Lincoln Continental Review & Features

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Long-Term Road Test

2017 Lincoln Continental: Monthly Update for August 2017

Where Did We Drive It?
Eight months into our yearlong long-term test of the 2017 Lincoln Continental, we passed the halfway point to our mileage goal. Somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the odometer crossed over the 10,000-mile mark. On that trip, I also managed to top the best result for fuel economy. Otherwise, in regular commuter duty the Continental has received praise and a few complaints. Click on through to see what we're up to.

2017 Lincoln Continental

What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Since our last update, we added another 1,861 miles to the odometer of our Continental. It averaged 19.2 mpg for the month. That's about 2 mpg better than our previous lifetime average, increasing the running tally 0.4 mpg by the end of August. Our best single tank in terms of mileage and range also increased, with a 24.3-mpg tank on my way up to San Francisco and a 419.9-mile range on my way back. (I was on fumes.) We're holding just above the EPA city estimate but below the combined figure.

Average lifetime mpg: 17.3
EPA mpg rating: 19 combined (16 city/24 highway)
Best fill mpg: 24.3
Best range: 419.9 miles
Current odometer: 10,447 miles

Maintenance and Upkeep

Logbook Highlights
"Cars are so fast these days that I fear we're losing perspective. Case in point: the new Lexus LC 500 grand tourer, which laid down a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph and a 13.1-second quarter-mile at 109.3 mph in our instrumented testing. Want to know another car that put up those numbers? The 2013 BMW M3 Lime Rock Edition (4.9 seconds to 60 mph; 13.0 seconds at 109.9 mph). I don't remember anyone in the universe complaining that the V8-powered E90 M3 was slow. But here we are today, five years later, and automotive critics are carping that the LC 500 just isn't fast enough.

"Which brings me to our long-term Lincoln Continental. At our test track, it did 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 101.6 mph. If the LC 500 is disappointing, this Lincoln must be a pure embarrassment. Except it's not. Not at all. Our Continental is fast. It leaps off the line and never runs out of breath. It has a lightness of being that belies its beefy 4,662-pound mass. I could drive this car forever and never tire of its power delivery. I'd go so far as to call it 'forever fast,' regardless of how its numbers stack up at a given point in time.

"So let's adopt that as a category going forward, please. Forever fast. Are you with me? Certain cars are just fast, period. They'll never leave you wanting for more. Our Continental belongs in that category. The twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 picks this big sedan up and effortlessly hurtles it forward every time you squeeze the throttle. I don't have a greater need for speed than that, and I wager you don't, either. But you could be misled if I told you that some rival sedan had 100 more horsepower and hit 60 almost a second quicker and so forth.

"Well, I'm here to tell you: Don't be misled. This Lincoln objectively hauls the mail. That's all you need to know." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy

"The Continental has some serious sauce for a big luxury sedan. This was especially true on my round trip from L.A. to San Francisco and back. On long stretches of the 101 (it's prettier than the 5), I effortlessly passed slower traffic. The transmission reacts quickly, dropping you a few gears and pushing forward with determination." — Mark Takahashi, senior writer

"I'm going to disagree with my colleagues who said that they couldn't find a comfortable seating position. The 30-way adjustable seats may be a bit overkill, but I found them to be comfortable over a weekend and on a multihour drive through L.A. county freeways." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor

2017 Lincoln Continental

"I'm with Ron. It took me a while, but when I found my ideal setting, the miles clicked off with alarming frequency. Add in 20 minutes of massage at a time and ventilated seats and I was as comfortable as I've been in almost any car. I especially like that I can individually adjust the left or right seat cushions. My left leg is always higher because that foot rests on the dead pedal. With the Continental's seats, I can finally get perfect thigh support for both legs." — Mark Takahashi

"I like the solid thump of the Continental's driver door when I shut it. Pleasantly surprises me every time I grab the key to this thing. I can never lose sight of the fact that the Continental is fundamentally an Acura RLX type of flagship, i.e., one that traces its underpinnings back to a workaday front-wheel-drive family sedan (the Ford Fusion in the Lincoln's case, the Honda Accord in the Acura's). But I've never heard a Fusion door make a sound like that. It's a nice little signal to the shopper that details were indeed sweated in the making of this car." — Josh Sadlier

2017 Lincoln Continental

"As prominent as the badging is on the side of the Continental, you'd think that they'd take the time and care to make sure that the two segments line up. Nope. It's just a bit off. Just enough to really annoy me. C'mon, guys, you had one job (probably not; they had several tasks)." — Mark Takahashi

"The Lincoln Continental turns heads. In a good way. It has a really substantial footprint, and it's unapologetic about it. When I would stop for gas, I'd inevitably notice someone checking out the car. Sometimes they'd come up and ask questions. The turning point would eventually come when I disclose the $70,000 price tag. Ouch.

