Full-size car

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1991–1996 Buick Roadmaster

A full-size car is a marketing term used in North America for an automobile larger than a mid-size car. Traditional U.S. full-size passenger cars were designed to be comfortable for six occupants and their luggage for long-distance driving. In the United States, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently uses the term "large car" to denote full-size cars based on their combined interior passenger and luggage volume.


1959 Plymouth Fury four-door hardtop (no B-pillar)
1967 AMC Ambassador with standard three adult-sized front bench with reclining seat backs
1970 Ford LTD four-door hardtop

The traditional full-size passenger cars that were built by the U.S. automakers (General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors) up to the 1970s "can carry six occupants plus vast amounts of luggage over long distances in great comfort, with more than adequate performance, and will give reasonable gas mileage under such conditions."[1]

Full-size cars were also denoted for their length, nearing 5,000 mm (197 in) in basic low-priced, family sedans. The luxury models often tended to reach 5,350 mm (211 in). Previously, a wheelbase greater than 2,790 mm (110 in) was the criterion for full-size. The term first appeared in the early 1960s to distinguish what also became known as "standard"-size cars from the new compact and intermediate models then being introduced.[citation needed] Full-size is also defined in space measurement as greater than 3,300 L (120 ft³) of combined passenger and cargo interior volume.[2]

Use of the term in North America became popular (and necessary) after the introduction of compacts by the U.S. "Detroit Big Three" for the 1960 model year, and then a few years later the introduction of what became known as mid-size cars. While length and wheelbase varied (increasing over time) being considered full-size required a width as close as practical to the 80 in (2,032 mm) width limit over which the federal government required vehicles to have clearance lights.[citation needed] The term was most correctly applied to cars close to the width limit carrying nameplates of "The Low Priced Three", Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth.

Manufacturers hoped their slightly more expensive brands such as Pontiac, Mercury, and Dodge, would be perceived by the public as more desirable than a full-size car even in situations where they were not any larger. However, while the difference between a full-size car, a basic large Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth, and a luxury car such as Cadillac, Lincoln, or Imperial, was clear, both manufacturers and consumers had difficulty classifying those in between, such as large Pontiacs, Mercurys, or Dodges. Manufacturers contributed to the lack of distinction by marketing models of their premium brands into the lower price ranges with what had previously been considered medium-priced brands.

For 1977, General Motors downsized its full-size (and higher priced) cars, with overall width cut from approximately 80 in (2,032 mm) to the mid-70 inch range. Chevrolet, Pontiac, and the less expensive Oldsmobile and Buick models had a 116-inch wheelbase. More expensive Oldsmobile and Buick models, plus the Cadillac had a 119 in (3,023 mm) wheelbase, but no more width. The cars sold less well than the 1976 models.[3] Ford and Chrysler downsized for 1979, the latter even building its Chrysler R platform, which was comparable in size to the new platforms designed by GM and Ford. By this time, a huge increase in gasoline prices had made it difficult to sell any large cars, downsized or not. Chrysler had the huge misfortune of introducing two consecutive new designs of its largest cars, in 1974 and 1979, during times when gasoline prices suddenly increased.

The EPA interior and trunk volume categories for the most part resulted in mid-size, full-size, and luxury cars common in the mid-1970s all being classified as large cars. The 1980s Chrysler M platform, classified as large cars at the time, were derived from the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare, originally marketed as compacts.

While many modern cars are referred to as full-size, they do not qualify for the term as used in the 1960s and 1970s. Consumer acceptance of large SUVs approaching 80 inches in width shows interest remains in vehicles capable of three-across seating with reasonable comfort, a strong point of a true full-size car.

Full-size cars such as the Ford Crown Victoria are almost always used for police cars in the United States. This is usually due to the amount of interior space for an arrestee as well as trunk volume for computer and electrical equipment. Interior space and trunk volume also make such vehicles popular for taxi use.

Decline and renaissance[edit]

1974 AMC Ambassador sedan
Downsized 1981-1985 Chevrolet Impala, 116 in (2,946 mm) wheelbase

The sales of full-size vehicles in the United States declined after the early 1970s fuel crisis. By that time, full-size cars had grown to wheelbases of 121–127 inches (3.1–3.2 m) and overall lengths of around 225 in (5,715 mm). In the 1970s, due to the fuel crisis and the resulting rise in fuel costs, many people traded in their full-size cars for smaller models such as the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick, and Plymouth Valiant, also it was during this time small Japanese cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic gained popularity. American Motors discontinued its full-size 122-inch (3,099 mm) wheelbase AMC Ambassador in 1974[4] and starting in the late-1970s, the other American automakers began selling full-size cars with smaller exterior dimensions and smaller, more fuel efficient engines. That, combined with gas being cheap once again in the late-1980s, full-size cars regained popularity.

Chrysler discontinued its full-size cars (Dodge Diplomat, Chrysler Fifth Avenue, and Plymouth Gran Fury) in 1989. General Motors discontinued its full-size cars ( Chevrolet Impala SS/Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Roadmaster, Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, and Cadillac Fleetwood) in 1996. The 2011 model year was the final year of production of the Ford Panther platform (the Ford Crown Victoria/Ford Police Interceptor, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car).

During the 1980s and 1990s, full-size cars lost ground to other vehicle types as family vehicles. Initially, full-size sedans and station wagons lost ground to vans, which offered additional seating and cargo capacity with lower fuel consumption. During the 1990s, full-size sedans and wagons lost further ground to mid-size and full-size SUVs, as they had similar towing capacity and a V8 engine started becoming an option in mid-size versions. In North America, full-size station wagons would vanish during the 1990s; Ford was the first to discontinue theirs after the 1991 model year, with GM following suit after 1996.

