Lincoln Continental


Debut: 2016
Maker: Ford
Predecessor: Lincoln MKS



 Published on 15 Nov 2016
All rights reserved. 


The last time I wrote about Lincoln Continental, it was the last century. Yes, December 30th, 1999. After 17 years, Ford finally brings back the once highly admired American luxury label!

The history of Continental could be traced back to the 1956 Continental Mark II. It reached the peak shortly afterwards with the 1961 Continental. Since then the nameplate had been on a long decline, falling behind the competition and was gradually forgotten by the American public. In fact, the history of Continental is just like that of Lincoln itself. At a point, Lincoln was considered insignificant to Ford in the presence of Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover, i.e. the other members of Premier Automotive Group. After the sale of PAG companies, Ford spent a few years fighting for surviving the great recession that led to the bankruptcy of Detroit. When it was fully recovered, it started thinking about revitalizing Lincoln again, since this is the only unfinished job left by ex-CEO Alan Mulally. However, the plan progressed slowly due to lack of commitment. In late 2012, Ford finally established a dedicated design center for Lincoln, which spent the next 4 years searching for a new brand and design direction. The new Continental is the first car designed by the center from scratch.


Looking at these pictures, you might be disappointed with the outcome. In my opinion, it looks incredibly close to a 1998 Nissan Gloria/Cedric, which means very old-fashioned and conservative, blame to the boxy profile. There are some nicer details, such as the Rolls-Royce-style waist line and special door handles that become part of the window frames. However, these things are too subtle. The front mesh grille, the square head and tail-lights have little character to speak of. If Lincoln wanted this car to symbolize its revival, then I’m afraid it is a failure.

Those door handles are very special. They have no moving parts but a sensor that triggers the electric motor to unlatch the door. This means the Continental has soft-close doors, a rare feature that only the most luxurious cars have. Another benefit is, getting rid of mechanical latches allows the speakers to be positioned at an ideal position on the doors to improve sound quality. The design team tried to make a difference in small details.



Unfortunately, they could not overhaul the mechanicals. Here, bean counters still take charge. They think it would not be financially viable to develop a dedicated platform for the Continental, nor Lincoln had a plan to introduce multiple models based on a new common platform. This means the best the Continental can use is the front-wheel-drive, transverse-engined platform of the Ford Fusion/Mondeo/Lincoln MKZ. This platform is not bad in its own right, but is it good enough for a luxury car? I doubt. By stretching its wheelbase by 150 mm, the Lincoln realizes a full 3-meter wheelbase to match other luxury limousines. Likewise, extending the rear overhang stretches its overall length beyond 5.1 meters, equalling the standard Mercedes S-class. The car's proportion is also improved a little bit by pushing the front axle forward. In addition to a long and flat bonnet, it looks more like a rear-wheel-drive car, albeit a dull-looking rear-wheel-drive car.



Sitting East-West in the engine compartment is either a 3.7-liter V6, 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 or 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. The naturally aspirated one is the cheapest, of course, but it is also the least sophisticated (still lacks direct injection) and least powerful, producing 305 horsepower and 280 pound-foot of torque at relatively high revs. The pair of twin-turbo V6 share the same architecture, including the compacted graphite iron block. The 2.7-liter unit is exactly the one serving the recent Ford Fusion V6 Sport, just tuned to produce 10 more ponies (at 335 hp), accompanied with a remarkable 380 lbft of torque. The 3.0-liter version makes another 65 hp and 20 lbft for a round 400 hp and 400 lbft, which is exactly the same as Lincoln MKZ 3.0T. Both turbocharged engines need AWD system – like MKZ, a GKN Twinster setup with rear-axle torque-vectoring capability – to put down the power effectively. All motors are paired with a slightly outdated 6-speed automatic transmission.



On the road, both turbo V6s offer enough punch to haul the 2-ton machine with dignity, but neither could be called sporty. Expect 0-60 mph to take 5.5 seconds at best, some way off the sub-5 benchmark of the class. The 6-speed auto is a weak link. It is neither smooth nor responsive enough to serve a luxury car. Its calibration is flawed, as it sometimes shifts at odd moments. It is also short of gears, hampering fuel economy a little.

Predictably, the car does not handle very well due to its heft, size and front-biased balance. In normal driving it is perfectly adequate, but push harder or commit more on mountain roads will find the Lincoln by no means a driver's car, because it does not turn as willingly as an average European luxury car. Neither does it control its body motions as tightly. Its simple adaptive dampers (with 3 stiffness modes) return a ride that is either too soft or too hard, unlike a Jaguar which achieves excellent ride and control simultaneously. Air suspensions or magnetorheological dampers might improve its ride quality, but the Fusion/Mondeo platform allows neither. Meanwhile, the steering is progressively weighted but delivers not much feel. Running refinement is decent rather than remarkable in this class.



The Lincoln's best asset is interior. Its design is clearly inspired by the '61 Continental, with square acting as the main theme. There are lots of soft leather, real wood and metal to make it feel luxurious, especially at the door panels where many near-luxury brands ignored. The dashboard looks conservative, but it leaves plenty of hardware switches for the climate control and audio system to please older drivers at which Lincoln targetted. For younger buyers, the intuitive Sync 3 connection system should satisfy. The only weak point is the instrument cluster, which is a dim LCD rather than TFT display. Moreover, the dials displayed look old-fashioned.

On the top trim, the front chairs offer 30-way power adjustment, more than anything else we have heard of. Seat adjustment is located at the door panel, in Mercedes style. Not only comfortable, the seats are heated, vented and fitted with massagers.



The back seats are not quite as comfortable, but they are also fitted with massager and are power-reclining. With panoramic glass roof installed, headroom might be tight for 6-footers, but the long wheelbase and front-drive architecture assure generous knee and leg room, so I suppose the Continental suits more China (it will be sold there with a 2.0 turbo as base engine). A center console at the armrest controls air-con and infotainment system.

On the downside, the build quality is not perfect, most obvious from some inconsistent panel gaps. It seems that neither Ford's factory nor its suppliers are good enough to build true luxury cars. Another weakness is the lack of intelligent driving aids or safety features, something only true luxury brands managed at the moment. In addition to the mediocre dynamics, dull exterior and high prices, the new Continental is hard to compete with rivals from established luxury brands. A lot more has to be done to turnaround the Lincoln brand.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Continental 3.7
2016
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5115 / 1915 / 1485 mm
2995 mm
V6, 60-degree
3726 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
-
305 hp
280 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40ZR19
1915 kg
143 mph (est)
7.0 (est)
-
Continental 2.7T AWD
2016
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5115 / 1915 / 1485 mm
2995 mm
V6, 60-degree
2694 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
DI
335 hp
380 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40ZR19
2010 kg (est)
150 mph (est)
6.0 (est)
-
Continental 3.0T AWD
2016
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5115 / 1915 / 1485 mm
2995 mm
V6, 60-degree
2956 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
DI
400 hp
400 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40ZR19
2062 kg
155 mph (est)
5.0* / 5.4**
12.0*




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT





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