2017 Lincoln Continental: A Full-Fledged Luxury Car Worthy Of The Classic Name

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Photo courtesy Lincoln Motor Company

It’s a tough time to be a luxury sedan. According to market tracking at Kelley Blue Book luxury sedan sales are down more than 13% this year while every luxury SUV category is up. In Lincoln’s favor, the brand’s sales are increasing, up almost 9 percent this year on the success of the MKC and MKX utility vehicles. So the question is, how much will the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental contribute to Lincoln’s turnaround momentum?

Based on a driving experience around Los Angeles’ affluent West Side, as well as through the picturesque canyons and coastal highways of Malibu, it’s clear the 2017 Lincoln Continental delivers the luxury experience its upscale exterior and interior design conveys. Lincoln actually uses the term “quiet luxury” to describe its approach to premium vehicle design. The brand doesn’t want to be seen as opulent or grandiose, and is happy to let other luxury brands fight over those terms.

Photo courtesy Lincoln Motor Company
Photo courtesy Lincoln Motor Company

It’s a fine line to walk, but one I’m heartened to see a domestic automaker take. For too long Ford and GM have tried to produce American versions of European luxury cars. Everything from alphanumeric badging to a fixation on downsizing and stark design suggests U.S. automakers want to emulate their counterparts from across the pond. The revival of the Continental nameplate, with it’s distinctive exterior, commanding size and roomy interior, indicates Lincoln is ready to offer a modern version of the American luxury sedan. Image that!  And not a moment too soon.

Almost any Continental road test will reference the car’s platform as a heavy revision of the Ford Fusion/Lincoln MKZ/Lincoln MKS platform, even though the Continental’s wheelbase and track are unique. Those references don’t give proper due to just how unique the entire car looks and feels. From outside, the Continental’s bold grille, bright taillights and pronounced body lines give it an on-road (and valet-parked) presence we haven’t seen from Lincoln in decades. This is true even before you approach the car with key fob in hand, at which point the “Lincoln Embrace” occurs, a series of dramatic exterior and interior lighting sequences that further differentiates the Continental’s experience.

Entering the car is yet another unique process, with prominent, classic chrome door handles concealing a pressure-sensitive E-latch door release. Grasp the handle and the E-latch effortlessly pops the door open (“power cinching” technology, as Lincoln calls it, that closes the Continental’s doors, is also available). Once inside it’s clear Lincoln spent plenty of time, and money, ensuring the interior lives up to the Continental nameplate’s legacy. Every surface feels as plush as it looks, and the list of amenities reads like a first-class weekend getaway.

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The most impressive amenity in the new 2017 Continental is what Lincoln calls “Perfect Position Seats” in reference to the optional 30-way adjustable front seats. If you’re wondering how a seat can have 30 adjustments you have to consider how many features Lincoln has packed into them. Heating and cooling adjustments are both there, as are massaging features. Power adjustments for every imaginable direction are included as well, but none of that is unique to the new Continental. What is unique, at least as far as I know, is the front seat bottom cushion length adjustment (or thigh support, if you prefer). Most luxury cars offer some version of this, but the Continental offers two independent adjustments, one for the right leg and one for the left. Excessive? Maybe, but the Continental’s seats are arguably the most customizable I’ve ever sat in.

Whether relaxing on the heated, cooled and massaging seats (available for rear seat passengers, too), blasting sound through the optional 19-speaker Revel audio system (with its intricately machined aluminum speakers) or enjoying the standard Active Noise Control and laminated glass (making highway travel whisper quiet) there’s no denying the effort Lincoln expended to create a lavish environment.

A similar approach guided the 2017 Lincoln Continental’s ride and handling characteristics. Advanced optional features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist and lane-keeping assist are paired with 360-degree camera technology and enhanced park assist to ease parking maneuvers. Three driver settings (Comfort, Normal and Sport) that alter steering feel, throttle response and suspension firmness are standard on all 2017 Continentals, and these features are paired with multiple drivetrain options that offer a variety of pricing and capabilities across the Continental model line.

Standard equipment on a base 2017 Lincoln Continental in Premiere trim includes a 305 horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine and 6-speed transmission driving the front wheels. Equipment like 10-way heated power seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, LED taillights, a 10-speaker audio system, Sync 3, 18-inch aluminum wheels and Lincoln’s E-latch door release system are included for $45,485, with all-wheel drive available for an additional $2,000. A Continental in Select trim add leather seats, a power trunk lid, 19-inch wheels and the power cinching door closing system for $48,440, with an optional 335 horsepower 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 available for $2,250.

Reserve trim comes standard with the 2.7-liter turbo V6, plus adds cooled seats, power-folding rear head restraints, 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, a blind-spot detection system, a tri-zone climate system with rear seat temperature controls and an embedded modem for internet access for $54,840. An optional 400 horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 can be added to Reserve models for $5,265. That engine is also optional on on Black Label Continentals, which start at $63,840 and come standard with the 2.7-liter turbo V6, paddle shifters, Venetian leather seats with an embroidered “Black Label” insignia, LED headlights, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels and a choice of three interior themes: Thoroughbred, Rhapsody and Chalet.

Black Label Continentals also include a range of convenience items, such as vehicle pick up and delivery for service, an extended 4-year/50,000-mile maintenance program, free car washes and annual vehicle detailing and a single point of contact at Lincoln (think concierge). This lifestyle aspect of the Black Label trim gets to the heart of what Lincoln is aiming for with its current and future models. The brand knows today’s luxury customers are seeking more than an upscale car. They want a full-fledged ownership experience. This thinking is further reflected in the Lincoln Experience Center the brand opened in Newport Beach in July, with a second center set to open in Dallas in the Spring of 2017. Both locations offer information on Lincoln products and the ability to schedule a test drive, plus a range of lifestyle experiences related to dining and music.

The 2017 Lincoln Continental felt perfectly at home as it cruised between the mansions of Sunset Boulevard and past the rolling estates along Pacific Coast Highway. The 400 horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo engine in our Reserve trim had a confident serenity, though it offered just enough refined growl when flooring the accelerator. The car’s handling and braking were similarly confidence inspiring, with far more capability to quickly travel Malibu’s canyon roads than 99 percent of owners will ever need. This was a pleasant surprise given the Continental’s substantial size and weight.

So it’s large, roomy, powerful, loaded with luxury and oozing street presence. And it’s got a real name. Sounds like Lincoln in its glory days, and a compelling reason to not join the SUV herd.

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