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Lincoln Continental Concept Quietly Makes a Loud Statement

Production-ready Continental coming next year.

With the Lincoln Continental Concept full-size sedan rolling onto the floor of the 2015 New York auto show, Ford is making a very loud statement about the future of its long struggling luxury brand. The Continental Concept is the first expression of the Lincoln Motor Company’s “quiet luxury” philosophy. The goal behind the marketing slogan: coddle “clients” with comfortable, safe, technologically advanced, and luxurious vehicles.

We dig the approach on paper; it’s a marked departure from Cadillac’s playbook of German-style sport sedans. And we’re 1000 percent behind bringing back the Continental name — anything’s better than yet another MK (insert letter here). Ford CEO Mark Fields has confirmed the Continental moniker will appear on a Lincoln production car next year, and said at an event just before the show that the concept is “a strong indication of what the production model will look like.” No one at the Lincoln event would say anything beyond that, however. Best guess at this point is that a new 2017 Lincoln Continental will effectively serve as the replacement for the existing Lincoln MKS, and, yes, this would probably mean the new car would be based on a front-wheel-drive platform.

Everyone and his brother has known forever that Lincoln needs to further differentiate itself from the Blue Oval, and the company needs more than pitchman Matthew McConaughey to pull it off. For the Continental Concept this has been addressed in part through the addition of a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine (power estimates and transmission choice have not yet been announced), 30-way adjustable (?!) seats, and a premium Revel Ultima audio system. The rear seat area especially is chock full of amenities usually reserved for sedans with six-figure price tags.

The Continental Concept also does a good job of distancing itself from today’s Lincolns. The split-wing grille of the present lineup of Lincoln models has been clipped in favor of a center-mounted unit encircled by a ring of chrome, and it features Lincoln’s trademark star-type emblem affixed amidst a constellation of aluminum mesh. The starry look continues in the five primary elements of the concept’s headlamp assemblies, which are LED-based with a laser-assist high-beam element that reportedly reduces glare and improves visibility. The car’s full-width tail lamps utilize light-through-chrome technology. When the rear lights are off, they look chrome, when they’re on they behave as traditional red elements., Lincoln president Kumar Galhotra said there’s nothing holding it back other than some mass production feasibility issues.

As opposed to the Lincoln MKS, the Continental Concept appears wider and lower, with a longer greenhouse. It is decidedly statelier in its stance. A chrome-look lower beltline wraps around the car, setting off the tastefully thin fog lamps in the front fascia and the tightly integrated exhaust ports out back. The car’s Rhapsody Blue metallic paint is a nod to a past Lincoln signature color, and it rolls on tall, 21-inch wheels with fan-blade style rims. In pictures at least, the Continental Concept projects the look of a brash, broad-shouldered American luxury sedan with 21st century flair.

Get close to the car with the fob and it lights up, both inside and out. Traditional door handles make way for what Lincoln calls E-Latch, which are electronic units that integrate into the car’s beltline and open with the touch of a button positioned under the door handle’s wings. While it looks good in concept guise, during an examination at the event, we thought it not quite ready for production primetime, ditto the smallish rear-view mirrors.

But it’s in the cabin where the Lincoln’s quiet luxury theme will need to stick, and from the photos the Continental Concept looks the part. Venetian leather and Alcantara suede surfaces decorate the space, as do wool carpeting and a satin headliner – and it’s all bathed in ambient lighting. Gold shines from LED lights in the center console and trim around the digital instrument panel, contrasting with chrome accents.

The wick has been turned up even further for rear-seat passengers. The center console that extends through the cabin has a panel for passengers to control the Revel audio and climate settings, as well as a deployable tray that can support a tablet computer. Overhead is a tinted, UV-proof sunroof featuring technology from SPD SmartGlass that rear seat passengers can also control. It reportedly has the ability to cool the interior by as much as 18 degrees F.

Hoping to get a nap in? You can fully recline the passenger-side rear seat and mess with Lincoln’s exclusive 30-way adjustable seats until you find a setting that best conforms to your body type. If you’re in a mood to celebrate, there’s a storage compartment for your champagne. You can pack the detachable travel cases of Venetian leather that are mounted behind front seats for easy unloading when you get to your destination.

Lincoln is competing in the Chinese market, and since rear-passenger comfort, space, and amenities matter a great deal there, it’s not a big surprise to see over the top features on the Continental Concept. There are certainly some things that won’t carry over, but the interior itself looks relatively production spec to us at first glance.

As for performance and platform, all we know so far is the production Lincoln Continental will come with the aforementioned, exclusive-to-the-brand 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6, with presumably at least as much power as the 350-hp generated from the optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that powers the MKS. Right now, the MKS utilizes a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is an option. We wouldn’t be surprised to see all-wheel drive come standard and the entry-level 3.7-liter V-6 presently in the MKS to eventually disappear.

Existing Lincoln features will be available, including Lincoln Drive Control, which monitors the adjustable suspension, electric-assist power steering, and stability control to optimize the ride and handling. All of Lincoln’s latest safety tech will also be available for the car, including pre-collision assist, park assist, and a 360-degree camera.

It’s certainly possible we’ll be surprised by something other than Ford’s D3 front-drive platform underpinning the 2017 Continental, though it’s unlikely given the timeline. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn however that it has been lengthened for the new car. We’ll know more soon.

While there are still plenty of unanswered questions when it comes to the production model, taken on its own, the Lincoln Continental Concept is the latest — and loudest — sign yet that Ford is indeed serious about re-forging Lincoln’s own quietly luxurious identity.

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2017 Lincoln MKC

MSRP $48,040 Black Label AWD

EPA MPG:

21 City / 28 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

25 / 53 cu. ft.

Seating:

5/5