It looks likely that the Lincoln Town Car, that comfy staple of subway-eschewing corporate life, is heading into its last model year. The plant that produces Town Cars is closing, and Ford refuses to confirm production past 2007. Though investment bankers and fashion publicists will hardly find themselves wielding MetroCards next year, the decision leaves black-car-for-hire companies in a tight spot, since Town Cars (according to Ford) hold an 80 percent share of that market. So if not these solemn, boxy gas-guzzlers, what will be triple-parked behind the Condé Nast building? Here, our chauffeur’s-cap rating system.
Suitability: It’s Lincoln’s heir apparent.
But wait: Early renderings look handsome but smallish; may lack legroom. “We have to see it before we know whether it works,” says Dial 7 car service’s Barbara August.
Chance of success (out of five): 4.5
Mercedes-Benz S550 and BMW 750i
Suitability: Genuinely chic, plus snob appeal (see The Devil Wears Prada).
But wait: Base price is nearly double a Town Car’s—too expensive for drivers at the likes of Carmel and Dial 7, who have to buy their own vehicles.
Chance of success: 3
Suitability: It’s the only big, plush American sedan left.
But wait: Interstate Limousine’s Bob Markus says previous models’ quality issues have livery companies wary. “They’re not reliable. I would not buy one.”
Chance of success: 2
Suitability: The rare American car that has actual design cred—and a new version, extended six inches, is aimed squarely at this market.
But wait: Says Markus, “I can’t tell someone at the St. Regis to look for a Chrysler.”
Chance of success: 3.5
Suitability: Oodles of baggage space; luxe versions, like the Lincoln Navigator, have blingy appeal.
But wait: Nobody in a Narciso Rodriguez dress will clamber over that high doorsill. And can you really see Tina Brown getting into a Jeep Cherokee?
Chance of success: 2
Suitability: Can weave through gridlock; lefty Manhattanites can pretend they’re going green. Charming, at least in theory.
But wait: Loses quite a bit of that charm when going through the Lincoln Tunnel to Newark airport.
Chance of success: 1 Next: Ancestor-Worship Chic
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