EL SEGUNDO, California — On paper, the new-generation Lincoln Continental goes against just about everything we stand for. It is unnecessarily big and ornate. Pick any aspect or feature and compare it to a well-respected sport luxury sedan like say, the Audi A6, and the Conti is pretty much the exact opposite. It also utilizes a transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive platform, which means it can safely be dismissed as an enthusiast proposition.
So why are we so fond of Lincoln’s flagship sedan? Mostly because it’s over-the-top in ways that never fail to please us. It’s not just a big car; it’s a huge car, six inches longer than our Four Seasons Volvo V90 and only a couple inches shorter than a Cadillac Escalade. It’s about as close as we can get to a modern-day, old-school Detroit land yacht. And like those American classics of yore, the Continental’s suspension is the epitome of the rolling-on-glass ride that Lincoln used to advertise back in the days when they still thought investing money in the Town Car was a good idea.
Though the Continental’s exterior style, with its lumpy profile, odd proportions, and door handles that protrude from the bodywork like untreated tumors, has been polarizing, the things we dislike often end up being highlights, and so it is with the Continental’s styling: This is a car with some attitude. The interior is similar in that it is unapologetically opulent and unmistakably American.
Take its “Perfect Position” seats, for example. In our second-from-the-top-of-the-line 2018 Lincoln Continental Reserve AWD tester they proved to be the ultimate in overkill, with 30-way adjustment, including separate left and right thigh bolsters and a seatback that can bend in ways human backs can’t. (We never did find a comfortable position, but we only had the car for two weeks.) Naturally, the front seats are heated, cooled, and have a massage function, and are upholstered in “Bridge of Weir” leather so soft that we weren’t sure if we should sit in it our spread it on our toast. Optional reclining rear seats ensure that back-benchers get similar treatment, minus the massage and bent spine.
The control layout seems like it should be an ergonomic disaster, with buttons to shift the transmission lined up on one side of the infotainment screen and those for other driving-related controls (auto brake hold, auto parking, parking sensors, and camera) on the other. Stereo and climate controls are crammed together on a panel beneath. But as with many aspects of the Continental, first impressions can be deceiving, and it wasn’t long before our fingers could find their way around on their own.
The flat-panel dash goes for the blacked-out look. The minimalist speedo has a needle that moves but points to nothing at all—something that works better in a watch than a speedometer—with the speed digitally displayed in the center. Flanking the speedo are displays for various functions that can be manipulated using controls on the steering wheel.
And, of course, everything is trimmed in chrome, from the instrument binnacle to the knurled buttons on the steering wheel. Why? Because America, pinhead. What are you, a friggin’ socialist?
But the Conti’s ace in the hole is that it is quick. Like, seriously quick—at least when equipped with the top-of-the-line engine, a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 that produces an even 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. No, “produces” is the wrong word—it belts out its power the way Tom Jones sings “What’s New Pussycat.” Our colleagues down the hall at Motor Trend timed a similar all-wheel-drive Continental to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds—not bad considering the aging transmission has only six speeds. And while such fleetness-of-foot isn’t exactly novel in a luxury car, it’s the icing on the cake in the Continental: Just when you get totally absorbed in its old-school absurdity, you punch the accelerator and disappear.
Bottom line: If this car doesn’t make you grin, then we’re sorry, but you are beyond hope.
Lincoln is going overboard to give buyers as many reasons as possible to patronize the marque, and good ol’ fashioned value is one of them. The Continental starts at just over $46,000, and the all-wheel-drive Reserve model we tested listed for $71,685, though it still left about $6,000 worth of options on the table.
The ultimate experience is the Continental Black Label, which includes unique colors and trim and a full package of amenities: four years of maintenance with pickup and delivery, complimentary washes and detailing, a six-month membership in Clear (a privately-run airport security program which is basically TSA PreCheck on steroids), and access to a “Culinary Concierge” who can get you seats at some 50 high-end restaurants around the country, including a free dinner for two at one of them (seriously, we are not making this up).
We didn’t get the free dinner, but we sure did love the Lincoln Continental, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. Just don’t tell anyone. You’ve been warned.
2018 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve Specifications
|Price:||$46,155/$71,685 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/400 hp @ 5,750 rpm, 400 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||16/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||201.4 x 82.3 x 58.5 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.4 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||155 mph (est)|