Call me crazy, but if a guy is in the market to drop $75K on a car — whether it’s his first big purchase, an upgraded car or the next in a long line of luxe rides — it should be something special. It’s no secret that pretty much all cars are “good” nowadays (meaning they all perform admirably, there’s a lot of tech in each, they’re safe, they’re reliable); what makes a car stand out in 2017, then, is twofold: solid pedigree and distinctive design. In this price bracket, the new Lincoln Continental earns high marks for both.
An automotive presence for decades (with two short hiatuses), the Continental has bridged swaths of American culture in a way few products have. It was originally a custom one-off vacation car made for Edsel Ford in the late ’30s that gained enough popularity to be put into production. In later generations it evolved into a car built as well as (and costing as much as) a Rolls-Royce of the same era. The ’61 Continental ushered in the era of ’60s-mod design; it played a tragically famous role in the Kennedy assassination, and as a restored classic it starred in Entourage. In the ’90s and ’00s, the car remained handsome but slowly faded into bland obscurity, and Ford — Lincoln’s parent company — canceled the model line. Only now it’s back, and it’s brilliant, because it looks and feels roughly one million times more distinctive than its competitors, thanks almost entirely to clever door handles.
2017 Lincoln Continental
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic; All-wheel drive
MSRP: $75,000 (as tested)
The Continental’s history and its reliable American roots make the case for pedigree. “But,” you whine, “it’s not a Benz; it’s not even a Volvo!” You’d be right in pointing out the model has lacked a consistent history of luxury and European engineering like its competitors. That’s my point: America has caught up. Cadillac is doing similar things with its model lineup and is, to be fair, a few steps ahead of Lincoln in that regard. But its cars aren’t distinctive like this. They’re striking and cool-looking, but not different enough anymore.
From the focus and the flashy new grille, to those door handles incorporated into the window sill chrome and the modestly slab-sided look of the car, it is to some degree completely different from anything else on the market. It’s also huge for its class, and comfortable. And inside, it’s very, very pretty: the available, ultra-complex front seats are magnificent to sit in and play with; every surface feels satisfying; the tech is fantastic. My boss commented that the knob knurling is plastic, as opposed to the metal you’d find in a Bentley — but those cars can cost literally four times as much. This is important: at 25 percent of a Bentley’s cost, I’d rate the Continental’s beauty at 80 percent of the Flying Spur. The only miss, design-wise, is that the car should absolutely have had suicide doors, like its ’60s ancestor — the car would vault from merely distinctive to astonishingly cool, too.
In terms of engineering and luxury prowess, Lincoln is again doing things on par with global giants like Mercedes and Cadillac — a trend that’s begun recently, with the brand’s pledge to introduce a new car every year for a handful of years. In 2018 we’ll get the new Navigator, which is phenomenal to behold; it’ll give the Escalade and the GL550 a run for their money, and likely undercut their prices, too.
America has caught up. In terms of engineering and luxury prowess, Lincoln is doing things on a par with the global giants.
So what you have here is a value proposition. For “only” $75,000, why wouldn’t you opt for the most distinctive car with exciting neo-American pedigree? The kicker being that the model I drove was fully, fully loaded with over $18,000 worth of options — differently appointed, it could go for much less. It’s disappointing the Continental doesn’t offer a transmission with more gears — fuel mileage would improve, and the car would be so much smoother — and hopefully that’ll be addressed down the road. But that lack doesn’t outweigh the good. The largeness, quickness, smoothness — all the cars in this segment feel pretty much the same, eight-speed transmissions or not. They’re all great to drive.
It comes down to the feeling you get when you look at it; when you’re proud to say you’ve got the Lincoln. The one that’s different from all those blandly and uniformly styled luxury cars. The one you’re proud to spend your $75K on.
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