2017 Lincoln Continental Review: A legend reborn
By Dan Heyman
August 23rd 2017
While it’s been absent since the early 2000s, the Lincoln Continental remains one of the most recognized nameplates not only in the luxury sector, but in the automotive industry as a whole. It’s carried presidents and movie stars alike (both of the real and invented variety, if we’re talking about HBO’s Entourage), inspired the name of a body mod—the Continental spare tire—that now graces everything from Cadillacs to Chryslers (not to mention Lincolns), and will always be rooted in history (albeit somewhat infamously) after the events of November 22, 1963.
One has to ask, then: How did such a proud nameplate—the beacon of not only Lincoln but some may say the whole of Ford’s golden era—become a jellybean-shaped, front-wheel drive fleet special before eventually bowing out in 2002, leaving the even more rental-friendly LS as the only car the brand offered, aside from the Town Car livery? This latest Continental aims to answer those questions.
Pros & Cons
- + Build quality
- + Handling
- + Value for money
- - Rear seat space
- - Fuel economy
- - Transmission
Looking at it, you’re more likely to recall those well-loved classics than something more recent. Apart from, perhaps, the current MKZ; the two can be tough to distinguish from certain angles.
Still, the Conti’s details are appealing. The way the door pulls (no, they are not of the suicide variety, sorry) are chromed and mounted to the window surrounds gives the impression of solidity, while the neutral stance is almost limousine-like in its silhouette, which makes sense if you’re trying to channel Contis of old. I’m also a fan of the properly modern 19-inch two-tone wheels on our tester, though I wouldn’t complain if it had the optional 20s, which are befitting of a sled like this.
As it should be in the luxury game, however, it’s all about the details. The way the grille is made up of mini Lincoln star emblems, for example. Or the rich “Continental” scripting on the front wings, or the nicely-shaped wing mirrors, whose struts are crafted from a single piece of steel and look as though they could scythe through air. It’s a smart and handsome styling package that’s almost all good, save for the headlights being mounted a little lower on the front fascia than I’d like, making the leading edge of the hood resemble a Neanderthal-like brow.
Tons to like in here, but so there should be. It’s the story of two interiors, however. The “Rear Seat Package” essentially turns your Continental into a limousine: airliner-like seats, massive centre console with digital climate control, and all manner of privacy screens to lower or raise. You also get a seat massage system. It’s top-class luxury, for sure.
Our car was the standard version, so you lose all that, but you’re still left with ample legroom, gorgeous leather seating, and climate controls, not to mention the massive tempered moon roof that lets in plenty of sunlight—or not. Both models enjoy great details like real aluminum inserts as well as open-pore wood if you so choose. It all contributes to a feeling of solidness befitting a car in this segment.
Less befitting (pun incoming) is the amount of headspace in the back. Legroom isn’t a problem—there’s 1,049 mm of it—but if you’re six feet or taller, headroom’s going to be an issue. Even non-luxury mid-sizers will give it a run for its money: the Honda Accord, for example, has almost as much vertical space. It’s good there’s so much legroom, as it lets us taller folk slide our butts forward to ensure we don’t emerge with a new hairdo.
The overall feeling, however, is a good one. From the dampered glovebox to the air-tight panel gaps, modifiable ambient lighting and cabin air filtration, this car is a nice place to be.
Put simply: There’s a lot of it. The front seats have traditional button controls, but also digital ones accessed through the 8” display screen for your upper/lower lumbar and heating. It also gets the latest Lincoln SYNC3 tech, a slick infotainment interface that’s up there with the best in the biz thanks to its big buttons, responsive touchscreen and intuitive menus. If that’s not good enough, there’s also support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The two interfaces can easily be switched between as well. It’s fantastic.
All the expected driver aids are present at base: forward/backward object-sensing system, brake assist, rear-view camera, satellite radio and 10-speaker audio. Upgrading to the Reserve trim (one of two available in Canada) gets you 13-speaker audio, tri-zone climate control and rear cross-traffic alert. You do have to drop an additional $3,000 to get adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, active park assist (the car handles the steering during parking; you handle the brake and throttle) and pedestrian detection.
The real highlight of the tech story, however, is the audio system. Lincoln worked closely with Revel audio to craft a sound system that works within the confines of the car. Body panels and interior dash and door inserts were all taken into consideration when designing and placing the speakers, providing as close to a concert-like atmosphere as I’ve ever felt in a car before. Add three audio modes (Stereo, Audience and On-Stage) and you get a complete package that sounds like your favorite guitarist is right there with you. It even upgrades MP3 and satellite radio files to provide a crisper sound. It takes $1,250 to get it, but it’s 100 per cent worth it.
As surprising as that audio is, the drive experience shouldn’t be understated. Two engines are available in Canada, both turbocharged V6s: a 2.7 and a 3.0 litre, the latter of which was found in our car and good for 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, fed to all four wheels. American markets get a FWD option, but AWD is your only choice up here, which is probably right on when it comes to knowing your market.
Ford/Lincoln’s EcoBoost motors exist all across the various brands for good reason; they’re smooth, powerful and pretty efficient (we saw 16 l/100 km during our test, which had us mostly cruising city streets).
Even with a 1,916 kg curb weight, the 400 hp Conti moves with gumption, reaching highway speeds with very little complaint or drama, though it makes do with a six-speed automatic as opposed to the 8- and 10-speeds we’re starting to see in competitors such as the Genesis G90. Lincoln maintains that six is more than enough, as the ratios are spaced widely enough that the car can remain in its power band without having to constantly shuffle through its gears, which can make for somewhat clunky progress.
That said, you wonder if a more advanced transmission would make for greater efficiency than the 16 litres per 100 we saw. The transmission is controlled via a button stack mounted to the left of the infotainment screen, and there are also paddles, a pretty surprising sight considering the car’s luxury chauffeur-driven digs.
The same can be said for the Conti’s S mode, which decreases the steering ratio and tightens up the standard adaptive dampers. At this point, the big Linc’s MO as a livery special gets thrown out the window thanks to very active steering and well-controlled body movements. If we’re honest, we found the steering to be almost too sensitive at times: You wouldn’t want to drive on the straight and narrow in this mode, as you’ll be correcting to stay straight and narrow a little too often. Keep it in D mode, and the ride is a buttery-smooth one that reflects the luxuriously-appointed interior.
At the outset, both the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series start at a higher price, and both are slightly smaller inside than the Continental. Points for the Lincoln right there. Of course, that leaves you with the less-powerful 2.7L engine, and an upgrade to the 3.0L we had will run you an additional $3,500, upping your base MSRP from $56,900 to $60,400. You also get AWD as standard, which is not the case for the pricier Cadillac CT6. In this company, the Continental is right on the money.
At the launch of the 2017 Continental, the engineers and designers that worked on the car were very clear in communicating how exciting it was to be reigniting such a fine nameplate. It’s not smoke and mirrors, either: they’ve done a great job here. Indeed, with a name like that, and for a flagship sedan like this, you’d better get it right. Now, about that back seat…