2017 Lincoln Continental: Can it compete with BMW, Mercedes, Audi?

Auto Shows | January 12th, 2016 by 8
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At last year’s 2015 New York international Auto Show, Ford made a big splash with its Lincoln Continental concept car that was supposed to bring …

At last year’s 2015 New York international Auto Show, Ford made a big splash with its Lincoln Continental concept car that was supposed to bring premium luxury back to the famous American brand. What better way to do that than bring back America’s most famous luxury name — Continental? The Lincoln Continental concept showed some promise, as it looked like it could be properly luxurious.

At this year’s 2016 Detroit Auto Show, Ford showed off the real deal Lincoln Continental, not just a concept, and it seems to have delivered on most of its promise. The one aspect of the concept that had  viewers all abuzz last year was the solid, touch-sensitive door handles, which were more like little pads that stuck off of the top of the door sill. Those actually made it into production, sort of, as fixed, touch-sensitive door handles that pop the door open with just a user’s grab. Pretty cool stuff.

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On the outside, the Continental seems virtually unchanged from its concept form, which is good as often times we’re so disappointed with the way concepts transform when going into production. The headlights and taillights are only slightly changed from the concept, but aside from that, the Conti is essentially the same car we saw last year. Which is a good thing, as the new Continental is a good looking car. It’s quiet and understated, yet it still has sort of menacing looks with its square jawline and slightly squinty headlights. It almost has some Jaguar XJ in its front end, which is a grand compliment.

On the inside, the Continental treats passengers to a serene and calm luxurious cabin. It’s not as beautiful as the interior of a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz E Class and it kind of has a very “Ford” look to it, but it’s a nice place to sit, nevertheless. The front seats even have butt-cheeks, which is interesting. Those aforementioned seats have 30-way power controls, are both heated and cooled and have massagers built in. Ford and Lincoln were going for a more pleasant environment than a sporty or performance-oriented one and it seems as if they succeeded in that.

However, there are a couple of problems with the Continental is, such as “is anyone gonna buy it?”

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There will be fans of American car companies who will turn to the Conti for their luxury needs, but for people who will cross shop different vehicles, will people really choose Lincoln? BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have somewhat defined the luxury car market, in terms of both pricing and expectations. While the Continental will likely be considerably cheaper than the 7 Series, S Class and A8, how many people will go for this over those cars?

Cadillac, Hyundai and Acura have all tried the same thing before, developing a car with similar luxuries to those big Germans at a considerably lower cost. But each company has failed to even come close to the sales figures of the Germans’ big luxury cars. When people want luxury, they look toward Germany. And for good reason, the German Big Three have been on top of the game for decades now.

And then there’s the problem of its powertrain and drivetrain. The Conti will use a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that develops an even 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. That’s not necessarily the issue as it has enough power, but a big luxurious Lincoln Continental shouldn’t have a V6 Ecoboost engine, Ford has Fiestas and Focuses for fuel economy. Ecoboost doesn’t scream luxury. However, the bigger issue is its front-wheel drive. Audi can get away with offering front-wheel drive on many models because its Quattro system is so revered, bur Lincoln cannot. big luxury needs rear-wheel drive as standard. Hell, even Toyota-owned Lexus offers rear-wheel drive on its luxury cars. This is a big opportunity missed by Ford and Lincoln.

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While the Continental should be a fine luxury car, one that handles well enough, is fast enough and has plenty of luxury, it’s just probably not going to be enough to compete with the big Germans. It’s just not impressive enough to hang with the big boys.

8 responses to “2017 Lincoln Continental: Can it compete with BMW, Mercedes, Audi?”

  1. Teemus I says:

    BMW has stated that many of its owners dont know that they were driving a rear wheel drive car…so this shouldnt be problem for the Continental. If some one wants a rear wheel drive they know what to look for for others this is a compelling option. This thing is waaay better and coveys a lot more than the Cadillac, Hyundai and Acura and should top the three brands in months to come.

    • Billy The Hillbilly says:

      omg now it becomes a fkn fairytale. Wasnt this the statement concerning only the 1 series, the one and only series in the BMW’s lineup?!? I mean, cmon…. this is not even funny.

  2. Giom says:

    A lesson in generic design. Utterly boring. No, I don’t think the premium brands are blinking.

  3. Howard says:

    I find the front end styling a little like a Persian cats face. Pushed in and just plain ugly! Just my 2 cents. Not a fan at all. When your door handles are a leading design feature I think you have some problems.

  4. Kaisuke971 says:

    I think Volvo is much more of a serious competitor than Lincoln.

  5. lekkousa says:

    Love the design, hate the details!

    FWD and V6, no way in this class!

