If cars were ordered by the foot, then the Ford Crown Victoria is exactly what you’d get if you walked into a Ford dealer and said “I’d like 17.6 feet of car please.” Other than length, Ford’s fleet-duty work horse has absolutely no outstanding features what-so-ever and very few features worth mentioning. Still, the Crown Vic and its panther playmates (the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car) are perennial favorites among fleet buyers and, uh, fleet buyers. In fact, in anticipation of its removal from the retail field of battle, the Ford website doesn’t even list the Crown Victoria under “passenger cars.” Should they?
If you discount the original 1955 Ford Fairlane variant, the Crown Victoria’s lineage stretches back to 1992. In the intervening 28 years, Ford nipped and tucked the full-size model’s sheetmetal to keep it vaguely semi-modern. Like Cher, the Crown Vic’s constant plastic surgery masks the model’s age well— as long as you don’t look at it too closely or for too long.
The Crown Victoria has a gi-normous hood and Mafia-sized trunk, with a classically low greenhouse squeezed in between. Large headlights, a [comparatively] demure grill and optional push bar round out the
ancientclassic styling. This antithesis of “cab-forward” design is actually somewhat appealing, in a wannabe cop/cabbie sort of way. And don’t forget the bonus: everyone THINKS you’re a cop. (Even cops.) You can either travel [slowly] in a bubble of law abiding folks, or blow through them looking suitably stern.
Once you realize the Crown Victoria isn’t a police car—well, THIS one isn’t– the recognition hits: this IS your grandfather’s Ford. Sure, the corners have been rounded off a bit, but the Vic’s minuscule gauge cluster, endlessly flat plastic dashboard, bench seating for a sextuplet and column shifter all point to prehistoric DNA. 1980s flash backs include: faux wood trim that’s not “fauxin” anyone, and velour (!) Barcalounger seats.
The Vic’s blue-light-special pricing precludes nifty toys. Dual zone climate control? No and no. Bluetooth? What’s that? MP3? Nope. Still, the radio will pick up AM Gold clear across the square states and adjustable pedals are the sciatica sufferer’s best friend. The Crown Vic’s trump card: a cavernous rear compartment that seats three large adults without the slightest complaint (unless they’re wearing handcuffs). The Vic’s high roofline means that 6’4” linebackers and 4’6” grannies with 20” blue-beehives are accommodated with equal ease.
Hoods this epic used to indicate something wicked this way driveth. Alas, that equation went the way of the pet rock. This barge gets FoMoCo’s 4.6-liter modular V8. The tried and true OHC mill cranks-out a meager 224hp and 262 ft-lbs of twist. Crank up the eight-cylinder mill and the ‘Vic charms with a surprisingly quiet and civilized nature. The V8 burbles smoothly. Plenty o’ sound insulation keeps the clamor of the outside world at bay.
Mash the Vic’s throttle and Ford’s brick-on-wheels scoots from zero to 60mph in a respectable 8.4 seconds. Thanks to rear wheel-drive and decent on-tap twist, the truly dedicated hoon (who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Vic) can elicit Mustang-like oversteer and parking brake turns with shocking ease. If you have fond memories of abusing your folk’s Country Squire on the way to school, this whip is for you.
With Cretaceous-era DNA, a 17-year-old V8 and a tiller that serves-up about as much road feel as a hovercraft, it’s no surprise that the Crown Vic hustles down the road like Officer Doughnut. (There’s a reason why every 70’s cop show chase scene had loads of tire squeal.) On the positive side, the Crown Vic rides on a surprisingly firm suspension. It’s no corner carver, but neither is it a floaty drifty automotive schooner.
For the 26 large [or less with the inevitable discounts], the Crown Vic buyer gets more cylinders than the competition, a trunk suitable for cadaver transport and fuel economy that is not as bad as it could be. But don’t get me wrong: I come here to bury the Crown Victoria, not to praise it. The 4057 pound sedan is all barge and no luxo. Anyone who sees this vehicle as the key to Ford’s turnaround needs to check the color of their mood ring and think again.
I reckon it’s a good thing that the Ford Crown Victoria is destined for fleet-only sale. The ’08 Taurus– whose predecessor was relegated to the fleets before its recent (if entirely nominal) resurrection– packs more power, better fuel economy, AWD and more cargo/passenger room. Still, if Ford can reinvent the Five Hundred as a Taurus then maybe they can find something worthy of reinventing as the “new” Crown Victoria. I nominate the Jaguar XJ.