Landyacht is colloquial term in the United States, Australia and parts of Canada, used to describe the large sedans that American automobile manufacturers produced, particularly full-size, rear-wheel drive sedans, from the 1950s through the 1990s. Features commonly found in vehicles that are referred to as landyachts include not only very generous exterior proportions, but also 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. In Germany and other German-speaking countries in Europe Landyacht can be translated with Straßenkreuzer, which means “road cruiser”. Also like landyacht originates Straßenkreuzer in the largeness and the floaty handling.
The term essentially describes large cars as yachts that ride on land, evoking the relative size, maneuverability, and luxury of the water vessel.
The term is most commonly applied to the large American cars of the pre oil crisis era. American automobile manufacturers placed much of their emphaisis in the engineering of their vehicles on size and amenities during this time, as consumers were not conerned 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 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:
- vinyl roofs (sometimes called carriage tops or Brougham tops)
- opera windows
- Heavy chrome brightwork, especially on the fenders and grille
- Heavily cushioned, very roomy interior, usually upholstered in leather, vinyl, velour, or cloth
- whitewall tires (especially in the 1950s and 1960s)
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. Arguably, Cadillac's discontinuation of the Fleetwood sedan in 1996 marked the demise of the last "true" landyacht.
Despite the comeback of full-size rear wheel drive sedans in the US, such as the Chrysler 300, 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 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, vehicles using the Ford Panther platform, 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.
- Definition and list of full-size cars
- List of largest passenger vehicles in the United States
- Passenger vehicles in the United States
- List of car manufacturers