by Frank A. Aukofer
The Ford Motor Co. resurrected a storied luxury nameplate with the 2017 Lincoln Continental.
It didn’t happen without controversy. When the concept was introduced, the chief designer at Great Britain’s Bentley accused Lincoln of copy-catting the Bentley Flying Spur, a luxury sedan which, curiously enough, was built off the same platform as Bentley’s own Continental, a high-performance coupe and convertible.
But Bentley could not gripe about the name because Lincoln had an unassailable prior claim, having introduced its Continental in 1939 — also as a coupe and convertible. It carried on through 10 generations of sedans, coupes and convertibles, with arguably its most beautiful and famous the Continental coupe of 1956-57.
Lincoln canceled the Continental in 2002 as superfluous because it already had the big Town Car and the LS model, which did double duty as the British Jaguar S-Type at a time when Ford owned Jaguar.
Over the later years, Lincoln sagged as Ford neglected it, along with the now-defunct Mercury, to concentrate on high-profit models, especially the Ford F-Series pickup trucks. Lincoln was eclipsed by Cadillac and new luxury cars from Japan and Germany.
After the recession of 2008, Ford started a campaign to recapture Lincoln’s aura, renaming its luxury division as the Lincoln Motor Co. Yet by 2012, its U.S. sales remained the lowest in a group of luxury and near-luxury vehicles behind Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
Now with the livery-centric Town Car gone, the 2017 Continental reigns as Lincoln’s pinnacle in a competitive fleet of luxury cars and crossovers, as well as the full-size body-on-frame Navigator sport utility vehicle.
The new Continentals are starting to turn up as classy for-hire conveyances, though the complaint from drivers is that they do not have big enough trunks compared to the sturdy old body-on-frame Town Car sedans, which had a run from 1981 to 2011.
But Lincoln already has finessed that by revamping its full-size three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, the MKT, with the second row of seats moved back to provide additional leg room and the third row eliminated entirely for luggage space.
Oh, and just so everybody gets the message, that special MKT bears a Town Car badge.
Regardless of any resemblance to the Bentley Flying Spur, the new Continental looks the part of a classic luxury car (though it sells for less money than most of its competitors, some of which break into six figures). The model tested for this review, the top-of-the-line AWD (all-wheel-drive) Reserve, came with a starting price of $57,000 and, with full safety equipment and a complement of optional convenience and luxury features, topped out at $75,020.
For luxury car fans, this is one to salivate over. It has a comfortable, even cushy, ride without inducing motion sickness like some of the big luxury sedans of yore. The tested Continental even had built-in massage therapy for the driver and front passenger, including settings to knead both the back and buttocks.
Three engines are available, each linked to a six-speed automatic transmission: 245-hp twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, 305-hp 3.5-liter V6 and the top 400-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 on the tested Reserve model.
Though the Continental is nearly 17 feet long and weighs 4,547 pounds, it is not a slug in urban traffic, and is blessed with relatively nimble handling. The all-wheel drive incorporates dynamic torque-vectoring — a system that selectively applies the rear-wheel brakes to ease handling around corners. Even so, it’s not the sort of car you’d use to chase sports cars or even small sports sedans on curving mountain roads.
As a premier luxury car, the Continental comes with state-of-the art safety and convenience equipment. They include a twin-panel glass sunroof, backup camera with a 360-degree overhead view, pre-collision detection and warning, three-zone automatic climate control, and electronic door latching and opening. Inside or outside, merely touching the button opens the door.
One caution: Don’t mess with the entertainment and information systems, including the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, without a thorough briefing or detailed reading of the owner’s manual. Trying to access some of the obtuse functions without instructions can be infuriating.
The Continental’s forte is as a boulevardier around the city and suburbs, and as a long-distance road car. Settle into the soft leather seats, tune in the satellite radio or your choice of music from your own smart phone, set the adaptive cruise control and make sure the lane departure warning is activated. You’re in for a pleasant, quiet trip without fatigue.
- Model: 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve four-door sedan.
- Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 400 hp, 400 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
- Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
- EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/17 cubic feet.
- Weight: 4,547 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/24/19 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $57,000.
- Price as tested: $75,020.
Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.
Photos (c) Lincoln.