The “Continental” nameplate has long been associated with the best that Lincoln has to offer, but is it still the company’s flagship?
Introduced in 1939 as a personal vehicle of Edsel Ford, the only child of Henry Ford, the “Continental” name referred to the exterior of the coach-built convertible having been given European “continental” styling elements such as a rear-mounted spare tire.
Within the company model line itself, the Continental hasn’t always been the flagship model having served several roles from its base model sedan to flagship sedan. There was even a short-lived Continental Division back in the mid-1950s.
After 2002, Lincoln withdrew the Continental, replacing it with the MKS in 2009. But in 2017, after a 14 year absence, the nameplate was revived again, this time as Lincoln’s flagship sedan, ironically replacing the MKS.
The tenth-generation Continental is based on Ford’s global CD4 platform, also shared with the Ford Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ, but with a 5.7 inch extended wheelbase.
While front-wheel-drive is standard, this generation also marks the first time that all-wheel-drive has been offered on the Continental.
Lincoln even has a name for it, “quiet luxury” as per Kumar Galhotra, president of The Lincoln Motor Company.
To support the “quiet luxury” moniker,, the company has really taken steps to outfit the vehicle with the company’s most luxuriously appointed cabin, on par with the Lincoln Navigator SUV. More on that later.
Stylistically, the sedan is also gracefully designed, with body lines flowing over the door handles, they themselves which have been beautifully integrated into the vehicle’s beltline.
The end result a clean piece of sheet metal, per door, with no door handle to interrupt the surface profile. These doors, by the way, are electronically operated, supposedly because it allows them to be opened and closed more effortlessly.
As the driver approaches, signature LED lighting in the lower front body and tail lamps subtly engages, and flows gracefully from the headlamps.
A luminous Lincoln welcome mat appears beneath the front doors, while warm interior lights discreetly illuminate the cabin. This additional pantomime is certainly something that I’ve always enjoyed with Lincoln’s newest models, and adds a bit of theatre to the experience.
The introduction of the Continental Coach Door Edition is perhaps the biggest news for the model since it first made its debut. This very exclusive stretch model comes with rear “suicide” doors, similar to that of a modern day Rolls-Royce, but also that of the iconic Continental of the 1960s.
The 80 that were produced for 2019 have already been sold out. More are coming for 2020, but likely in a similarly small amount. If you’re interested, act quickly.
For the rest of the Continental models, the main changes are the suite of driver-assistance technologies joining the standard features list in 2019 for most markets. This Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of safety tech includes automatic high-beam headlamps, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, and automatic collision mitigation emergency braking.
Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection uses radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead and if a collision risk with a vehicle or pedestrian is detected, provides a warning to the driver. If the driver does not respond in time, the system can automatically apply up to full braking force.
Pre-Collision Assist can help drivers avoid rear-end collisions with other vehicles at all speeds, while Pedestrian Detection can help drivers avoid pedestrians at lower speeds. Both can reduce the severity of, even prevent, some forward collisions.
For those that commute daily, the Continental also offers an optional adaptive cruise control provides effortless assistance on the daily commute. The available system can automatically slow Continental in stop-and-go traffic – resuming speed when traffic clears.
There is no doubt that the spacious cabin has plenty of plushness to it. As with the Lincoln Navigator SUV, one of the highlights is the company’s private jet inspired seats. These optional “Perfect Position” Seats are a patented design that can be adjusted up to 30 ways.
They truly do allow the seat to be adjusted to individual body shapes and sizes for the maximum in comfort and support. With inflatable side bolsters, customizable massage modes, and very warm heating elements, both front-seat occupants will be riding literally in the lap of luxury.
Even the thigh cushions can be lengthened or shortened individually, allowing one leg to remain at rest on the dead pedal while the other is there to engage the pedals.
The seats aside, the Continental has what you would expect from a luxe experience. Plenty of leather, real wood trim, chrome, and knurled aluminum. There is a high level of standard equipment, but the cabin unfortunately also shares a notable amount of plastic parts that can be found in lesser Lincolns and even Fords.
Rear passengers enjoy first-class travel amenities with such available features as audio and climate control, adjustable sunshades, and reclining, heated, cooled and massaging seats. The streamlined interior provides generous rear legroom.
As expected, all Continental models feature the requisite touchscreen infotainment system, in this case featuring the latest version of parent company Ford’s Sync 3 software. The system is responsive, intuitive, and relatively easy to learn. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also available.
I was happy to see that redundant hard buttons and knobs for frequently used functions for both audio and climate controls. The standard audio system features 10 speakers, but audiophiles can upgrade to a Revel 13 or 19-speaker system with HD radio.
The Continental is also equipped with a 360-degree surround camera system, stitching views from cameras mounted in the grille, decklid and 180-degree side mirrors, to create an image in the screen so drivers can see around the car for easier parking maneuvers.
With its large trunk, foldable rear seats, and voluminous trunk, it’s not difficult to see why the Continental remains a favourite vehicle with limousine fleet companies. It’s practically is immense, and one can actually fit in more carry-on suitcases than even a BMW 7-Series.
My test vehicle was fitted with an all-new Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 engine producing up to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. 0-96 km/hr runs can be had around the 5.0 second mark with this engine.
Paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission and the optional dynamically torque variable all-wheel-drive system, the Continental offers confident handling.
Two other V6 engines are also available, including a smaller 2.7 litre twin-turbocharged V6 producing 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.7 litre normally aspirated V6 with 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.
Nonetheless, Lincoln isn’t chasing sports-sedan glory as with some of its competitors. Instead, the focus, once again, is on providing a well-cushioned ride. Lincoln Drive Control provides the driver a choice of three settings – comfort, normal and sport – adapting steering and suspension setups to tailor ride and handling.
For those seeking the highest expression of American car luxury, the Lincoln Continental is one of a handful of large American luxury sedans left on the market.
With parent company Ford already announcing the cancellation of almost all of the cars in its lineup with the shift to trucks, SUVs, and crossovers, for now at least, the Continental wafts on in quiet luxury.