Lincoln has lagged behind most other luxury nameplates for decades, surviving on livery sales and committed brand loyalists. In that time, and most evident in recent years, Lincolns have simply been “upscale Fords,” using pieces from the same parts bin as their middle-class-marketed Blue Oval brethren.
With the rise of Ford’s brand perception in the past decade, it has become strikingly apparent that Lincoln needs a change. A big one. Nothing says that like a brand new Lincoln Continental.
The Continental is a famous American nameplate that has symbolized “American Exceptionalism” for decades -- Frank Sinatra wrote a line in a song about it just because he liked it -- though it doesn’t mean much to most buyers outside of Baby Boomers. While it is true that the Continental nameplate saw life as recently as 2002, it was a shadow of its former self, relegated to life as merely an upscale Ford Taurus. Not many sold; in the final full year of sales, Lincoln only moved 15,435 cars.
It’s the most prestigious name Lincoln’s got, however. Its success in America is important, but it’s overshadowed by potential sales among the rapidly expanding luxury market in China. “We paid a lot of attention to our Chinese customers [when designing the Continental],” Lincoln CEO Kumar Galhotra said in an interview with International Business Times.
One of the most important things to the Chinese buyer is the leg and hip room. That’s why luxury manufacturers like Audi and BMW have released long wheelbase versions of their large sedans, to better cater to that market’s preferences. If Lincoln is to succeed in China to the level parent company Ford wants it to, the Continental will have to be on par or better than others in its class.
So, what is it like to sit in the back seat of the new Lincoln Continental? It’s leagues ahead of what many laypeople know as the last large Lincoln: the Town Car. There’s so much space that even I, a large 6-foot-1 American, could fully recline the rear seat. The seats are very nicely bolstered and the materials are incredibly soft to the touch. There’s a pop-out tablet and a built-in wine cooler. If this was your Uber ride, you’d be incredibly relaxed by journey’s end.
Despite its heritage as a livery or limousine service car, Lincoln claims that the Continental will still be a “driver’s car,” just not in the same way you might think. The Continental isn’t about trying to out-handle the German cars or Cadillac’s sharp flagship sedans, Galhotra said. “There is a segment that is looking for aggressive vehicles, but there is another segment that is looking for a different experience. That’s our target segment.” That segment, Galhotra continued, is looking for a more subdued experience.
Lincoln is adamant that the new Continental will be distinct. They won’t reveal much as far as specifications are concerned (chassis, production plant, etc.) but they did say that the engine in the Continental, a 3.0L EcoBoost V6, will be exclusive to Lincoln (Ford currently has two EcoBoost V6 engines of its own, a 2.7L and a 3.5L). MSRP is also something Lincoln won’t reveal yet, but the new Continental will sit atop the Lincoln sedan range just as the classics did.