Lincoln Re-Boots the Continental

One of the undisputed stars of this week’s New York auto show will be Lincoln’s head-twirling Continental Concept, touted as the upcoming replacement for its unloved Lincoln MKS flagship.

   It kicks off yet another design reboot for the struggling Lincoln Motor Company, replacing the current split-wing grille – which I really kind of liked – with this over-chromed, over-stylized Audi/Bentley/Jaguar mishmash.

2017 Lincoln Continental - new concept from Lincoln Motor Company

   Gone too – thank goodness – is the plain-dumb MK naming strategy. Instead of this being the new MKS, Ford boss Mark Fields gave the inspired go-ahead to use the classic Continental badge from Lincoln’s storied past.

   Don’t expect the folks at Bentley to be too over-joyed with that decision.

   Word is that this new Continental will land in showrooms mid-2016 as a 2017 model. But once again, it looks as if Lincoln might enter the luxury car fight with one arm tied behind its back.

headlight of the 2017 Lincoln Continental - sneak peek with Howard Walker

   Instead of offering a true flagship with rear-wheel drive and V8 power, the new Continental is likely to be based on a stretched version of Ford’s global platform that underpins everything from the Ford Fusion  and its Lincoln MKZ sibling, to the new Ford Edge sport-ute.

   That means front-wheel drive with perhaps all-wheel drive as an option.

   As for power, expect a 3.0-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, supposedly exclusive to Lincoln.

   That to me means that Lincoln will only be competing with the likes of Buick and Lexus, rather than the established luxury European brands. Certainly I don’t see the heads of Audi and Mercedes-Benz losing sleep over this Continental.

Taillights of the 2017 Lincoln Continental

   But in the metal this Continental Concept looks impressive in an ‘American Luxury’ kind of way. Unlike Cadillac, which is unashamedly chasing BMW and Audi buyers with its cold, clinical style, the Continental is all about glamor and creature comfort.

   The overall proportions of the car are lovely, with its rounded haunches and swoopy roofline. And that tallish roof thankfully goes against the current love affair with coupe-bodied sedans with their compromised rear seat headroom.

   You have to ignore many of the attention-grabbing auto show concept design cues, like the huge 21-inch fan-blade style alloys, funky LED headlights and chrome everywhere.

Profile of the 2017 Lincoln Continental - luxury car made in America

   Same with the interior which is a mass of Venetian leather and Alcantara suede, wool carpeting so deep you could lose your shoes in it, and sexy satin headlining.

   And enough with the design clichés that label this Lincoln an ‘old man’s wheels’. Champagne bottle chillers are so Wolf of Wall Street. Same with the Venetian leather attaché cases that detach from the back of the front seats.

   The vast rear seat space however will carry over to the production Continental. Hopefully, along with the 30-way adjustable rear seats, which can recline biz-jet style.

The rear seat of the 2017 Lincoln Continental - Reinventing American Luxury

   Lincoln’s challenge will be to not dilute this Continental Concept’s head-turning style and lavish, luxurious interior when turning it into production reality.

   Fact is, the world isn’t waiting with baited breath for a new Lincoln flagship. For it to succeed, it needs to be something very special.


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