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The big news for Continental is an optional gee-whiz rescue unit that uses a Global Positioning Satellite to pinpoint your location for roadside assistance, medical and law enforcement personnel in the event of an emergency -- likely the greatest safety advance since airbags and antilock brakes. Also new are run-flat Michelin tires, a 75th Diamond Anniversary Edition and a standard anti-theft system. It's getting there.
Luxury means different things to different people. For some, unparalleled comfort is the definition of the term. Others look for excellence in engineering. Some prefer distinct styling or confident performance. The new Continental blends certain of these elements into one convincing package, but the result is a rather bland sedan that doesn't stand out from the crowd the way a BMW 530i or Cadillac Seville does. In our opinion, even the $30,000 Chrysler LHS is a more visually enticing vehicle.
A V8 engine and multi-adjustable suspension are two of the highlights of the Continental. The engine is the familiar 4.6-liter "In-Tech" motor from the Town Car and Mark VIII, producing 260 horsepower in this application. The suspension setup offers three settings; firm, normal and soft. Soft gives passengers a floaty, well-isolated ride while firm stiffens the suspension for spirited driving.
Electroluminescent gauges, just like those on a Lexus, keep the driver informed, and the quality of the interior materials and textures is first rate, though we noticed that the power window and lock switchgear is identical to that offered on the 1995 Ford Taurus. The cabin seems somewhat small, but the rear seat still offers limo-like room, just like the previous Continental boasted. Outside, the influence of the Mark VIII is quite evident in the sloping hood, front styling and bulging side sheetmetal. We find the new shape to be somewhat homely, though from the rear quarter view the car is stunning.
Lincoln concentrated on safety for the 1996 Continental. An optional Personal Security Package includes run-flat Michelin tires mounted on special chrome alloy wheels, a garage door opener and a sophisticated global satellite rescue system. The tires are designed to travel up to 20 miles at 50 mph with no loss of steering or control if they go flat. Slowing down will increase the distance you can travel. A new transmitter system can learn up to three garage and security system codes. But the big news is the Remote Emergency Satellite Cellular Unit (RESCU). Mounted in the overhead console are two buttons. One of them links the driver to roadside assistance. The other links the driver to medical or law enforcement personnel. The system transmits the Vehicle Identification Number of the car, as well as its location to within 100 feet via a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS). The driver, or passengers, can use the telephone in the console to talk with operators who respondto the signal put out by the RESCU system. This is probably the most important safety innovation since airbags and antilock brakes.
Also new this year is a Touring Package and a midyear 75th Diamond Anniversary Edition. Lincoln's Total Anti-theft System is moved from the options list to the standard equipment roster.
Is the Continental worthy of inclusion in the over $40,000 luxury-car class? Yes, particularly when equipped with the RESCU system. However, more distinctive styling would go a long way towards making the Continental more palatable.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.