Review: The 2018 Lincoln Continental
Will the revival of Lincoln's flagship rattle the German-centred luxury segment?
In North America, they like everything big - from big couches to super-sized meals to large luxury vehicles. The Lincoln Continental, a road-going product of that ethos (albeit with a European twist), was first introduced in 1939 and, since then, we have seen nine generations in various formats. But for several reasons, including declining sales, Ford chose to end its production in 2002.
Forward to now, and you've probably noticed that Ford has been attempting to inject enthusiasm into the dormant brand. And with that has come the revival of the Continental nameplate. The new 10th generation is available in three variants: the 'Premiere', for which the prices start at Dh199,000; the 'Select'; and then the top-spec Reserve. You can have them with various powertrains as well. We sample the top-spec Reserve model, equipped with the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The 2018 Lincoln Continental is based heavily on the concept car of the same name that showed its face at the 2015 New York Auto Show. The car embraces the 3-box silhouette but in a modern arrangement. It is a proper full-size sedan stretching out over 5 metres in length (making it equal with S-Class).
The Continental has the face to run the presidential campaign or at least carry such a candidate - all attired and polished. It proudly wears that shiny new chrome corporate grille which replaces the split-wing grille. The headlamps clusters have intriguing intricacies, and the softer but prominent creases give the impression of strength and power under metallic suits. You can't have the 18-inch wheels on this chariot of charm, but the 20-inch variety on the Select and Reserve models are the nicest wheels we have seen.
The inclusion of Approach Detection technology does all sorts of things. Come within 8 feet or so, and the exterior welcome mats illuminate, and soft exterior and interior lights glow to provide a feeling of connection with the car. The rear styling can be described as unadventurous, but it stays classy with its stretch of LED rear lamps that extend the whole width.
Opening the door and entering the cabin is like being escorted to the lobby of a real chic hotel that was built in the 80s; there is opulence in being old school. And if you leave the door ajar, the soft close function will do the part of shutting it gently.
The first thing you notice inside is the luminosity of the chrome fixtures. As you start to look around, you notice the door has beautiful stretches of aluminium speakers, precision-perforated, which remind one of the Burmester audio seen in other luxury vehicles. And the seat controls, rather than being squished in a corner, are lavishly laid out.
If I need to commend something of outstanding quality, it would have to be the leather upholstery sourced from the company 'Bridge of Weir'. In a time when manufacturers are using faux leather, you can't say enough of this hide which is soft to touch and smooth as silk. The front seat is beautifully sculpted with individual cushions knitted together and has up to 30 power adjustability options to suit your body type. The chunky steering wheel has plenty of buttons to keep your hands on the wheels and if the digitalised instrument panel distracts you, stare dead straight at the multi-coloured HUD. But the cabin isn't without faults: the knee cushion is far too low and some plastics are of Germanic quality.
The transmission modes are lined up next to relatively tiny 8-inch screen which free up space on the central console. Down there you find space for USB ports and cup holders. From the stitching on the dashboard to the wood treatment, you get lavish, well-designed space. If you get restless looking through the double panel sunroof, you can drop the armrest where you will find a screen - albeit a low-resolution one - to play music or climate control seats. Or just put up the privacy blinds and nap.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
In the 'Reserve' trim, you can have the optional big and mighty twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6. Cruising along the highway or in start-and-stop traffic in the city, you know of plenty more thrust beyond mid-throttle. The thrust is useful and is a full-bodied experience when engaged. that kind of power defines luxury. Statisticians will be content with the 5.6 seconds it takes to get out of a pocket and down the road at 100 km/hr. There is some lag from when you put your foot down to when you surge ahead, some which can be alleviated with selecting Sport mode; unfortunately, you have to jump into the menus to access drive control. There's also some delay because of the turbo lag, but nothing that tests your patience. But the heavy body and heavy throttle usage will make it deviate well from its fuel economy claims of 9.8L/100km. And, I would have wanted something bigger than a 68-litre tank.
The 6-speed automatic may seem like too few ratios in an age when 9- and 10-speed autos are becoming the staple - but this one does a good enough job.
While you travel, you'll get a feel for the composure of the Continental: the sorted suspension and long-wheel base deliver that characteristic. But it's still a big car so don't go-kart around town. Add more speed to the equation and you have increased body roll; the car stays in the intended direction, thanks to its all-wheel drive and Dynamic Torque Vectoring, which alter power between axles and wheels. But in a car like this, you prefer to cruise along whilst being cradled into climate controlled leather seats as the suspension absorbs the vibrations. It goes along well with studio levels of silence you can expect in a luxury car.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
The 3-box silhouette means that it offers average lugging capacity of around 500 litres. And there is some space under the rug. Base cars get the 60:40 split rear seats, while higher up the range you get a 40:20:40 split.
Ford's "SYNCŪ 3" seen here allows you to make calls via Bluetooth, manage music selection and read texts in the centre display while keeping your hands on the wheel and use the voice-activated services which Ford seems to endorse. If you choose to use touch screen controls, you will find that although it's small it serves decent clarity and colour with logical menus and buttons with response. The standard audio equipment, with its 13-speakers, is sourced by Revel. For that 25K extra, besides LED headlamps, you also get Revel Ultima sound system, that can be equipped with up to 19 speakers, and that offers three personalised listening modes: traditional Stereo, Audience or On Stage. It even has its own demos to show off its range. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is available, but unfortunately a wireless phone charger is not.
There is plenty in the long list of safety features: Lane Keep Assist, Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Alert etc. You also get the luxury class mandatories like a 360-degree camera to help with the large turning circle and a whole bunch of airbags - even seatbelts have airbags. The tri-zone climate control system did a fair job of cooling the cabin, but try not to leave it out in the sun - the heat will get to the seats.
The 2018 Lincoln Continental is an old-school charmer with plenty of bells and whistles to keep you occupied and comfortable. The price may have floundered its chances in tough competition and the reliability and resale values remain questionable. But for what it's worth, it has the personality to win your vote.