As fuel costs increase, more consumers select more efficient vehicles. These include automobiles such as compact and mid-size vehicles powered by smaller, more efficient engines. American-brand full-size sedans such as Buicks, and luxury full-size Deville DTS (Cadillac DTS) are still best-selling in the full-size segment. However, there is a serious attack on full-size by automakers to replace the size with price range. For example, a review by USA News, named "Best luxury large cars of 2008" included only one large car (Cadillac DTS) while the others are mid-size cars. This is mostly because, in Europe, full-size cars only exist as absolute luxury cars (F segment). In 2010, less than a half percent of the new cars sold in Germany fit into this category.[5] In other European countries, even the D- and E segments (making together the equivalent to U.S. mid-size cars are not common).

Outside North America[edit]

A "large family car," the equivalent of a full-size car class in Australian terms,[citation needed] often denoted by width.[citation needed] Therefore, the Ford Falcon, Toyota Aurion and Holden Commodore are considered large cars in the Australian and New Zealand markets. These cars are sometimes referred to as "family cars" in Australia, and are typically 4,800 mm (189 in) or more in length.

In Europe, the terms "executive car" and "luxury car" may refer to cars of this size.

List of full-size cars[edit]

Note: This list is current as of the 2014 model year.

Current full-size cars[edit]

An asterisk denotes a car available with 6-passenger seating

Company Model Area(s) Sold
Acura Acura RLX United States, Canada, Mexico, China
Aston Martin Aston Martin Rapide Worldwide
Audi Audi A7 Worldwide
Audi Audi A8 Worldwide, except Iran
Bentley Bentley Continental Flying Spur Worldwide
Bentley Bentley Mulsanne Worldwide
BMW BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe Worldwide
BMW BMW 7 Series Worldwide
Buick Buick Park Avenue China
Cadillac Cadillac XTS United States, Canada, Mexico, Middle East, China, South Korea
Chevrolet Chevrolet Impala United States, Canada, Mexico, Middle East
Chevrolet Chevrolet Caprice Middle East, North America(PPV only)
Chevrolet Chevrolet SS United States
Chrysler Chrysler 300 North America, Middle East, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, Ireland
Chrysler Lancia Thema Europe(except UK and Ireland)
Dodge Dodge Charger United States, Canada, and Mexico, Middle East
Fisker Fisker Karma United States, Canada, Mexico, Western Europe
Ford Ford Taurus North America, Middle East
Ford Performance Vehicles FPV F6 Australia, New Zealand
FPV FPV GT Australia, New Zealand
FPV Ford Falcon Australia, New Zealand
Hawtai Hawtai B11 China
Hongqi Hongqi HQ3 China
Holden Holden Commodore Australia, New Zealand
Holden Holden VF Commodore Australia, New Zealand
Holden Holden Caprice Australia, New Zealand
Holden Special Vehicles HSV Senator Australia, New Zealand
HSV HSV Grange Australia, New Zealand
HSV HSV GTS Australia, New Zealand
Hyundai Hyundai Genesis South Korea, Middle East, United States, Canada, Mexico, South America
Hyundai Hyundai Equus South Korea, Middle East, United States, Canada, Mexico, South America
Hyundai Hyundai Grandeur South Korea, Middle East, United States, Canada
Jaguar Jaguar XJ worldwide
Kia Kia K7/Cadenza South Korea, Middle East, China, United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe
Kia K9/Quoris/K900 South Korea, Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, China, United States, Canada, Mexico
Lexus Lexus ES worldwide
Lexus Lexus LS worldwide
Lincoln Lincoln MKS United States, Canada, Mexico, Middle East, South Korea, Japan
Maserati Maserati Quattroporte worldwide
Mazda Mazda Sentia worldwide
Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Worldwide
Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz S-Class worldwide
Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Dignity Japan
Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Proudia Japan
Nissan Nissan Prince Royal Japan
Nissan Nissan President Japan
Nissan Nissan Maxima the Americas, Russia, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, China
Porsche Porsche Panamera worldwide, except Iran and Libya
Pyeonghwa Pyeonghwa Junma North Korea
Renault Samsung Motors Renault Samsung SM7 South Korea
Rolls-Royce Rolls-Royce Ghost worldwide
Rolls-Royce Rolls-Royce Phantom worldwide
Street and Racing Technology SRT 300 North America, Middle East, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, Ireland
SRT SRT Charger United States, Canada, and Mexico, Middle East
SsangYong Ssangyong Chairman W South Korea, China, Europe, Central Asia, Australia, New Zealand
Tesla Tesla Model S United States, Canada, Mexico, Middle East, Europe, Australia, New Zealand
Toyota Toyota Avalon United States, Canada, Mexico, Middle East
Toyota Toyota Century Japan
Toyota Toyota Crown Majesta Japan, South East Asia, China
VL VL Destino United States, Canada
Volkswagen Volkswagen Phaeton worldwide, except United States
Volvo Cars Volvo S80 worldwide, except Iran and North Korea
ZiL ZiL Lux Sedan Russia

Discontinued full-size cars[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Norbye, Jan; Dunne, Jim (February 1974). "Is there still a place for FULL-SIZE cars?". Popular Science 204 (2): 24, 26, 30, 34, and 35. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions: How are vehicle size classes defined?". fueleconomy.gov (U.S. Department of Energy). Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Flammang, James M. (2000). Standard Catalog Of American Cars 1976-1985. Krause Publications. ISBN 9780873411134. 
  4. ^ Cranswick, Marc (2001). "AMC's Final Full-Size - Ambassador - 1967-74". Cars of American Motors: An Illustrated History. McFarland. pp. 167–176. ISBN 978-0-7864-4672-8. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Pkw-Neuzulassungen im Jahr 2010" (in German). Heise.de. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 

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