(Tribune News Service/TNS) - If you ever wondered whatever happened to the Lincoln Continental, you’re not alone.
For many years, it was the flagship for a luxury-car company that moved global dignitaries and U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, even on that fateful day (a Continental codenamed SS-100-X by the Secret Service). The first Continental, envisioned by Edsel Ford, came along in 1939, and later the Continental Mark II challenged even Rolls-Royce in price and class.
The Continental’s popularity, however, faded over time, and in 2002, Lincoln stopped producing the car as it turned its focus to more Ford-like midsizers and crossovers, which, in all fairness, have done quite well.
But the Continental refused to go quietly into the night. It is back for 2017, and from all signs, Lincoln and parent-company Ford want to do right by the luxury brand.
This is no rebadged Ford; little expense has been spared in the luxurious, ultra-comfortable cabin, with its 30-way-powered massaging seats, or under the hood, where the top-line Black Label carries a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine with 400 ponies.
The seat back conforms to your body, and power thigh adjusters extend and retract—individually —for optimum comfort. That may seem like overkill, but it did bring more comfort to my pedal foot. Rear-riders also get reclining seats and heating-cooling functions.
There’s plenty of room for five passengers, and head, shoulder and legroom is ample everywhere with one small exception: the middle passenger in the rear loses some headroom from the moonroof.
Cabin materials are first-rate. Plush seats are trimmed with rich Venetian leather, and Alcantara headliner and genuine wood and metal accent the dash, doors and center console lids. Three color schemes are available: Rhapsody (blue), Chalet (white-based), and Thoroughbred (black and brown).
The Sync3 infotainment system, which includes a 19-speaker Revel Ultima sound system, works like a smartphone, responding to pinches and swipes. Some functions can be controlled with a quick-response touchscreen and voice commands. A virtual gauge cluster is not only sharp-looking but can be tailored to the driver.
Trunk space is adequate with 16.7 cubic feet of space, enough for two suitcases or sets of golf clubs.
Lincoln says the Continental is all about “quiet luxury,” a feeling of “serenity and elegance.” But that doesn’t mean it is without solid power, too. Even the middle engine, a 2.7-liter V-6, gets 335 horsepower.
The Black Label’s 3.0-liter offers the biggest bang, producing 400 pound-feet of torque and getting to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and a quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds.
The Continental actually handles well for a larger car, too, with good balance on corners. A torque vectoring system with the all-wheel drive redistributes power to wheels in need on winding or slick roads. And driver-select modes let you adjust the ride to add stiffness for a sportier run or softness for more comfort on a long trip.
The only transmission at this time is a 6-speed automatic, and it can be a little temperamental. More gears likely are coming in the next year or two, and that would help stretch a few more mpg out of this thirsty fella. It manages 19 mpg combined on its best day, 16 around town and 24 on the highway.
Beyond the usual safety features like parking sensors, available aids include lane-keep assist, blind-spot and lane-departure alerts, forward collision warning and braking—with pedestrian detection included. At higher speeds, the adaptive cruise control will brake for a car in front and even stop the vehicle without driver input.
The Continental also has a Big Brother feature called MyKey, which allows you to set radio volume and speed limit for other drivers, i.e. teenagers. But why let your teen in the Conti? There must be a neighbor selling an old Corolla somewhere.
Here’s one more reason to put the Continental on your shopping list: With a starting price of $45,485, it offers one of the best values in the full-size luxury marketplace. That actually holds true across the four-trim lineup, from the base Premiere to the range-topping Black Label ($65,075), which even offers a concierge program for service pickup and delivery, free car washes, and restaurant memberships.
This ride isn’t reserved for presidents and dignitaries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like one.
2017 Lincoln Continental Black Label
Base Price: $65,075
As tested: $72,140 with 3.0-liter GTDI V-6 engine ($3,265), technology package ($3,105), upgraded climate package ($500)
What’s all the excitement about? The return of the powerful and luxurious Continental after 15 years.
Powertrain: 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbo engine with 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque
How’s the performance? Strong acceleration to 60 mph in a tested 5.4 seconds, comfortable handling and highway ride
What about fuel economy? Below average in the large-luxury class at 19 mpg combined (16 city, 24 highway) with AWD