Show me these 70's cars that supposedly routinely got 200,000+ miles, because while I have seen a few, 200,000 miles back then was most definitely the exception and not the rule. Remember the 70's and particularly the domestic cars from the post-fuel crisis era were some of the worst cars ever made.
As far as Cadillacs and Lincolns coming with standard AC, power steering, and whatnot, that was not the point. The point is that today you could go to any dealer lot, regardless of brand, and pick out the absolute cheapest, most econo-box type model they offer, and it'll come with all of those things and more. The point being made was that even today's cheapest cars offer more standard equipment and luxuries than many of the top-of-the-line models from 10 years ago. That's a drastic difference.
OP responding to 20:50.
I actually read that article on the Truth about Cars, which you mentioned. The author of the article is a fan of full size American cars. I found that to be a refreshing change.
Before I say anything else, let me state that I know the Marquis is dated and doesn't appeal to everyone. My point is that its dated features are outweighed by its positive attributes, and that it meets my needs. I feel such cars can meet the needs of many regular folks.
My comments about the automotive press, and they way they judge cars, were made because of two particular issues I have. Firstly, while any sports car worth its salt should certainly be put through the slalom, and should be expected to handle it flawlessly, an average family car need not be. I remember many years ago seeing a Dodge Caravan receive a negative score because of how it handled through the cones. Now of course a car must be able to negotiate a turn in an emergency. But we all know any car that couldn't be driven safely, wouldn't be for sale.
So if you're pitting a Vette against a Viper, or a BMW M3 against a comparable sports sedan, it makes sense. My issue is when regular, everyday cars, which are not competing with the aforementioned models, are given poor reviews for not handling like a European performance car. Furthermore, in real life driving, for the majority of drivers, a hard suspension designed for sharp handling sees little use, since we have things like speed limits, stop lights and traffic signs to slow us down. There's no Autobahn here. Having a comfortable suspension is more "usable" by the average American. Expert car reviews have made us forget that. Except in certain cases... see the next paragraph.
Second, and this is the one that bothers me the most. Slap a Toyota emblem on the Grand Marquis, and watch the so called experts give it five stars. Instead of talking about the "ancient" or "truck like" body on frame construction, they'd rave about how it can (theoretically) tow more than a unibody. They'd purr about its smooth ride, making a comment about how "it might not be like a BMW, BUT...". But Ford makes it, so they say it handles like an ocean liner. The front bench I mentioned in my review would get credit for its utility if it were in a Toyota or Honda, but since it's from an American manufacturer, it's considered ridiculous. I can go on and on about this, you get the idea. This is why I take Consumer Reports about as seriously as a Dr. Seuss book. I don't see many Japanese cars being criticized for not being BMWs, and there's no way an Accord, Camry, etc. drives like one anymore so than my Marquis, a Chevy Malibu or a Ford Taurus. Comparisons are made, yes, but it doesn't break the deal.
I'll always take owner reviews far more seriously than any expert review, thus my frequency on this website.
OK, a base Toyota Yaris for example is going to have more features than a Caddy or Lincoln from 10 years ago???
I don't think so.
I agree with some of the things you say in that the Grand Marquis (and its identical twin the Crown Vic) did get somewhat of a bad rap. But that said, the car was ancient. My Grandad had one of these in the early 90's, and one of my buddies has one. Personally I don't find anything terribly wrong with the car, but it's pretty old-school. It definitely pitches and rolls in the turns. The interior was almost a throwback. The ride was floaty.
That said, I can see some of what you say in that yes - comparing it to a Bimmer or a Toyota isn't exactly fair. The Crown Vic was what it was: an American car on an aged platform. Anyone buying one of these knew it and anyone who works for the automotive press should not have been surprised by it in the least: They were essentially a holdover from another era, that in some ways has sadly disappeared as now many American cars are built off of platforms developed overseas, or in some cases from entirely different brands.
The Crown Vic was in essence one of the last truly "American" cars. It was made back when that was what people wanted to drive: Big floaty cars. What it did, it did well. It was rugged and reliable. Reliable because they'd had decades to work out all the kinks. But times and tastes change. It was still a aged model sheathed in an updated skin. Even though I wasn't a huge fan of it, I will miss them.
It does not matter about what features a base model of any marque has compared to what was on offer from the luxury or even base models of yesteryear. What matters in my opinion is my opinion, and that is none of today's cars were designed by anyone of any good. Only idiots creating bulbous looking horrendous cars, that would make an onion cry.
Cast iron V-8 engines, heavy duty transmissions, full frame construction - why wouldn't 70s cars do 200,000+ miles? They were essentially low-slung, soft-sprung trucks, and trucks do that kind of mileage all the time.
I had many that did so, either while I owned them or with (even more) financially challenged folks I sold them to in our town, who I often saw driving them for years after I passed them on. 300,000 is less common, but with the better made ones it wasn't rare - I know of one 1977 Grand Prix own by a friend that made it to that mark, and one 1973 Cadillac that I owned which did so as well.
I also worked as a taxi driver when I was a graduate student, and I can report that 300,000 was just ordinary for 1980s Chevy Caprices and Dodge Diplomats that we used for taxis.
Well I can't literally show them to you, but for starters you can check some of the reviews on this site, or even look on E-bay at some of the 70's vehicles for sale; most are low mileage gems, but I have seen my share of others with over 200,000 MI.
As far as experience goes; in the mid 80's, my cousin owned a towing and road service company, and the cars used for road service were (post fuel crises) full-size wagons from GM and Ford. All 6 of them went over 200,000 miles, including a Pontiac Safari that went to 300,000.
I also owned a 1977 Grand Prix that I toyed around with as a weekend car; it didn't have high mileage, but still in the 3 years I had it not an ounce of trouble.
I'm not going to go any further with the whole econo cars of today having more options than luxury cars of yesterday, because it is simply not true.