Ford Motor Company’s on-again, off-again flagship will return for the 2017 model year.
The Lincoln Continental debuted on day two of the North American International Auto Show, wearing the same deep dark blue that adorned last year’s impressive Continental concept car.
The resurrection of the Continental nameplate returns the jewel to Ford’s crown after disappearing from the automotive landscape in 2002. The model, first sold in 1939, quickly became synonymous with American luxury, and its design reached iconic status during the Kennedy Era of the early 1960s.
After the last Continental was axed, the subsequent demise of the full-size Town Car left the Lincoln brand struggling to find a new direction amid increased competition, as well as changing demographics and market forces.
Ford CEO Mark Fields’ $5 billion cash injection into the company in 2014 was an effort to save the brand from extinction, regain lost status and boost market share. The planned second generation of the former flagship, the MKS, was scrapped in favour of a new direction and a familiar name – Continental.
While the curvy flanks of the concept car have been toned down, most of the design cues remain in the production model.
Stately and long, the Continental sports a high beltline with a slight rear fender hump, along with a tasteful amount of chrome trim. The unique ‘E-latch’ electronic door handles are integrated into the chrome strip just below the window line, powered by capacitors contained within the doors.
Up front, what seems to be a slightly recessed mesh grille from a distance is actually made up of tiny metal links formed into the Lincoln logo. The headlamps flanking the grille each feature five glass projectors in the same shape.
In the rear, the chrome-ringed taillamps stay true to the concept and add to the large car’s sense of width. To hammer home the brand’s newfound sense of pride, the trunklid features probably the largest ‘Lincoln’ lettering since the 1970s.
For a model with big shoes to fill, 20-inch turbine-style wheels provide a nice canvas for grippy low-profile rubber.
Though it comes with standard front-wheel-drive, the Continental can be ordered with torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive, which sends power to individuals wheels as needed during cornering.
Inside the cabin, Lincoln advances the understated luxury by offering customers three Black Label interior themes – Chalet, Thoroughbred and Rhapsody – complimented by 30-way, leather and fabric-wrapped Perfect Position Seats.
The interior trim has a retro feel, with brushed bare aluminum covering the console and upper door surfaces. The rear seat features a center fold-down console with audio controls for the car’s Revel audio system. Rear-window sunshades allow privacy for backseat passengers, while a full-length sunroof lets in the light.
In addition to the creature comforts, the car’s ambient lighting can be adjusted to suit the individual tastes of the driver or passenger.
Powering the Continental is Lincoln’s brand-exclusive 400-horsepower 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, mated to a 6-speed automatic. This engine will also be offered as an option on the redesigned Lincoln MKZ starting in the 2017 model year.
Both those cars are expected to hit dealer lots this fall.
With the Continental, Lincoln is building on the growing popularity of its recent models, and positioning itself to better challenge competitors like Cadillac in domestic and overseas markets.
It’s also retuning a storied name to the place it belongs – the top.
Photographs by Steph Willems.
Steph can be found on Twitter @willems_steph