What is a limousine?

A 2017 Lincoln Continental limousine by Specialty Conversions driving down the Las Vegas Strip. Photo courtesy of LimoForSale.com.
A 2017 Lincoln Continental limousine by Specialty Conversions driving down the Las Vegas Strip. Photo courtesy of LimoForSale.com.

If you’ve ever wondered “What is a limousine?”, we might be able to help! At VIP Limousine, we have the largest fleet of them in the state of Utah, but a limousine may mean something a little bit different to you or me. In fact, the term meant something very different in the earlier days of the car, and sometimes still does, but for different reasons.

The term “limousine” is a word with French origins. It comes from the administrative region of Limousin in France, disbanded and reorganized in January of 2016, and refers to a type of hooded cloak worn by inhabitants of the region. The earliest limousine vehicles somewhat reflected this in that many of them left the chauffeur exposed to the elements! The vehicles only had a roof over the passenger compartment. If the chauffeur was lucky, sometimes there was a detachable cover which could be fitted between the B pillar and the windshield. In time, as the vehicles became increasingly upscale, the roof extended over the entire interior of the vehicle.

In many countries around the world, the term “limousine” stands simply for a standard sedan body. In England, these are referred to as “saloons.” As soon as they are stretched, though, our U.K. friends also refer to them as limousines. This includes the long-wheelbase models of standard cars, such as the Audi A8L, for example, where the manufacturer inserts several additional inches of legroom without requiring any extra customization.

In the United States, “limousine” almost always refers to a stretched luxury vehicle, whether it is done by a coachbuilder or the manufacturer. Some examples include the Lincoln Town Car Executive L and Signature L, which were lengthened versions of the standard Town Car sedan and were often fitted with extra luxuries. A multitude of coachbuilders have made many stretched Town Cars over its 30-year lifespan though, including Executive Coach Builders, which is a supplier of the VIP Limousine Fleet. Some of these vehicles come from the factory with special built-in points or features to help make limousine manufacturing easier. With the Lincoln MKT crossover SUV, for example, Ford puts plugs in the wiring where the vehicle gets cut and then also supplies a connector cord to put between them once the vehicle is stretched. Chrysler keeps the beltline of the 300 sedan flat and level with the ground below in order to make fitting the new windows and body easier. It also helps keep the styling clean.

In recent years, the limousine market has included demand for SUV limousines. We see them in the forms of the Hummer H2, Hummer H3, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Mercedes-Benz G Class, and some specialty SUV options such as the Range Rover, Audi Q7, and Infiniti QX80. However, with the exception of a few and with the impending production of the new Lincoln Navigator, the SUV limousine market is thinner than it once was. Bling is out; discretion is in.

This is where limousines, too, can really shine. Enter the new Lincoln Continental. Even in the 1960s, this low-slung machine was a stately king of the road, but it wasn’t flashy and it didn’t stand out. It did, however, have leading-edge comfort and those sweet suicide doors, and was one of the last four-door convertibles ever to come off of a production line. The newest Continental is not a convertible, but it is definitely a vehicle of presidential qualities. The sleek styling and commodious, high-quality interior, especially in stretch limo form, make for a truly unique experience. Lincoln gifted the new Continental with LED lighting, slim door handles, a powerful and efficient engine, and the latest in technology for a quiet, luxury ride. In standard wheelbase form, the Continental really shines with its still-generous interior proportions and luxurious features. It also highlights a move to build in extra legroom as standard without having a special “L” model for more space.

But beating the newest rendition of the Continental to the punch was an unlikely source: Mercedes-Benz. When the coachbuilders discovered they could make the humble Sprinter van into a full-scale luxury party bus, they took off in appeal. The Sprinter is now easily one of the most popular limousine vehicles for several reasons. First, they’re extremely easy for anyone to get in and out of, thanks to the massive sliding door, generous steps, and the wide entryway between the seats. Second, with the space in the back it’s easy to move around inside and get situated. Plus, it’s very easy to customize thanks to all of the space within, so they’re very much limousines in terms of style and design. Third, because they’re built by Mercedes-Benz, the powertrains are endlessly reliable, so the limousine companies are able to use them for a long time and keep running costs lower. They’re also cost-effective because they don’t have to be stretched…they’re already massive! With the new Continental back on the market, Mercedes-Benz has work to do keeping the Sprinter relevant, but it opened up a new niche for limousine clients.

At VIP Limousine, to us, a limousine is a statement. It is something which speaks of fun, celebration, coming together, enjoying company, a special occasion…really, it’s whatever YOU use it for. That’s what it means to us. Whether the vehicle of choice is a traditional Town Car, an updated Continental, an imposing SUV limousine, or even one of the Sprinter party buses, a limousine is all about you and your experience.

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