The new Lincoln Continental shocked the automotive world when the concept was unveiled back in 2015. The new car finally arrives at dealerships this month in a toned-down production form. Though refined from its original form, the Continental still shows a bold direction for Lincoln Motor Company with its interior and exterior styling. We took a trip to the new Lincoln Experience Center at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA to be one of the first to drive this new model.
The New Lincoln Experience
The Experience Center represents a new aggressive marketing approach for the Lincoln brand to get their latest offerings in front of consumers within the luxury segment. The building is conveniently located around the corner from a Tesla store and seems to improve upon their consumer friendly model. Interested customers can learn about the latest product offerings, grab a coffee, and even test drive a Lincoln without any pressure to buy. This is because the Lincoln Experience Center is not a dealership and serves to provide information about the brand and then connect potential buyers to a local dealer for the actual buying process. In addition to a stunning White Platinum Continental outside, we were treated to the new Lincoln Navigator concept – an addition for one week only at the Newport location.
In production form the 2017 Lincoln Continental looks very close to the original concept and helps show the new styling direction of the brand going forward. Out in the crowded parking lot the Continental won’t jump out as anything special to most people and instead emphasizes the brand’s “quiet luxury” ideals. On the outside this Black Label version is differentiated with striking 20″ wheels reminiscent of the concept car, black “Lincoln” lettering on the rear, black highlights on the “Continental” fender badging, and a unique – $1,750 option – Chroma Caviar Dark Gray paint color. The Chroma Caviar is a gloss dark gray with only a slight metallic in direct sunlight that looked similar to classic Porsche Slate Gray in some light. The Continental features rather different chrome door handles that are integrated into the beltline of the car beneath the windows instead of integrated into the doors. To open you simply reach inside the handle and press a button and the door pops ajar. The Continental also features “power clinching” technology to pull the doors shut in a quiet and sophisticated manner that Matthew McConaughey would appreciate.
Behind the Wheel
Climbing inside this new Lincoln Continental Black Label you start to see the option list build to the stunning $80,000 price tag. The Black Label trim features three different interior themes and our model was equipped with the handsome Chalet Theme. The “light vs. dark” nature of this theme fills the interior with light Cashmere and dark Espresso leather across the seats, dash, and steering wheel. Climbing into the “Lincoln logo” patterned seats you can begin to dial the 30-way power seat adjustments to fit your body perfectly. We had tested these special seats early on and in the actual vehicle they remain the most comfortable seats we have ever experienced. To increase the comfort for the driver there is a massage feature that rolls up and down your back with a rather audible noise that was somewhat distracting in an otherwise deathly quiet interior.
The additional aluminum and Silverwood center-console and door trim are at a level we have never seen in an American luxury vehicle – Cadillac take note- and rival the new interiors from Volvo for the top of the luxury class. The center display screen features the latest SYNC 3 and moving down you have physical controls for things like volume, tuning, heated/cooled seats, and climate control. A compartment under the screen opens to easily fit even the largest smartphone and has two USB ports for charging. The Alcantara® sueded pillars and roof lead to the large twin panel moonroof with sunshade. Our tested model was equipped with the Rear Seat Package ($4,300) and let rear passengers adjust the climate, sunshade, media controls, and even move up the seat ahead of them to create some legroom. A new partnership with Revel® helped create the absolutely amazing 19-speaker sound system for the Continental. The team at Revel® worked closely with Lincoln to design the interior around the audio and it shows as every detail of the highs and lows from our media were crystal clear in the studio-silent cabin.
On the Road
The base 2017 Lincoln Continental starts at $44,560 and is equipped with a 3.7L V6 that channels all 305 hp through a FWD drivetrain. Our Black Label model with every box checked featured the new twin-turbo 3.0L V6 with around 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque and an advanced AWD system (ratings from manufacturer with 93 octane). Taking off in the normal Drive mode the car is calm and comfortable with effortless acceleration and steering input. Pressing the “S” button to bring the car into Sport mode wakes up the engine, transmission, and steering. The wave of torque comes instantly and you can feel the AWD system trying to figure out which wheels to send power for a brief second. Once the power is delivered to the ground the car moves rapidly for its size but hides the sensation of speed through its size and refined chassis. Steering in Sport mode is rather direct and lets you know when the large sedan reaches the limit of grip. The body roll in sweeping turns is as expected and the suspension is slightly softer than some of the German competition. Compared to cars like the Audi A6 or Audi A8L the Continental feels light on its feet but lacks some of the solidity and heft that some buyers may attribute to quality construction. The engine noise is audible under acceleration but isn’t particularly sporty or obnoxious. For most of the drive the only noise that can be heard is the breathing of your passengers and the hum of the massaging seats.
The 2017 Lincoln Continental represents a rebirth of the brand as they try to find a foothold in the crowded luxury market. The model we drove was priced with maximum options to the height of $80k but still offers a bargain to some other large luxury sedans. The Continental seems to offer Audi A8L or Mercedes S-Class features for less money than models like the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. When compared to the standard German marques we have tested, the Continental offers a class leading interior and pleasing performance. The Lincoln brand still has a long way to get luxury buyers to shop its product, but if the crowded Lincoln Experience Center in Newport Beach, CA is any indication – buyers are starting to take notice.