"In any case, the car really seemed to resonate with the owner of a gas station in Santa Ynez, right around the corner from a cheese store owned by a friend. He must've made four laps around the Continental, commenting on how good it looks. For the most part, I agree with him. It's stately and classy." — Mark Takahashi

2017 Lincoln Continental

"Our Lincoln Continental's push-button transmission joins the club of vehicles that have attempted to improve on the age-old gear lever. The Acura TLX V6 and the upcoming 2018 GMC Terrain are a few other examples that come to mind. None of these are good. If you need to quickly move from Reverse to Drive, most of us are able to do this on a traditional gearshift without looking. The Continental's buttons ask that you hit a roughly 1-inch square area to change directions. There needs to be a tactile feel to changing direction. I'm fine with the hockey puck-style shifters on Ram and Chrysler vehicles, too, since you can count the detents." — Ron Montoya

2017 Lincoln Continental

"I haven't been paying as close attention to audiophile equipment as I used to, so the branded premium audio system in the Continental didn't really resonate with me at first. Revel, according to the interwebs, was founded right here in L.A. back in 1996 and is now under the Harman umbrella of companies.

"Safe to say, I won't soon forget that name. The system in the Lincoln is excellent. We have the 19-speaker Revel Ultima system that takes up most of the $5,000 Luxury package option. There's a 13-speaker Revel system available for only $1,130, but I haven't experienced it yet.

"Our system is one of the best I've heard in a while. Almost as good as the $6,000 Bang & Olufsen option we had in the last long-term Audi A8L. It has great clarity, even when I have it turned up to unreasonable levels. With all of the tone selectors at the default position, I needed a bit more bass. Pushing that slider up two out of the 10 markers solved that. On a trip to the symphony, I was able to hear some things I'd never heard in other systems. This included a very faint turn of a sheet music page during Holst's 'Jupiter.' Impressive.

"Is it worth it? That's your call. If you're an audiophile, $5,000 could be a bargain when you consider how expensive some components run nowadays. If I was spending $65,000 for a luxury sedan, I'm sure another $5,000 wouldn't break the bank. Priorities, people!" — Mark Takahashi

2017 Lincoln Continental

"Just as I started closing in on the 10,000-mile odometer milestone, a message began appearing on startup. Just the typical reminder that we're due for an oil change. According to our window sticker, our Continental is eligible for free pickup and delivery, so perhaps it's time to exercise that option. Stay tuned." — Mark Takahashi

2017 Lincoln Continental

Mark Takahashi, senior writer @ 10,447 miles

Lincoln Continental Review

The earliest Lincoln Continental was the automotive equivalent of Catherine Zeta-Jones -- it ought to have come with a warning label that read "May Cause Shortness of Breath." Based on the Lincoln Zephyr, the Continental got its start as a one-off drop top commissioned by Edsel Ford in the late 1930s. Serving as his vehicle of choice during his annual jaunts to Palm Beach, the car's exquisite shape generated so much buzz that Lincoln decided to put the Continental into production. Available as both a cabriolet and a coupe, the Continental debuted in 1940.

World War II and other events resulted in stops and starts in the car's production over the next decade or so, but by the mid-'50s, the Continental was back -- this time as its own brand. That arrangement didn't last (the Continental brand was folded back into the Lincoln marque in 1957), but the Continental did. For more than two decades, it served as Lincoln's flagship model.

As a recipe for ailing sales, the Lincoln Continental was redesigned in 1961. Now available as either a sedan or a four-door convertible (the nation's first in more than a decade) it was hailed for its clean good looks and winning performance. That era's photogenic First Family was often snapped riding in the Continental; it came to be known as the "Kennedy Lincoln" and enjoyed a wave of popularity. Another redesign took place for 1966 and again in 1970, which left the Continental with a blocky, more formal look (highlighted by hidden headlamps and a larger grille) and a coil-link rear suspension.

Fuel economy and emissions regulations forced Lincoln's hand, and the Continental was given makeovers in 1980 and '82. The car rode on a much shorter wheelbase, and offered improved gas mileage. In 1988, the car was given a new platform -- one shared by the midsize Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. This Continental was the first Lincoln to offer front-wheel drive and a fully independent suspension.

Unfortunately, this move to front-wheel drive eventually doomed the Lincoln Continental as it progressed through the end of the 20th century. Late-model Continentals didn't exactly crackle with the same desirability as that very first model, as consumer tastes had moved away from the soft-riding big-car brand of luxury that was the Continental's stock in trade. Even more notably, foreign rivals such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz had eclipsed the car in performance and refinement and had become top choices for shoppers in this segment. Dogged by weak sales, Lincoln's big sedan was retired in 2002.

Most Recent Lincoln Continental

The most recent generation of the Lincoln Continental luxury sedan got its start in 1995. 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 like 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 like 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 cell phone 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 offered a driving and ownership experience that was more polished and engaging.

Past Lincoln Continental Models

The previous-generation Continental ran from 1988-'94. The car was less grand than later-model Continentals -- not surprising, since it shared some design cues with its platform-mate, the humble Ford Taurus. As this generation drew to a close, power was provided by a 3.8-liter V6 good for 160 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, with two trim levels being offered -- the Executive and the top-of-the-line Signature. Those looking for trademark Continental opulence are advised to skip this model for more recent versions of the sedan.

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