Lincoln Continental — A new take on American luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Continental is a storied name in Lincoln history. It conjures up thoughts of Edsel Ford's first long-hood short deck creation in 1939, the huge and elegant Mark II coupes of the mid-50s, and the intoxicating four-door hardtops and convertibles with their suicide doors of the early '60s.

By putting the Continental name on an all-new sedan, Lincoln has clearly pointed to a new chapter in its on-again, off-again luxury car history. It was a move fraught with some risk if the result had been just another gussied up Ford.

Fortunately the hype behind the new Continental is not without considerable merit. The 2017 Continental is aimed at the company's core buyer who wants modern, plush and stylish transportation — and for the most part it hits the mark, and should create a solid foundation on which to build a new fleet of American luxury vehicles.

The Continental has nicely flowing lines, a conservative, yet handsome stance. It's a look that should stand the test of time. The new face of Lincoln is a Bentley-esque grille that has been shared with the mid-sized MKZ sedan and the all-new 2018 Navigator SUV. The design's weakest feature is the thin taillight strip stretching across the rear.

The interior is fresh and refined. The cabin is very roomy. Rear-seat space is excellent. Top quality materials were used throughout for the most part. One feature that leaped out at us on our top trim Black Label test car was the striking dashboard gauge colors with black lettering on a gold background. We've never seen quite that combination and it stood out as very classy.

Starting at $45,645 the Premier comes with a 3.7-liter V6 rated at 305 horsepower. Standard features are numerous, but to get the real luxury treatment at a good price you may want to elevate to the Select trim starting at $48,600. In addition to features that come in the base model such as automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way power heated driver's seat, power-adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry and ignition and the Sync 3 infotainment system, the Select adds 19-inch wheels, soft-close doors, hands-free trunk opening, leather upholstery, wood accents on the steering wheel, and two rear charge-only USB ports. Also available is the mid-level 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 engine making 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The yet more upscale Reserve has a base of $57,000.

All-wheel drive is available as an option on the Premier, Select and Reserve — for $2,000 and we think well worth the outlay turning a front-wheel drive sedan into a true luxury vehicle. It gives the sedan a commendable level of grip with quick steering and good on-center feel. All-wheel drive is standard on the top Black Label trim.

It's the Black Label that truly elevates the Continental into luxury car territory starting with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine that makes 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. While the six-speed performed well, we were disappointed that Ford did not see fit to put one of its more advanced transmissions in its flagship sedan, perhaps even the new 10-speed.

Making the Continental a bit more sporty is Lincoln Drive Control with three settings —Comfort, for the best ride mimicking the floaty ride of yore; Normal, which gives the car a more modern, but comfortable ride; and Sport, which tightens things up enough to give the car some decent cornering attributes.

The new Lincoln has an appealing solid and substantial feel transmitting the perception that you could just as likely be stepping into and driving off in a S Class Mercedes or a Lexus LS. It comes with the performance necessary to please with a 0-to-60 time of 5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13.5 seconds @ 106 mph. 

The Black Label has luxury touches such as 30-way front seat adjustability as a $1,500 option. The incredible seat has 14 door-mounted mini switches working with the center touchscreen that lets the driver side, raise, inflate and heat cushions and activate massage action. The side bolsters can even be increased to hold you in place in case you get the urge to perform some hard cornering. And for extra measure, thigh supports can be set at two different elevations to stimulate circulation.

The Black Label begins at $66,000. That top price, however, is just a suggestion with the possibility of easily reaching 80 grand with the myriad of options available. Our Black Label test vehicle carried a bottom line of $77,170.

Base price: $45,645; as driven, $77,170
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 400 pound-feet @ 2,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length: 201.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,547 pounds
Turning circle: 41.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 16 city, 24 highway, 19 combined
0-60: 5.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Genesis G80, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6

The Good
• Three engine choices
• Excellent starting price
• Stylish inside and out

The Bad
• Options are many and pricey

The Ugly
• Performance falls short of competition