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A landyacht (alternatively slab) is an informal category of large sedans that American automobile manufacturers produced, particularly full-size, rear-wheel drive sedans, from the 1950s through the 1990s. Features commonly found in landyachts include very generous exterior proportions, somewhat vague steering, and a "spongy" ride with a feeling that is often described as being "floaty." Today, the term is applied to large, traditional American sedans, regardless of the actual characteristics featured in the vehicle, and to recreational vehicles.
The term is most commonly applied to the large American cars of the pre-oil crisis era. American automobile manufacturers placed much of their emphasis in the engineering of their vehicles on size and amenities during this time, as consumers were not concerned with fuel efficiency due to low gas prices, a lack of environmental awareness, and rising prosperity among the middle class. Cars of this era remain known for size, large and powerful V8 engines coupled with 3 or 4 speed automatic transmissions, excessive fuel consumption, and an emphasis on ride comfort at the expense of handling.
Design, as much as size, distinguished the landyacht sedans. While European and later Japanese car manufacturers often produced cars just as large and expensive, American marques distinguished themselves with eye-catching and innovative - though sometimes kitschy and absurd - design and marketing. Cars from Cadillac, Lincoln, Buick, and other American brands featured elaborate, often overdone, styling, in contrast to the more understated styling of German and British cars. In addition to simply being a large car, landyachts often included the following:
After the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s, American automakers never fully recovered from the decline in popularity of full-size sedans and coupes. Japanese automakers had successfully penetrated the market by catering to an American auto market that had become more interested in fuel economy and reliability than aesthetics and glamor. By the 1990s, American car-makers had learned to compete, producing smaller, more efficient - albeit visually uninspiring - mid-size cars like the Ford Taurus. GM's discontinuation of both of their B platform, which included the Buick Roadmaster and Chevrolet Caprice and its D platform (Cadillac Fleetwood) in 1996 marked the demise of that company's "true" landyachts, while Ford's full-size V8/rear-drive Panther platform, which underpinned the Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis survived till the end of the 2011 model year (although the Crown Victoria was sold as a fleet model only from 2008-2011).
Despite the comeback of full-size rear wheel drive sedans in the US, such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, modern cars are usually now only referred to as Landyachts in a derogatory sense and performance oriented cars such as the 300 share few distinguishing characteristics with the sedans from the 1950s, 60s and 70s for which the term was originally coined.
The term landyacht is, however, applied to modern cars as well. Most commonly, it is applied to vehicles using the General Motors B platform, which was cancelled in 1996, as well as the Cadillac Deville and its successor the Cadillac DTS (despite its front wheel drive layout), even though these cars would have been considered mid-sized before the oil crisis.
Interestingly enough, the term is not applied to even the largest and most opulent non-domestic vehicles. Though German sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz S Class and the Japanese Lexus LS 430 rival their American counterparts in terms of size and opulence, they are distinguished by more sophisticated construction, much higher cost (Land Yachts usually compete in price with the entry level cars from foreign luxury marques) and a greater focus on handling, build quality and materials. However, some Korean luxury cars such as the Hyundai XG 350 (also appropriately called Grandeur and Azera) and the Kia Amanti do share many attributes with true Land Yachts, such as focus on comfort and ride quality above handling, and some styling characteristics.