‘03s looked almost identical to the ‘98s. Compare that to these 1992 models: the venerable, 1979-vintage platform underneath was married to a new and thoroughly modern engine and sleek, aerodynamic styling. Very fresh indeed.
Perhaps a bit too fresh for a very conservative customer base. Although Ford tried to appeal to younger buyers with the Touring Sedan model – covered here by Brendan Saur – the full-size, American sedan was still beloved by older private buyers, as well as the typical fleet purchasers. The grille-less front, therefore, came as quite a shock to those customers and was hurriedly revised for the new Crown Vic’s sophomore season. It’s not as though it was that shocking a visage, considering the Taurus had worn a similar fascia for six years, but for a Crown Victoria it was a bit of a surprise.
A more pleasant surprise to all Crown Victoria buyers was the application of Ford’s new Modular 4.6 V8 under the hood. Not only did the new 4.6 boast more power – 190 hp and 260 ft-lbs, up 40 hp but down 10 ft-lbs – but it also had improved fuel economy, up 1 mpg combined to 18/26 mpg. Selecting the dual exhaust from the options list netted an additional 20 horses.
Although the other bits and pieces under the new wrapper were getting quite old, Ford made tweaks to the suspension that tidied up the handling and eliminated some of the floaty feel of the ’91 models. Auto journalists were impressed with the mechanical improvements Ford made, such as firmer shocks and four-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS, and found the Vic’s revisions to be more extensive than those made to the ’91 Caprice. There was still body roll and lifeless steering, of course, but the Vic now felt more buttoned-down.
Like the grille-less front fascia, the Touring Sedan was a one-and-done affair, disappearing for 1993. You could buy a ’93 CV with the Handling and Performance Package and also select the dual-exhaust option, but there was no longer a separate sporty trim level. The Touring had been somewhat of an anomaly–the first specific sport edition of an American full-size, body-on-frame car since early 80s offerings like the Oldsmobile Delta 88 Holiday and Buick LeSabre Sport Coupe. Its sedan body style made it even more of an outlier. Alas, while sport sedans were becoming more popular, with few exceptions that popularity didn’t really extend to the full-size segment.
The Crown Vic had been freshened up quite nicely inside, outside, and underneath. Ford hoped this redesign would help reverse a troubling shift away from the full-size segment, which had shrunk to 9.1% of the US market by 1991, a far cry from 32% in 1973. In 1991, the median age of full-size buyers was 63, while 45% of full-size buyers were aged 65 or over. Suffice it to say, the segment’s demographics portended trouble for the future of the full-size segment.
At least the ’92 saw an immediate increase in sales, despite its apparently controversial mug. Production rocketed up from 76k and 84k units in ’90 and ’91 to an impressive 152,373–better than arch-rival Caprice, even without a wagon. Numbers settled back down to around 100k units annually in ’93, neck-and-neck with the Caprice. And to prove the segment was in decline, the Crown Vic didn’t even see a huge bump in sales after its main competition was axed in 1996.
Younger buyers and families were too busy snapping up SUVs and minivans, or were comfortable with mid-size sedans. Ford was fortunate to have the hot-selling Explorer and Taurus to cater to these buyers, as well as the less successful Aerostar and later Windstar minivans. As a result, the Crown Victoria settled into a defined role in the Ford lineup–fleets and conservative buyers only need apply. The ’98 restyle brought conservative styling, the Modular V8 became only marginally more powerful over the years in the Crown Vic, and there would be neither a Ford version of the Mercury Marauder nor a fresh new interior after ’98. Crown Vics were only for people who already owned Crown Vics. And that’s why the ’92 was the last fresh Crown Victoria.
Photographed in Santiago de Querétaro, México in October 2016.