My parents were looking for a used family car that could seat 6- 2 adults, 1 teenager, 2 elementary school kids, and one car seat.
We looked at a "bubble" Taurus wagon. All the seats were stiff, especially the rear bench for "3", or rather "2.5". The ride was stiff as well. Nice versatility being a wagon, though. It had the best looks and paint out of the cars we looked at.
Considered a Dodge Intrepid, and while it was more comfortable than the Taurus in almost every aspect of comfort, the rear seats were still a bit stiff, and the suspension still too 'sporty' for my parents' tastes. It also had higher mileage. Dodge unreliability prompted us to skip it.
Seriously considered a (2000?) Crown Vic. Plush cloth seats and very roomy. It was either/or between the CV and the Lumina.
In the end, we got the Lumina, after past experiences with Ford transmissions ('87 Ranger, '94 Tempo) and reading about tranny problems with Crown Vics. Both cars seat 6 comfortably, but the Lumina does so with more finesse. It felt like a smaller car, without making you feel dimunitive and puny on the highway. We felt the FWD Chevy would fare better in wet or icy conditions versus the RWD Ford. The Lumina gets better gas mileage (observed 20 city/ 30 highway) and the 3.1 still hauls when packed full.
The ride is the softest I've personally ridden, aside from luxury cars. The engine is quiet enough to make you think it's not even on when idling, but gives a nice tone when you open the throttle (compared to our previous Tempo). I've tried to start it when it was running. It could probably use some new struts, and the cheap tires (Hankook) on factory steelies probably don't help the ride. Friends who have ridden with me commented on how plush the seats are. All the seats are good enough for long trips, and the back seats continue to be the most comfortable rear seats we've ever sat in- including the newer Impala/Malibu/Buick Century.
Body lean is prevalent, steering light, and power is easily found below 3k RPMs, 4k if you really need to get going. It understeers and leans like a pig if driven too aggressively. Overall an easy driving experience.
Power locks work great, as does power trunk release, the latter only operating when car is in 'Park'. Power windows have aged, the left passenger window stopped rolling down, and the front 2 are getting rough.
The rear defrost is handy. No problems there.
The audio system, while not the greatest, gets the job done. Simple and easy to use. +1 for the non-Bose components, everything is easy to replace should you feel the need.
We were able to do several 200+ miles trips without any major problems.
It's put up with my teenage driving tendencies, and is an excellent first car, IMO.
If you can find one in good condition, buy it. I hope to keep this car through college.