The Continental has a long history, and while that might make it a household name, it might also lead potential buyers to dismiss it as old news. But that would be a shame because this is a thoroughly modern sedan.
Immortalized by mobster movies and presidential limos, giant road-going couches like classic Cadillacs and Lincolns used to epitomize luxury. Clearly, those days are over and the luxury car market has long adopted the world standards of European and Japanese cars. Now, the new Lincoln Continental embodies a contemporary sedan that still harkens back to classic Lincoln motifs. We found it to be a compelling luxury car albeit with some faults.
Broad-shouldered and ornate, the Continental has presence. Liberal use of chrome, including the eye-catching door handle loops that jut out of the window sill trim, adds bling. A sumptuous interior and generous rear seat ensure that the top Lincoln still sticks to the luxury-car script.
Most versions come with a contemporary 335-hp, 2.7-liter V6 turbo that has no problem powering the Continental. It realizes 20 mpg overall with the optional all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is standard. Given that big sedans from Buick, Cadillac, and Chrysler have all moved to eight-speed automatics, the six-speed transmission in the Continental is rather old-fashioned, but few will complain about its actual performance.
Being based on the accomplished Ford Fusion's platform contributes to the Continental's composure, albeit without the Fusion's sporty edge. The Continental steers nicely and feels disciplined, yet relaxed. That said, it's not as lithe of a dance partner as a Cadillac CT6.
The Continental doesn't disappoint on the luxury front. The suspension smooths out the bumps, and the cabin is whisper-quiet inside. Soft closing doors add a measure of graciousness.
Not that the interior isn't free from quirks. It's a far reach to the push-button transmission shifter next to the infotainment screen, which is inconvenient and can be confused for a column of radio preset buttons. The stylish and expensive-looking front seats have winged bolsters but these seats proved overly narrow for many drivers and the cushion is too short for most. Four-way lumbar adjustment is reserved for the expensive optional 30-way massaging seats, which our car lacks.
Our biggest complaints revolve around Lincoln's need to be different for the sake of being different. Electric buttons are used to release the doors from inside, yet they don't provide any advantage over the normal door latches they replace. Finding the knee-height buttons on the door panel proves tricky. Expect to give passengers a pre-exit briefing, especially at night.
Other than a few quibbles, the Continental proves to be a comfortable sedan, impressive to look at, and ride in. It's a viable alternative to many midsized luxury sedans.