Take a Ford Taurus, rub it sparingly with the sad ham of luxury appliqué, and you get the Lincoln MKS. In fact, there may not have been a car more cynical in Ford’s repertoire since post-Malaise downsizing of the 1980s. Finally, Lincoln has decided to erase this blight upon its name, and if the new Continental concept car isn’t the blocky, presidential pomp machine the fashionably tattooed were hoping for, it’s certainly a step away from the baleen-waterfall-stache visual grammar Lincoln has been selling of late.
Officially, the Continental is a concept. But you’ll see a production version next year. Our sources suggest that the new Conti won’t ride on the MKS/Taurus platform, which is also shared with the Lincoln MKT and Ford Flex, but rather on an enlarged version of the CD4 platform, which underpins the Fusion and MKZ.
Ford is playing coy regarding the concept’s powertrain details beyond the fact that it uses a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6, a slightly enlarged variant of the 2.7 Nano. However, we hear that the 2.7 would be a base engine, at least here in the United States. China would likely receive an even smaller four-cylinder option. The exciting bit is that the Continental is rumored to use the same trick all-wheel-drive system employed in the new Ford Focus RS.
We presume the emphasis is on sure-footedness rather than out-and-out stoplight drags or gymkhana-fied acrobatics. During the car’s unveiling at a preview in New York, FoMoCo honcho Mark Fields and Lincoln chief Kumar Galhotra repeated Lincoln’s “quiet luxury” mantra ad infinitum. So much so that we found ourselves lulled into an alpha state by the sense memory of Matthew McConaughey’s laid-back twang. It’s all just sounds, man. It’s not even like . . . words.
One look at the back seat affirms this. Tap the underside of the chromed handle sticking out of the windowsill and the door pops open. It is a big honking door. It is a Maybach-ian, Chinese-power-broker-grade door. The sunroof is electrochromatic—changing from opaque to clear at the press of a button—and Ford has taken out 50 patents on the seats in this thing. The seats feature 30-way adjustment, and one of the joys is an outer side bolster that deflates to aid ingress and egress. Also, we want a girlfriend made of the plush, plush carpet. Or at least a cat—a cat would probably be more appropriate. The whole interior treatment, resplendent in dark blue and chrome, suggests the glory of the jet age without being slavishly retro. We dare Lincoln not to dumb it down any more than is necessary to pass crash standards for production, because it’s as nice as anything south of $200,000.
The exterior has its moments. In profile, it’s somewhat Mulsanne/Phantom-esque. From the rear, it’s aces. We especially like the quad exhaust with asymmetrical outer tips. The front end screams Jag-ura, with its RLX-style headlamps and XE/XJ-mimicking grille. While it’s a better look than the prior treatment, it’s more Euro-Japanese derivative than we’d like to see from an American brand. We do, however, love the peaked hood. The headlamps, by the way, are of the matrix-LED style that Audi can’t sell to us; maybe an American company futzing with the tech can finally get it legalized.
All in all, the new Continental comes off as a slightly mixed bag. That’s an improvement over the MKS, which was not the sort of bag that James Brown would ever have been pleased to own brand-new. But this Continental? He might just have liked this.