Everything hinges on product in the car business. Brands live and die on the strength of what they have to sell. This episode of "Talking Cars with Consumer Reports" looks at two sedans that are immensely important to their respective automakers: the Lincoln Continental and Alfa Romeo Giulia.

Lincoln has been shuffling along for years without a true flagship, a void that the Continental handily fills. With an imposing stance and luxurious interior, the Continental harkens back to the days of old-school American luxury, yet comes with completely contemporary driving dynamics. We compare and contrast the Continental with the more-focused Cadillac CT6, and discuss how big sedans from Hyundai's Genesis and Toyota's Lexus brands may actually be more "traditional" than the latest models from Detroit.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo has been staging a return to the American market for years. Its Giulia jumps into the highly competitive compact sports sedan fray, giving the Italian brand a mass-market player. While we are impressed by the Giulia's sporty driving dynamics, we wonder how many buyers will be willing to stray from the Audi/BMW/Mercedes-Benz norm, especially given the shaky reliability record of Alfa Romeo parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

We then move on to viewer comments and questions. This episode we find out what one safety-seeking roadster shopper wound up buying after we answered his question on an earlier show. Then we discuss whether buying a fully loaded compact car, like the $29,000 Subaru Impreza featured on the previous episode, makes sense. Finally, we discuss the difference between the cars that we purchase for testing and the press cars that we "rent," highlighted by our buying process for our Lincoln Continental. (A teaser: The Continental shown on the episode is the third one we purchased.)

Gabe Shenhar, Tom Mutchler, and Jake Fisher
Gabe Shenhar, Tom Mutchler, and Jake Fisher

As with other "Talking Cars," this episode on popular cars is also available free through the iTunes Store. Subscribe to the video or audio. You'll also find the video on YouTube.

Share your comments on this show below, and let us know whether you need any advice about choosing a car.

Subaru Impreza, episode 104
Chevrolet Bolt, episode 103
Car Brand Reliability
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Buick Cascada, episode 101
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