I run in a crowd of people with birth certificates and bank balances that might suggest an interest in cars offered by the Lincoln Motor Co., Ford’s luxury brand.
Our kids are grown and we have tickets to U2 (with Mumford and Sons), revisiting the original Joshua Tree tour of three decades ago. We ski, golf, travel and dine in circles where BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Audis fill the parking lots. There’s the odd Lexus owner, but we make allowances for the quality-obsessed outlier with unusual tastes in design.
We all like Matthew McConaughey, too, spellbound by his scenery-chewing performance in True Detective. Interstellar blew our minds and the Dallas Buyers Club was an acting tour-de-force. The men-in-chaps of Magic Mike made us howl ‘till we cried and even The Lincoln Lawyer was amusing.
And so when McConaughey sold out, turning to flog Lincoln’s cars, well, this actor got a pass from my gang — and even some passing interest in what the heck Lincoln the car brand is up to. I zeroed in on the new Lincoln sedan with a long history. The Continental, after all, was the epitome of cool elegance and presidential power in the 1960s. The Lincoln Continental was left to languish in the 1990s, however, then faded into obscurity and went out of production in 2002.
The new Continental looks, feels and drives like a luxury car designed and developed by a car company with great expertise in pickup trucks and SUVs (sport-utility vehicles). The braintrust behind this all-wheel-drive sedan ($57,400-$60,900 base pricing) would appear to lack any deep feeling, any rich understanding, any strong affinity for what a modern luxury car should always be. This Lincoln comes across as a paint-by-numbers effort in how to take focus group research and use it to create a competitor to the BMW 5-Series/Audi A6/Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
So yes, the McConaughey ads are delicious. But the truth is, the 2017 Continental rides on a longer, wider, taller version of the CD4 platform that also is the basis for the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ. Yes, the Continental shares its chassis with a popular rental car listing for as little as $23,688.
Ford officials and apologists will say the Continental shares bits and pieces underneath that only a smart engineer or a brilliant mechanic could spot. As justification, they’ll blather on about how Audi turns Volkswagens into sports-luxury cars. They’ll point to the Mercedes’ B-Class and whisper “minivan.” And they’ll sum up BMW by pointing to the 1-Series three-door. So there.
The truth is, Ford has engineered the Continental “up” from a car you can rent from Thrifty for $75 a day. I like the Fusion, but its basics aren’t what you’d expect to find under the skin of a Continental – a least a 2017 Continental that claims to be the spiritual successor to a car that has not only been the stuff of presidents, but also Elvis Presley and Clark Gable.
To be fair, Ford…ah, Lincoln, wisely isn’t claiming a place for the Continental beside the best sporting sedans from Germany. Even the Continental with the available 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V-6 (an extra $3,000 gets you 400 hp/400 lb.-ft. of torque) is more touring car than hero of the Nürburgring.
That V-6 is a fine mill and feels strong enough to challenge the Germans. But the base motor is a 2.7-litre twin turbo that is only slightly more robust than the 2.7-litre V-6 in the Fusion (335 hp/380 lb-ft torque versus 325 hp/350 lb-ft).
What you need to know about this Continental is this: the mesh grille and the refrigerator door handles that blend into the chrome strip running down the beltline are the standout exterior design features in a car with balanced proportions but almost nothing in the way of sheetmetal flourishes.
The car shines inside, though. The rich cabin has firm seats upholstered in soft leather and they come equipped with an available back massager and 30-way adjustments that you can dial up while listening to a sound system with 19 speakers. The overall look is set off by natural-finished wood.
The push-button gear selector, however, reminds me of my dad’s 1962 Rambler station wagon. The electric push-button door opener is one of those things the marketing folks make the engineers do as an “oh, wow” factor for the showroom. This handsome interior can accommodate the biggest adults, I should note.
Ah, but as you approach the Continental at night, puddle lights with the Lincoln logo illuminate the ground below the doors. Sexy and fun and certainly a conversation-starter. Nice touch.
Has Lincoln done enough to justify what can be an $80,000 price tag for the buyer loading up on all the extras? Not among my crowd of Baby Boomers who equate premium with German engineering and would never rent a Fusion.
2017 Lincoln Continental Livery
Price: $57,400. Freight and PDI: $1,900.
Engine: 2.7-litre V-6, twin turbo.
Drive: all-wheel drive.
Transmission: six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.3 city/9.7 hwy using premium fuel.
Comparables: Cadillac CT6, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q70, Acura RLX, Volvo S80.