To keep up in competitive automotive segments, manufacturers issue new or substantially revised products every five to seven years. But when the segment lacks competition, money runs dry, or sales are dismal, a timely refresh often doesn’t happen. The vehicles on the following pages have somehow escaped the typical auto lifecycle and stand in dealership showrooms like museum relics. They are the oldest new vehicles that you can buy.
Lincoln Town Car/Mercury Grand Marquis
The current generation of the Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car, and Mercury Grand Marquis was fresh in 1998. While Ford only sells the Crown Vic to fleet buyers, you can still find the Lincoln and Mercury cars on dealer lots, getting more stale by the day. During the last notable update in 2003, Ford did place the trio on a revised platform, but these are far from modern cars. The Panther platform cars are still built using body-on-frame construction and ride on a live rear axle. Additionally, the 4.6-liter V-8 first appeared in the Crown Vic back in 1992. While it’s gone through several modifications since then, the 239-hp output pales in comparison to many modern V-6 engines. And don’t forget about the three-across front seat. Current plans call for all three cars to be dead by 2012, but don’t believe it until you see it. Ford originally talked of canceling the Panther cars in 1985.
The Ranger currently populating Ford dealership lots was designed back in 1998 and has more than a few mechanical and styling aspects recalling even older models. Overseas, Ranger buyers receive an entirely different truck that was last redesigned in 2006. The current U.S. Ranger is scheduled to continue production through 2011, at which point the compact truck will either be cut from the lineup or replaced with the new T6 model being developed for foreign markets.
With its simple square lines barely differing from those of the original 1979 civilian G-Class, this Mercedes-Benz certainly looks the part of an old vehicle. However, this utilitarian truck may not seem that old to Americans; the G-Class first went on sale here in 2002. The last major redesign was way back in 1990, but updates over the years have kept the powertrain offerings fresh. Originally slated for discontinuation in 2006, the G-Class has earned an extension until 2015.
Volkswagen New Beetle
Since its 1998 introduction, the New Beetle has received only a bare minimum of changes adding up to some new engines and minor styling tweaks. Despite its lengthy run, the New Beetle’s age doesn’t even compare to that of the original Bug. That car had a 35-year production run, selling outside of the U.S. as recently as 2003. An all-new replacement for the current model is expected by 2011, meaning the New Beetle will have had a thirteen-year life.
When we first reviewed the Saab 9-5 in our October 1997 issue, we wondered if General Motors would be able to properly nurture the eclectic Swedish automaker. The fact that this model is just leaving us twelve years later seems to provide a crystal clear answer. Front-wheel drive and a nineteen-year-old four-cylinder motor (even one that has received some upgrades) don’t go very far in today’s luxury-sedan market.
A new 9-5, based on a stretched version of the Epsilon platform that underpins the 9-3, is due for 2011. By that point, if everything goes as planned, Saab will be under the ownership of Swedish sports car builder Koenigsegg.
We know-the Elise has only been here for four years. But those lucky dogs in Europe have been driving the lightweight roadster since 1996. For nine long years, U.S. crash safety requirements kept Lotus from importing the car. The model we drive today has received several enhancements, including a revised front fascia, a 1.8-liter Toyota (versus Rover) four-cylinder, and, of course, airbags and other safety gear, but is still largely connected to the original Elise.
Full-size, body-on-frame vans have been out of fashion among mainstream consumers for twenty-five years, which probably explains why they don’t receive many updates. General Motors’ full-size vans were last redesigned in 1996. Nevertheless, they continue to offer no less than five engine choices and several body and wheelbase configurations.