- Subtly distinctive styling
- Warm interior luxury touches
- Respectable 400 horsepower
- Lincoln brand all but unknown
- The antithesis of flash
- Front-wheel-drive underpinnings
The 2017 Lincoln Continental is a new entry in a competitive luxury sedan segment, but its quiet lines are distinctive and it doubles down on interior warmth, comfort, and ease of use.
In reviving a legendary name that hasn't been used since 2002, the 2017 Lincoln Continental sedan resumes the flagship role it occupied before it was downsized in the 1990s. The new Continental will supplant the departing and little-noticed Lincoln MKS sedan, providing what Lincoln says it intends to be an "elegant, effortlessly powerful, serene full-size sedan that delivers quiet luxury."
Unlike sedans from Lexus, Infiniti, and even Mercedes-Benz that are of similar size, the largest Lincoln sedan doesn't offer particularly expressive design. It's distinctive, but not a car that will stop traffic. Instead, it's a refined large sedan whose brand identity is denoted by the unique grille texture--a mesh of the vertical Lincoln shield outline--and large chrome letters spelling out "Lincoln" on the trunk. The production version isn't as crisp and sleek as the concept car, but it's certainly less heavy than the preceding MKS, and it's distinctive enough to stand apart. Quietly.
Almost like the former Ford band Volvo, though, it's inside that the Lincoln works to stand apart from other luxury cars. The company says the design is "contemporary" and "warm," and meant to "appeal to culturally progressive clients who define luxury on their own terms – craving superior quality, craftsmanship and safety." For a vehicle interior that must satisfy clients both in North America and China, that means rich materials with a host of unusual touches, starting with the same Lincoln shield shape on upholstery insets.
LED lights at the bottom of the front and in the taillamps that illuminate, followed by headlamps that "awaken," and then lights that illuminate the pavement around the front doors. Meanwhile, the interior lights illuminate the cabin--all as the driver approaches the car with the fob in a pocket. The driver has only to touch a button for the doors to open--and they'll fasten themselves shut as well once the driver pulls them closed. It's all in the service of "effortless" use by the owner.
The Continental fits so-called Perfect Position Seats, which offer up to 30 separate adjustments and are inspired, Lincoln says, by those in high-end office furniture or even private jets. Materials include materials include leather seating, unique stitching, leather-wrapped console and instrument panel, and trim with genuine aluminum or wood appliqués. Seat stitching uses six to seven stitches per inch for a couture-like appearance, and the slats of the center console door are laser-cut to maximize consistency of the grain pattern. The seats themselves offer optional features like massage, heat and cooling; and independent thigh extensions to provide support. The goal is to "help all occupants rejuvenate."
Crucially for the Chinese market, rear-seat passengers enjoy more than their share of amenities, with their own climate and audio controls, reclining heated seats that can also cool and even massage, and sunshades to screen occupants from glare. The whole interior is intended to cosset those inside, with both acoustic laminated glass and active noise control to hush the cabin. And they'll benefit more than the front occupants from the optional panoramic sunroof that covers virtually the entire roof. Its front half slides up and over the rear, giving fresh air and light to all passengers, but a greater feeling of spaciousness to those in the rear.
The new Continental is powered by a 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine that powers the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. All four wheels can be driven via an optional all-wheel-drive system that vectors torque to the appropriate rear wheel depending on speed, road conditions, and cornering. There will also be a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6, most likely as the base engine, as well as a 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6. Both of those engines will be paired with the six-speed automatic as well, with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive optional.
Three drive modes are built in: Normal, Comfort, and Sport, each of which alters the settings of both the steering and suspension to give the ride more compliance (Comfort) or a tauter road feel (Sport). Optional adaptive steering improves the crispness of on-road response and the car's reaction to driver inputs.
Numerous active-safety systems are available, including adaptive cruise control that operates down to a full stop in heavy traffic, and resumes speed once traffic ahead has cleared. A surround-vision image employs a 360-degree camera that stitches together views from cameras mounted in the grille, decklid and 180-degree side mirrors, creating a single image in the central touchscreen display that takes the stress out of parallel parking. There's also Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian detection, which brakes automatically up to a full stop to avoid or reduce an impact.
Options include a Revel audio system that works together with the acoustics of the cabin, transforming it into a personal amphitheater with three distinct listening modes – Stereo, Audience and On Stage. Three Lincoln Black Label designer themes can also be specified: Chalet, Thoroughbred and Continental-exclusive Rhapsody.
The 2017 Lincoln Continental will arrive in dealerships in the fall of 2016. Pricing and trim levels will be announced closer to the on-sale data, but according to Lincoln executives, the U.S. price will start below $50,000--or about $10,000 more than the MKS it replaces. All Continentals sold in North America are to be assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan.