Y’s motoring expert Alvin Thomas welcomes back the all-American luxury sedan, and finds it ‘stands tall’ in its class.
Lincoln has often been touted as a silent brand. Over the years – mostly the late 1990s – the brand slowly dissolved into oblivion, partly because it was serving customers with fluffed Fords and partly because competition from the British and Germans was stiff.
But come the first decade of 2000, Lincoln did a major overhaul of the brand, starting with its SUV – the Navigator.
And boy, did it aid the cause.
Rappers, politicians and actors all quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and before we knew it Lincoln was back in the game. Other sedans followed but none caught as much attention as the Navigator.
That is, until now. This year is a crucial year for the brand as it marks the the return of the Continental (after it was discontinued in 2002).
But the name “Continental” has garnered so much stature and allure over the past decade or so thanks solely to another car with the same name – the Bentley Continental.
However, little do people know that it was actually Lincoln that introduced the “Continental” nameplate to the world. Released in 1939, the Lincoln also beats its British rivals to this feat by a respectful 13 years.
Irrespective of that, however, the boffins at Lincoln have had to rebuild their reputation from scratch and so, the all-new Continental is crafted to be unique in every single way, starting from its exterior design.
It’s definitely unlike any other car I have seen in a long time: the hood and boot are almost of the same length, giving it a very rustic but rather sophisticated appeal. The most eye-catching feature has to be the almost ornamental full-face chrome grille upfront, which is complemented by rather small, thin and long LED headlamps.
Oh, and the chrome continues throughout the length of the car, flanking the side quarters and even the rear. There’s so much chrome that even the door handles are wrapped underneath a thick strip (almost a bar) of chrome.
The rear is quite catchy too: there’s a long single-piece LED light-bar that flows towards either side, and dual chrome-tipped exhausts. For the most part, however, the car maintains a very unassuming and simple design. But it all works very much in favour of the Lincoln. During the duration of my drive, the car garnered so much attention that one member of the Royal family even came forward to ask me if the car was on sale.
The grandeur continues into the interior. There’s myriad wood and genuine leather in the cabin that should have you confused as to whether you’re in a royal palace or actually in a car. In retrospect, sitting in the previous-generation (2002) Lincoln Continental was a bit like sitting in a prison cell.
The headlining feature of the interior is indeed the seats: they are multi-layered and are designed to be adjusted in every way you can possibly conceive. You can even set the bolster for each thigh if you want to.
The rear seats recline, and leg and head room in the rear is plentiful. Of course, chances are that most people who buy this car will be chauffeured around. So keeping that in mind, Lincoln has thrown in individual side blinds and inflatable rear seat belts.
But the list doesn’t stop there. You even have your own set of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) controls, audio controls and a small screen to keep the settings in check, while the door-opening mechanism is taken care of by individual buttons and not levers.
Up front, the dashboard is very neatly laid out and, as with all Lincolns, the gear-shift controls are placed next to the infotainment screen. It will take a bit of getting used to but, trust me, you would have to be blind to accidentally push those large buttons unknowingly. The dash is certainly functional but it doesn’t stack up to the edgy interiors of its German rivals.
Everything is digital up front: there’s a sharp LCD screen that houses all the gauges in the instrument cluster, and a fancy-looking 21cm touchscreen unit powered by the all-new SYNC3 system. The latter is extremely easy to use and frankly miles better than the previous generation of SYNC systems. Meanwhile, entertainment is taken care by a crisp-sounding 19-speaker Revel audio system.
My tester Lincoln came with a GSO-rated (Gulf Standard Organisation) 378-hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 that pumps out 575Nms of grunt (torque). The sedan reportedly produces 400hp in the US, and I suspect it is the lower quality of fuel (yup, even M95) in Oman that causes the difference in output.
Either way, the power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic with manual over-ride function.
How is the performance? Well, it’s bang on.
As usual, there’s negligible turbo-lag from that Ecoboost engine and there’s an instant shove in the back from a standstill. But as you progress, the car smoothly proceeds to the desired speed with no drama whatsoever. Still, I could achieve the 100kph mark from zero in under six seconds.
The accelerator-pedal felt damped, like what you would find in the Mercedes-Benz’s flagship S-Class or the Rolls-Royces of today; and it is designed to keep passengers comfortable and not thrown around like in a sports car. Of course, our tester is hardly a rival to either but it does feel like it is right up there.
Gearshifts from the (dated) automatic tranny are surprisingly quick and smooth, with little jerking produced in the midst of a shift. The gearbox is also tuned to maximise efficiency but I did not have the car long enough to test the fuel economy readings.
There’s no feedback from the electric steering at all but it is very precise. As like most electric set-ups, the Continental’s steering firms up at high speeds and remains light at low, around-the-town speeds.
Our tester rode on massive 52cm alloys, which are wrapped by low-profile 245/40 tyres. It is the perfect recipe for a harsh ride. However, the Lincoln rides over bumps smoothly and effortlessly, so all credit goes to the blokes who tuned the adaptive suspension.
As expected, this also translates to smooth cornering. Throughout our drive, I encounter no form of oversteer or understeer from the car… even with the traction control switched off. It sticks to corners like glue, and heads to the desired direction without any fuss.
When all is said and done, the Lincoln Continental is actually one of the biggest surprises I’ve have this year. It is a fantastic car with much pedigree and tonnes of sanity. It’s unlike most German cars of today; cars that are trying too hard to be perfect, and in the process are losing out on capturing a car’s true soul.
That said, the Lincoln Continental does what it has been designed to do very well. And for that very reason it stands tall in its segment. The Cadillacs and Bimmers should watch their backs.
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Top speed: 240 (limited)
Ford SYNC3 system w/21cms touchscreen
19-speaker Revel audio system
LED lights w/ daytime running lamps
Adaptive power steering
Rear-axle torque vectoring
Blind Spot monitoring
Massage function on rear seats