By Shari Prymak
2017 Lincoln Continental 3.0L Reserve - As unimaginable as it may seem, there was a time when Lincoln was considered by many to be the definition of American luxury. They were cars of imposing size and presence, high status design, and supreme comfort. Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra both owned one. President John F. Kennedy was driven around in one. Owning a Lincoln was a clear indication that you made it. As time went on, however, consumer tastes shifted to German-style performance and handling. And Lincoln fizzled into a lineup of rebadged Fords and airport limos.
Rather than play catch-up and try to mimic the German template of building obscene performance machines, Lincoln has decided to revive the concept of quiet luxury on its path back to relevance. The model they have chosen to do this with is the Continental.
Quiet luxury is all about understated elegance, comfort and serenity. If we’re honest, the majority of potential luxury car buyers probably don’t know or care about all-out handling and setting blistering lap times. What they want is something comfortable for the long, gruelling, work commute. The Chinese certainly want this, and they buy more luxury cars than just about anyone. Lincoln might just be onto something with this quiet luxury thing.
Comfortable the Continental certainly is. The ride is remarkably smooth. I don’t think that it’s quite as pillow-soft as a Lincoln Town Car, which has suspension made of Jell-O, but it’s certainly not far off. The cornering performance isn’t particularly noteworthy, but again, no one will likely care. The ability to effortlessly muffle nasty potholes over the ability to rip around the Nurburgring is a trade-off that Lincoln was wise to make. Let me put it another way. I tested a new BMW 7-Series with a 150 grand sticker price a weeks prior to this test drive, and the Continental didn’t strike me as a serious downgrade.
When it was unveiled as a concept, the Continental was accused of looking derivative, especially next to the Bentley Flying Spur. Those accusations have since seemed to have dissipated, which is great, because now we can appreciate the Continental for what it is: a fantastic-looking luxury sedan. It’s large and imposing with strong road presence, just like the Continentals of old. Perhaps best of all, it doesn’t look like a worked-over Ford product. It has its own look and identity, something which Lincoln models have struggled to achieve for a long time.
The uniqueness also holds true for the interior, where, aside from the SYNC3 touchscreen, very few bits appear to be shared with common Fords. It’s the details that are most apparent, such as the nice slabs of wood veneer, ultra-soft “Bridge of Weir” leather, and finely-drilled metal speaker grills. As nice as it is, it would be great to see Lincoln offer the ultra-luxurious Black Label package here in Canada, which would add touches such as a leather-wrapped dashboard and an alcantara headliner, to really elevate the Continental up to top-tier luxury status.
Back seat occupants are treated to loads of legroom, massage and climate controlled seats with power-adjustable seatbacks, sunshade, audio, and climate controls on the centre armrest, and even controls to slide the front passenger seat forward. The feature that impresses the most are the available 30-way power multi-contour front seats. They are comfortable enough to perform therapeutic duty, and are the perfect place to sit and enjoy the incredible-sounding 19 speaker Revel audio system. To top it all off, the exterior gets ultra-luxurious soft close doors with sharp-looking electronic chrome handles integrated into the beltline.
Prices start at $57,000 for the 2.7L, twin-turbo V6 model, and $63,500 for the gutsier 3.0L model, both of which come equipped with all-wheel drive. Even with every optioned ticked, the MSRP doesn’t top 80 grand. A Genesis G90 with zero badge recognition goes for $84,000. And the equivalent Cadillac CT6 will be pushing six figures. Lincoln resale values tend to be lower than most other luxury brands, but even so, there’s no denying that there is value here.
The brand has yet to earn the respect of luxury car buyers, who tend to flock to the default German contenders. Even so, the Continental is a serious effort at a fully-fledged luxury sedan, and seems fully capable of reigniting a bit of Lincoln’s glory days as America’s luxury car.