BEL AIR, CALIFORNIA – Lincoln is on a bit of a comeback roll this year, with neat new powertrains and products that are exciting. After a dull decade and a bit that consisted of little more than re-badged Ford products and the slow death of the Town Car, the Lincoln brand is attempting to re-create an identify for itself. After all, just a few mere decades ago, the Continental was the car to have in North America once success was earned. To celebrate the rebirth of this iconic model and gather some first impressions, we were invited to Bel Air, to officially preview the 2017 Lincoln Continental and learn a little bit more about what Lincoln’s plans are in the coming years.
A well-executed design, the Continental is recognizable as a Lincoln product, a worthy spiritual successor to the Town Car that has graced our roads for ample time now. The new Continental isn’t the most polarizing new luxury vehicle out there, but moreso looks like a slightly larger version of the refreshed MKZ (reviewed here). It follows the design language employed throughout the rest of the lineup, and one thing’s for sure – it doesn’t look like a Ford, differentiated enough to be a luxury vehicle. With huge rivals like the Volvo S90 and even the Genesis G90 (reviewed here), the Continental has some serious competition to live up to.
With its 117.9” wheelbase and overall length of 201.4”, Lincoln’s new flagship is a large car, weighing in between 4,200 and 4,550 pounds depending on the configuration. A handsome profile and excellent proportions reflect the car’s heritage well, though it’s not a retro throwback to Continentals of years gone by. It’s definitely an attractive car, with stylish LED lighting used throughout, the corporate Lincoln grille displaying authority in front, and classy 20” wheels that finish off the look nicely. The company’s tagline for this new car is “elegant design, serene interior, and effortless power”.
A motor we sampled in the MKZ earlier on this year, the new twin-turbo V6 is the top dog in the Continental. Offering 3.0L in displacement, this engine is good for 400 horsepower at 5,750RPM and 400 lb-ft of torque at 2,750RPM. This is the powertrain we spent the most time with, and it’s a delicious one. There’s also a 2.7L turbocharged V6 available, and we sampled it in the MKX (reviewed here). Power is plentiful, with good engine response and minimal turbocharger lag. It’s a transverse setup and the car, though all Canadian models are equipped with all wheel drive, is front-based. Fun fact: the AWD system is engineered by GKN, and is similar to the one in the Focus RS (reviewed here) with active torque-vectoring.
There’s one weakness to the powertrain (regardless of which engine choice buyers make), and that’s the transmission. Ford and Lincoln products all offer an aging six-speed automatic rather than offering an eight-speed like most rivals. The transmission is “okay”, but even products that are much lower on the market like the Chrysler 200 feature nine-speed units now. The six-speed shifts adequately and responds well to inputs, and is even decently economical, but the implementation of a new gearbox would significantly improve efficiency and the car would likely be more quiet on the highway (not that the latter is an issue). We expect Lincoln to solve this very soon, though.
When the main priority of a car is to obliterate the miles while minimizing fatigue, it’s important to evaluate things like ride quality and overall comfort. The suspension is well sorted and the car makes no effort to feel sporty. Body roll is minimal, and there are active dampers in play to ensure firmness both over smooth surfaces and rougher ones. The Continental doesn’t have the almost-endearing land barge tendencies that the Town Car did, and the 20” wheels on low-profile tires add their own personality. The steering is effortless and electrically assisted, exactly what is expected from this car.
Lincoln has rated the Continental with all-wheel-drive and the 2.7L turbo engine at 14.0L/100km in the city and 9.5L/100km on the highway, for a combined rating of 12.0L/100km. The 3.0L 400-horsepower motor is rated at 14.4L/100km, 9.7L/100km, and 12.3L/100km, respectively. These numbers are using the recommended premium-grade fuel, but Lincoln says that the ability to accept regular is a big priority for customers, so the engines have been designed accordingly.
The interior of the Continental is all luxury, and is no joke. There’s an option for 30-way powered “Perfect Position” seats, making it immensely easy to adjust to the perfect driving position. Upholstery inside is stunning, with soft woods, faux-suede, and fine leathers used. It’s not excessive, and the screens (both the main infotainment as well as the electronic gauge cluster) integrate nicely. The gauges are difficult to see in direct sunlight, something we found to be a big issue on our California test route. The Revel Ultima sound system is one of the best on the market, with immense clarity and gorgeous speaker grilles.
Lincoln has also added electronic door handles, which were a runaway hit when the car made its auto show debut last year. It’s a solid piece with an electronic latch on the outside. The car is placed into Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive using buttons located on the center. Both of these things are counter-intuitive from what most are used to, and are a bit superfluous for technology. On the flip side, tech attracts younger buyers, which is something Lincoln’s trying to do. Plus, it will only be confusing for buyers for the first few days, after which I’m sure it all becomes second nature.
Pricing in Canada for the 2017 Continental starts at $57,000 for the Select AWD model with the 2.7L motor, and those wanting the twin-turbo 3.0L must step up to the Reserve model for $63,000. Even those opting for the base 2.7L will get things like voice-activated navigation, leather seats, and premium audio, but Reserve models get 24-way powered heated/cooled seats, Revel Ultima audio, and tri-zone automatic climate control. With all of the options checked off, a 3.0L Reserve-trim Continental can get as high as about $81,000.
A huge rival of the Continental’s, and another prime example of legendary brands needing to move along with the times, is the 2017 Cadillac CT6 (reviewed here). Far more expensive in its top trim, approximately the same size, and also boasting a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 with similar power numbers, the Cadillac is a new entry. The Continental offers a more enticing interior, almost if not identical levels of technology, and in my eyes, is far more value for the dollar spent. The Caddy’s only real advantage (which is purely subjective) is the more aggressive exterior styling.
The 2017 Lincoln Continental is a brand-new entry into the luxury sedan segment, and despite market positioning, Lincoln insists that it won’t be pushed into fleet sales. Around Toronto, airport limousine fleets are largely stocking Lexus ES hybrids (reviewed here) to replace the Town Car. As a proper premium vehicle, it’s not over the top at all and I found it to be the perfect amount of understated. Those who use their upscale sedan to traverse the highway or countryside, in the utmost of comfort, prioritizing features like adaptive cruise control, massage seats and excellent visibility will find the Continental a sublime way to spend your money. Between this and the CT6 – we’d spend our money on the Lincoln.
First Drive: 2017 Lincoln Continental Gallery