There are perhaps a few dozen car models globally, at most, that have so much history behind them that they instantly evoke a clear mental image — the classic shape of the Porsche 911, the taillight treatment of a Corvette. Then there's the Continental: a giant box of steel and leather, a testament to big, American-style luxury. In the ’90s and aughts, the Continental sort of circled the drain, but there was a time when this Lincoln flagship was legitimately one of the most luxurious (and expensive) cars in the world.
That's the backdrop for Lincoln here in the days leading up to this week's New York International Auto Show, where the Ford brand is showing an all-new Continental concept that it promises tracks very closely to the production car that will debut next year. I had a chance to see it up close.
This isn't your grandfather's Lincoln — but it's also kind of your grandfather's Lincoln.
Ford CEO Mark Fields says that internal concepts for a new Lincoln flagship sedan didn't really impress executives inside the company until they suggested it might be called Continental, which set the creative juices flowing — it's an iconic marque that designers were able to latch onto. In all honesty, the exterior is bland, if imposing — but that might work well with Lincoln's target market (Chinese nouveau riche, who prefer to be chauffeured). It definitely played better for me in person than in press photos, which make the car look like a generic mix of a slew of German, Korean, and Japanese large luxury sedans.
This is a seriously big car
The interior, though, is where the Continental really shines. The rich blue surfaces feel as sumptuous as they look: plush everything from carpet to headliner, with polished metal accents in every direction. For the maximum "I'm being driven around in my giant car" effect, the footrest for the right rear passenger can extend at the expense of the right front passenger's space. A desk with a built-in tablet offers entertainment, seat controls, and perhaps the occasional email.
As enormous as this car is, you'd expect a V-8 — but it's actually powered by a compact 3.0-liter V-6, a Lincoln-exclusive EcoBoost twin turbo (then again, the ridiculous new Ford GT has a six-cylinder, so we need to get used to it). And engine aside, it really is a gigantic vehicle. Maybe it's not the most visually stunning car in New York this week, but I'd argue it fits the Continental name, and it fits Lincoln's "Quiet Luxury" mantra.Now, we'll have to wait and see whether the production car gets this plush blue interior.