Used 1998 Lincoln Continental
Edmunds' Expert Review
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 540i or Cadillac Seville does.
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. The cabin seems somewhat small, but the rear seat still offers limo-like room, just like the previous Continental. 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 1997 Continental, and introduced some neat gadgets that deserve mention again this year. 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 they 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 respond to the signal put out by the RESCU system. This is probably the most important safety innovation since airbags and antilock brakes. In addition to the RESCU system, Lincoln adds a singe-key locking system to the Continental.
New for 1998 is rounded sheetmetal at all four corners, a longer rear deck, an even bigger grille and a restyled interior that includes a new clock.
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.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
The Lincoln Continental was first introduced in 1941, just prior to America's involvement in World War II. Conceived by Ford Motor's President, Edsel Ford, the car was intended to showcase the latest designs and features from Europe, without the high European price. Completely different than anything else being built in this country, the eponymously named Continental featured such niceties as a rear-mounted outside spare tire carrier and push button exterior door releases. The Continental was initially offered as a coupe and convertible, and brought enthusiastic customers into Lincoln showrooms in droves.
Despite its early popularity, the Continental didn't return to the Lincoln lineup after World War II ended. The car that had been penned to wear the Continental name was thought to be too heavy and ponderous for post-war American tastes. As a result, Lincoln didn't produce another vehicle with the Continental badge until 1959 when Ford absorbed the separate Continental line as a sub-series of Lincoln and released the Continental Mark IV in six different body styles. In 1960, the Continental became the favored car of America's royal family, the Kennedy's. Since then, it has enjoyed a long, uninterrupted life often serving as a showcase for Lincoln's newest technological innovations and highest levels of luxury.
In that regard, the 1998 Lincoln Continental differs little from its early predecessors. The Continental is still Lincoln's entry against sporty European sedans, and it is still Lincoln's platform for introducing technological advances. Dramatically improved this year, the Continental does an admirable job fulfilling both of its tasks.
The 1998 Continental receives a rash of exterior changes that render the new car sleeker and less cluttered in appearance than the 1997 model. A new grille, wraparound headlights, and bulging fenders highlight a swept-back front end that renders the car more modern looking. Additionally, a new hood flows into a windshield that is more steeply raked than last year, thanks to a cowl-forward interior design which pushes the passenger compartment forward, closer to the car's engine. Very cool-looking taillamps sit atop the corners of the Continental's slightly longer trunk, giving the car a sophisticated stance when viewed from the rear.
Interior changes to the 1998 Continental include a larger passenger space that is made possible thanks to the cowl-forward design previously mentioned. Also new is the use of bird's-eye maple wood trim that runs the length of the Continental's redesigned center console. Rear passengers get a new folding center armrest that has two integrated cupholders.
Overall, we are pleased with the Continental's new look. The exterior is a nice example of American solidity and European fluidity. We think that Lincoln could have saved some money on the car by laying off the chrome a bit, but that might make the Continental less of a Lincoln and more of a Ford. The Continental has a great interior that features clear analog gauges, large control buttons, and easy-to-read LCD readouts for the car's vital statistics. We take issue, however, with the Continental's puffy front seats, which provide limited support and not too much comfort on long trips.
A 260-horespower version of Ford's modular 4.6-liter In-Tech engine drives the front-wheels of the Continental. This motor is hooked to a smooth 4-speed automatic transmission that upshifts and downshifts with nary a jolt. Our tester came equipped with Lincoln's optional Driver's Select System. The Driver Select System lends some credibility to the Continental's import-fighter aspirations, by allowing drivers to adjust both the suspension and steering of the car. Enthusiasts can select the firm suspension setting and high-effort steering to give themselves more control. Those drivers looking for that traditional Lincoln ride can select the plush suspension setting and low-effort steering. We found that this combination produced nausea in some passengers on roads with lots of curves and dips. There is also a normal steering, normal suspension mode for drivers who are, um, normal. Our editors felt that the firm suspension setting and normal steering effort gave the best combination of comfort and control.
All of this technology means that the Continental handles reasonably well in most driving conditions. The Continental accelerates impressively, thanks to the powerplant's ability to send 270 pound-feet of torque to the road through the front tires. The Continental is not a hot rod, however, and its forte is better suited to high speed interstate cruising. Prodigious passing power and good on-center steering feel makes this car a natural choice for those who like to point their nose down an interstate and head to their destination with due haste.
The Lincoln Continental is a roomy, competent, attractive sedan. We typically only recommend it, however, to people who are unwilling to spend their cold, hard cash on imports. Why is that? Probably because we think that the Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and BMW models that the Continental competes with are more satisfying vehicles. This may be because the import models can achieve high levels of ride and handling refinement without resorting to gee-whiz gadgetry like the Driver's Select System. It may also be due to the fact that the imports have superior build quality and are not as likely to be subject to an inconvenient recall as the Continental. (At this writing, Ford has issued a safety recall for 545,000 1994 models, including the Continental.) We don't dislike the Continental, but we do think that those shopping the luxury market should look around before deciding to plunk down $43,000 for a car. For our money, the cars that BMW and Mercedes actually ship from the continent are the more compelling choices.
Second Opinion - Lincoln Continental
My dad owned a couple of Lincolns before switching to European sport sedans and, later in life, Cadillacs. We took long road trips in his beige opera-windowed Continental Mark V and dark blue Continental Mark VI with a ridiculous full padded vinyl roof. Not particularly stylish, those cars, but they got us around the country with little problem and in comfort. There was plenty of room for growing boys to spread out during long days traversing the Great Plains, and the trunk swallowed three weeks of gear effortlessly. Then one day, after a long string of reliability problems, the computer system in the Mark VI fried itself. Dad angrily wholesaled the car. A Saab 900 next appeared in the driveway, and it promptly stranded us on a New England vacation with a bad transmission. But that's another story for another day.
Had my brother and I been born two decades later, it might have been a 1998 Lincoln Continental that carried us to far flung locales such as Astoria, Oregon and Bar Harbor, Maine. The Lincoln new car smell has survived intact from the late 70s, and there are still plenty of fiddly gadgets to play with on the dashboard. The trip computer that entertained the family nearly 20 years ago still exists in the latest Lincoln, complete with digital readout. There's lots of room for kids to stretch out during long days on the Interstate, and the trunk is nothing short of huge. Same formula, different era. And that's a problem at $43,000.
Now that I'm older, I can appreciate the Continental for what it is. Just as Dad's old Lincolns were dressed up versions of the Ford Thunderbird (Mark V) and Ford LTD (Mark VI), this most recent Continental is nothing more than a fancy Ford Taurus, and the first-generation platform at that. Driving this Lincoln for a few days reminded me of the time I rented a 1994 Taurus equipped with a 3.8-liter V-6. Same high cowl and low seating position. Same torque steer. Similar smells and materials inside. Same flaccid driver's seat that's fine for one hour but punishing after two. At $43,000, I'm impressed only by Ford's dry sense of humor. Buyers looking for a car like this should wait a year or two, and then buy a used one for the same price as a new Taurus. Christian J. Wardlaw
Used 1998 Lincoln Continental Overview
The Used 1998 Lincoln Continental is offered in the following submodels: Continental Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan.
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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Lincoln Continental?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.