  6. GCV says:

    I don’t think the problem with this car is that it has a 400hp V6 ecoboost engine. I don’t think that the problem is even that the car is front-wheel drive. The problem is that Ford didn’t really commit to this market. Instead, they took their middle-of-the-market platform, the Fusion/Mondeo platform, and adapted it to this market. It’s a continuation of the long saga of Lincolns merely being badge-engineered renditions of lesser Fords, but this time it’s even worse. Ford didn’t build a proper platform for their large car — they stretched something intended to be a midsize. It screams out loudly that Ford is neither committed to the large car market and that Ford is not really committed to Lincoln. What’s Ford’s plan? MKC/Escape, MKX/Edge, Navigator/Expedition, MKZ/Fusion, MKT/Flex, Continental/Taurus. There isn’t a single Lincoln that isn’t just different sheet metal and a different grille slapped on a Ford! Ford’s actions speak way louder than their words — for years they’ve proclaimed to be rebuilding the Lincoln brand, but nothing ever comes of it.

  7. Jason Walker says:

    Ford has the capacity to build a luxury vehicle, however it has no such ability to build a luxury brand. This is frustrating.

    I was a Lincoln LS owner, and having fallen in love with the LS I felt Ford had come into its own building a legitimate sporty vehicle which had plenty of power and just enough luxury to compete with the 3-5 series. But they slapped a rocking awful cooling system and some funky electronics on the LS, then in 2006 they gave up on what had the promise to be a phenomenal story. It wasn’t.

    Then Ford sold Jaguar and Volvo for pennies on the dollar because they needed the capital, and both Jag and Volvo were worse off for having been shepherded to the brink of doom by Ford.

    Now, the Jaguars are stunning and Volvo has pinned its hope on new design language far from the proverbial Ford parts bin. Jaguar is obviously on the upswing, and Volvo’s future at least has a foot down on some definitive effort.

    Gone are the days of a Lincoln Continental standing toe to toe in the luxury market (think decades ago), or even a unique vehicle like the Mark VIII which to me was the true end of Ford’s commitment to building a luxury brand with staying power.

    Ford can and does build spectacular vehicles, and among our family we own several – including a Mustang, Focus and Fiesta. I have no issue with any of these vehicles.

    What Ford cannot do, even with Jaguar and Volvo in the mix, is build and market luxury vehicles with a consistent, cohesive brand in tow which can earn and retain any sort of cachet.

    The Lincoln brand has no institutional memory, nor does the marketplace have any real trust that Lincoln can deliver anything but today’s trial run which will be eliminated tomorrow. Think 3/5/7 series in BMW and the post-2009 Jaguar XF. Even the redesigned Jags have established themselves in the marketplace as contenders, and buyers making a sincere investment north of 50k know they’re getting something other than a one-off attempt at plugging a market hole with “something.”

    And Lincoln’s marketing, like the upcoming “I know a place” hipster feature where Lincolns are shown off at restaurants, is all marvelously terrible.

    It’s as if Ford created a new luxury division from scratch by being derivative of itself, forgot the concept of sport and hired a room full of not-quite-BA level 22 year olds to whip up irrelevant social media kitsch. Ford is willing to gloss over three decades of forgetting what branding and rock solid quality mean to customers willing to drop sixty-to-eighty grand on a vehicle or make $800 car payments for a very long time.

    Usually by the time a recent generation Lincoln buyer pays off their vehicle, the entire nomenclature and direction of the ‘company’ has been substantially modified or completely eviscerated by competition.

    This generation of Lincoln luxury-ish sheet metal will be bought exclusively by those who truly have nostalgia for the brand (limited), don’t care about brand cachet (there isn’t any), have little concern for their money (better offers elsewhere) or the car will be garage kept by grandma (her husband owned a Mark VII back when.)

    There’s nothing here for the young buyer who busted his/her tail through college to become budding flunkie at the law firm or chief app developer for NextBestThing, Inc. Imagine that 26-30 year old flush with some cash looking for a competitive marque to park in the lot. Jaguar has the XE, BMW has the 3 series, Audi has take-your-pick, even Hyundai has the Genesis. Lincoln has mom’s grocery getter with Jag’s frankenfront. Unacceptable.

    OK, so kids aren’t the target. 48 year old guy who wants a dependable, luxury car for drive quality and show. Considering the new slate of Lincolns has no history, if he has any dollar consciousness he’ll either wait for the lineup to prove itself or stumble automatically into the BMW dealership.

    Hell, even Cadillac with it’s “keep Pontiac gaudy trim levels alive and you might cut yourself brushing against this car” design has at least established its game plan with the ATS/CTS/?TS. And Cadillac has muscle and sport to boot, plus cars to serve as your floating family road yacht.

    Lincoln’s design and branding team has spent too many decades in Ford’s Theater, with the expected results. If I stole that line from someone ten years ago, when it was still a relevant statement, I apologize. Sort of like Lincoln should apologize to Jaguar for its grille.

    Thanks for reading. Count me among the unimpressed. I know this brand as well as just about anyone from the consumer side. I want to fall in love with Lincoln again, but they are doing literally less than nothing to make that come to pass.

    Next I’ll tell you how much fun it is to have a Lincoln repaired at a Lincoln dealership.

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