Cops and cabbies don't follow automotive fashion, and they don't blindly chase trends as early adopters. Out necessity, these professional motorists use cars as their most important work tool, and a large number of them drive the Ford Crown Victoria. In fact, only about one-third of Crown Victoria sales are to the general public. The rest go to police agencies, taxi companies, and other fleet buyers. The current Crown Victoria dates back more than a dozen years, and the previous model launched the nameplate way back in 1979. This ubiquitous Ford has dominated fleets since Chevrolet retired its rear-drive Caprice in 1996, handing the market monopoly to FoMoCo on a stainless-steel platter.
When people talk about a traditional American car, they're talking about something like the Crown Vic (or its twin, the Mercury Grand Marquis). It's a large car with a V-8 engine under the long hood and a body separate from its steel frame. The Crown Victoria further hews to the domestic big car archetype with its wide bench seats, soft suspension, large trunk, and relatively poor fuel economy. Police departments like the Crown Vic because the V-8 makes it fairly quick, the rear-wheel drive provides predictable handling, the interior has enough space for an officer and all his gear, the simple mechanicals are durable, and the cars aren't expensive. Taxi companies choose Crown Vics for some of those same reasons--affordability, interior space, durability--and also because the car has been in production for so long that its dedicated repair shops have mastered the maintenance and parts are relatively cheap. While some of these qualities may make the Crown Victoria sound like a good civilian machine, its newer competitors perform better in many ways.
The Crown Victoria comes in three trim levels: Standard, LX, and LX Sport. The Standard model is very plain, although that's hardly an issue since most are destined for fleets. The mid-line LX at least has alloy wheels (in place of steel wheels and hub caps), which makes it look more like a civilian machine. The LX Sport has slightly larger alloy wheels (17 inch instead of 16 inch) and, when ordered in dark red, gray, black, or silver birch, includes color-matched monochrome trim. A black LX Sport looks a lot like an unmarked police car, so other drivers often will slow down and move to the right lane when you come up behind them, an extremely useful feature for highway commuters.
The Crown Victoria is one of the few remaining cars sold in America that still offers a bench front seat. (The LX Sport has leather buckets). Three-abreast seating is possible, but the middle spot is cramped, leaving the passenger to contend with the driveline hump. The soft seats in the Crown Vic feel good at first sit, but their lack of support makes them uncomfortable for longer drives. The back seat isn't as spacious as you might think given the Crown Victoria's size; Ford's newer Five Hundred sedan is far roomier inside, despite more compact exterior dimensions. Shorter drivers fit just fine, though, and they'll appreciate the available power-adjustable pedals. This welcomed feature, optional on all three versions of the Crown Victoria, moves the brake and accelerator pedals closer to the driver, allowing him or her to sit a safe distance from the steering wheel and its airbag. Instruments and controls are fairly simple and straightforward, if somewhat outdated and unstylish.