2017 Lincoln Continental: Working on Making Lincoln Great Again

Published on November 4, 2016 in First Drives by Mathieu St-Pierre

BEL AIR, California – As they say, it takes years to build a reputation, mere moments to tear it down. Lincoln’s been around for a century and in the first few decades forged a desirable image based on design, performance and luxury. Then the 70s, 80s and 90s showed up and the lustre had all but disappeared.

In the recent past, Ford’s luxury brand has done a smart thing. Instead of returning to the game with a second-rate lineup, they’ve rebuilt something of an image with the likes of the MKC, MKZ and MKX. The name Lincoln is still far from a standout luxury make like Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz, but the road they embarked on nearly a decade ago will eventually take them back to greatness.

It is with a solid foundation that they have now launched the most enticing Lincoln product since the fourth-generation Continental from the 60s. There were a few interesting attempts at a comeback—the Lincoln LS comes to mind—but the new Continental is no half-assed, cross my fingers, hope-no-one-notices-the-Fiesta-parts car. The new flagship Lincoln represents Ford’s best effort at convincing the discerning high-end car buyer that they’re serious. And I’m serious when I say it’s good.

A new Lincoln, a different approach

The new Continental ushers in a new age at Lincoln where it seems clear that the products will do all the work. Contrary to the majority of new product launches we attend, the Lincoln team did not spew at great length what makes their car great. Rather, they simply gave us a tour of the car and then let us go on our merry way.

The people from Lincoln did not boast that the Continental was the best, biggest or fastest at anything in particular; the emphasis was “Quiet Luxury.” I found the company’s attitude to be very refreshing, and understated, which perfectly reflects the car. The representatives answered all our questions, including the difficult ones, and delivered honest information. The Continental delivered as well.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Tranquil and luxurious

In true Lincoln fashion, I was picked up from LAX in a new Continental, so not only did I get to drive the car, I was driven in it as well. From this point of view, the Continental swoons its passengers with soft leather, loads of room and beautiful craftsmanship.

Of the Lincoln’s numerous attributes, quiet and comfort are tops on the long list. The serene interior cocoons its occupants in what can only be described as a protective shell. The dual-pane and laminated glass is instrumental in sealing off the outside world.

Depending on trim and options, the rear quarters can put first-class plane seats to shame. Heated, ventilated, massaging and power-adjustable outer positions also include controls to move the front passenger seat fore and aft for maximum legroom. Whether on or off, the front massaging and 30-way adjustable front perches are as welcoming as a father’s warm embrace—that is, when you finally find the right positioning. Although on the opposite end quiet, the sublime available 19-speaker Revel Ultima system transforms the Continental into your own private concert hall.

Detailed elegance

The new Continental certainly is welcoming as the closer you get to the car, the exterior lights gradually come on—it’s a nice touch. Other touches include the front grille that is the new face of the brand. If you look carefully, you’ll notice the Lincoln star outline repeated throughout, including in the headlights.

Without a doubt, the most enticing design elements on the long, low and wide car are the handles. They are integrated in the lower window chrome trim and fit impeccably into the decor. The handles allow for unobstructed clean body sides and do not detract from the smooth flowing beltline. Around back, the full width lit taillamps have quite an influence on the car’s stance.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Effortless EcoBoost

Rolls-Royce once described their engines’ output as “adequate,” meaning that speeds will be achieved without issue; Lincoln refers to their twin-turbocharged V6s as providing effortless power.

On this subject, the 3.0-litre engine is especially gifted thanks to its “up-to” 400-horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque output. The 2.7-litre V6 provides 335 horsepower and 380 torques, but was not available for a drive at launch. I suspect it’ll be the volume powerplant in Canada as it’ll be standard with the base $57,000 car. At this price, AWD with torque vectoring and a six-speed automatic transmission are included.

As far as effort is concerned, despite the car’s 1932-kg (4250-lb.) curb weight, the 2017 Lincoln Continental’s powertrain dispenses power with certain ease. A minor amount of front wheelspin is detected under hard acceleration, but micro seconds later, the luxury saloon is moving forward, and with certain authority. The six-speed autobox glides from one gear to another in “D.” Pushing the “S” button livens the ‘box up a little and for more involvement, the use of the steering wheel-mounted paddles will demonstrate crisp rev-matching and sharp upshifts.

The new 2017 Lincoln Continental is about quiet luxury, not performance or even about lap times notwithstanding the power ratings. This point was driven home in particular by the Conti’s soft supple ride. The Continuously Controlled Damping system is without a doubt tuned for comfort, allowing for generous amounts of wheel travel. Despite this, body roll is far from excessive as I found out while carving my way around bends on Mulholland Drive. On a less tortuous road, and at lower speeds, the dampers default to a float-y mode that quickly becomes objectionable over repeated undulations. Having experienced this in both the front and rear rows, I’d suggest some minute tweaking is in order.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Experiencing Lincoln

The 2017 Lincoln Continental exudes a human and personal touch. It’s about crafted luxury, travelling well and in the lap of opulence. The peaceful cabin promotes relaxation through its appeal as nothing short of a sanctuary. As Lincoln puts it, it's all about creating an experience and making life easier, if not better.

I believe these goals have been attained. However, attracting potential buyers to Lincoln showrooms presents a challenge unto its own. Those who are shopping for a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series or Cadillac CTS/CT6 now have a new option. Thing is that this option is for buyers not interested in any of the above-mentioned cars, if only because boasting is not their thing.

There may be a portion of the luxury-car market looking for these attributes, but I can’t imagine it is very big in North America. The Chinese market on the other hand drinks cars like the Continental with its near absence of creases, understated styling and size. Success will be had there.

In the end though, the new Continental is a wonderful large luxury sedan that deserves attention. Perhaps more of it is in order…

Test drive report
Test model 2017 Lincoln Continental
Trim level 3.0 AWD
Price range $57,000 – $63,500
Price as tested CA$63,500
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 6 years/110,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 13.1 / 8.4 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Acura RLX, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, Genesis G80, Infiniti Q70, Jaguar XF, Kia K900, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90
Strong points
  • Supremely quiet car
  • Beautifully crafted
  • Lovely attention to detail
  • Powerful twin-turbo V6
Weak points
  • Perhaps a touch too subdued for the younger affluent crowd
  • Ride can be float-y at times
  • Too many seat adjustments?
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 A large luxury sedan need not be all that fuel-efficient
Comfort 4.5/5 That serene interior is no marketing ploy; it’s real
Performance 4.0/5 Good power, quick take-off and seamless AWD
Infotainment 4.5/5 SYNC 3, lovely graphics, many connectivity options including Apple CarPlay
Driving 4.0/5 Handling is decent, steering is responsive but overall, uninvolving. This is the desired result
Overall 4.0/5 Pricing, equipment, character and styling are all points in favour of the Continental. Like the Cadillac CT6, it needs to be experienced in order to have a chance in this tough segment.
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