With the new Lincoln Continental, Ford's luxury brand attempts to offer a car that honors its long-past glory days while being modern enough to appeal to a new generation of luxury sedan shoppers.
Rather than competing directly with more performance-oriented European and American models, the Lincoln Continental prioritizes a serene ride over athleticism. However, that is not to say that this Continental is the wallowing land yacht your grandfather (or even great-grandfather) had decades ago. With its classy styling and cutting-edge features, this is the best big sedan that Lincoln has offered in ages.
That said, it's not all aces. Though the front seats can provide more than two dozen power adjustments, some folks may still find a comfortable setting elusive. And though the base price makes the Continental look like a bargain, that could be misleading. Going with a loaded, top-of-the-line trim level puts the car squarely in the pricing realm of both large Asian luxury cars and midsize European luxury sedans.
Current Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continental is a large, four-door luxury sedan that comes in four trim levels: Premiere, Select, Reserve and Black Label. Highlights of the base Premiere include adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, satellite radio, two USB ports and a 10-speaker sound system.
The Select adds soft-close door assist, hands-free trunk opener and leather upholstery, while the Reserve boasts triple-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system and ventilated front seats. The fully loaded Black Label counts LED headlights, upgraded leather upholstery and a 19-speaker audio system among its standard features.
Depending on trim level, one of three different engines is fitted to the Lincoln Continental. The lineup starts with a 3.7-liter V6 with 305 horsepower then moves to the midlevel choice of a turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 with 335 hp. At the top of the range is turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 400 hp. All send their power through a six-speed automatic transmission. Depending on engine, you may choose between front- and all-wheel drive.
In reviews, our staff sometimes had mixed feelings on the big Lincoln. Some felt the ride was commendably smooth; others noted it could get rather busy on more severely broken pavement. And while some ultimately found a perfect seat setting and quickly saved it to the car's memory, others couldn't get it right despite the multitude of adjustments.
Handling is respectable despite somewhat numb steering, with none of the excessive body lean in quicker transitions you might expect. The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 provides plenty of smooth thrust for passing and merging, and the car makes a great road-trip companion thanks to its effortless and comfortable demeanor while cruising at elevated highway speeds.
Used Lincoln Continentals
The latest generation Continental debuted for the 2017 model year.
Prior to this was the 1995 to 2002 Lincoln Continental. This version distinguished itself from its predecessor with a sleeker, more upscale exterior designed to shed some of the sedan's stodginess and attract younger buyers. Other changes included a new suspension and a more powerful 4.6-liter V8 engine.
Sometimes luxury meant not having to worry about petty details like, say, selecting a trim level for your mansion-on-wheels. Lincoln kept things easy for buyers by offering the Continental in just one trim level, which came with standard features such as keyless entry, leather upholstery, full power accessories and an AM/FM/cassette audio system. The options list allowed drivers to raise the level of coddling with features including Alpine audio, heated seats, auxiliary steering-wheel audio controls, a CD changer and a power sunroof.
Literally keeping up with the Joneses wasn't a problem, thanks to the Lincoln's capable engine — its 4.6-liter V8 brimmed with 260 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. Sending this power to the front wheels was a four-speed automatic transmission. The Lincoln Continental also featured an air-spring suspension and an available Driver Select System that came with variable-rate steering assist and electronically adjustable shock absorbers that could be set for plush, normal or firm ride control. The air springs are known to wear out, so pay particular attention to the car's suspension during inspection.
Lincoln gave the Continental a few useful tweaks during these years. A 1998 refresh gave the luxury sedan a more streamlined look, with smoother lines, wraparound headlights and a new grille. This refresh also gave the Continental a nicer cabin, set off by elegant bird's eye maple wood trim. Audiophiles should choose models made in 1999 or later since these Continentals were endowed with an improved sound system. The V8's output also increased slightly this year to 275 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque.
Safety took a step up in 2000, when Lincoln's sedan gained standard side airbags, along with an emergency trunk release and child-seat anchor brackets. In 2002, its final year, the Continental got an optional (and now-defunct) Vehicle Communications System that included hands-free cellphone communication.
Our editors appreciated the fact that this Lincoln offered a wealth of gadgets and features to use and enjoy. Strong acceleration was another impressive point. Still, this big car had its flaws. In reviews of the Lincoln Continental, we criticized its lack of maneuverability and dearth of interior storage. The sedan's gravest shortcoming, though, was its lack of refinement relative to its competitors. Though the Continental was perfectly adequate, cars in this price range from Germany and Japan served up a driving and ownership experience that was more polished and engaging.
Read the most recent 2018 Lincoln Continental review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Lincoln Continental page.