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2017 Lincoln Continental First Drive Review: Desperately seeking serenity

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You might look at the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental as a giant puppy dog, a companion that is perpetually happy to see you, responds to your commands and gives you unconditional love.  Is your family dog exciting?  No, but then not everybody wants excitement.  In fact, we think the luxury car market is ready for a vehicle that epitomizes comfort, ease and serenity – what The Lincoln Motor Company President Kumar Galhotra calls “quiet luxury.” So it is fitting that the latest version of the sedan to bear the storied Lincoln Continental name enables its driver and passengers to bathe in a sea of tranquility.

Now we want to be clear from the top that serene does not equal dull. This edition of the fabled Continental is undoubtedly the best-handling, quickest accelerating car to bear that name. A long stint on California’s twisty Mulholland Highway proved that to us in minutes. But with the new Continental, canyon running is not the point. There are plenty of European sedans and a few American competitors to fulfill that mission – a mission that, frankly, not many luxury-sedan drivers ever embark upon.  Instead, the new Lincoln is designed to follow the proud tradition of American luxury cars to, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

An engine for Lincoln alone

With the new Continental the biggest of the big sticks is the Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that delivers 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque in an effortless, unhurried manner.  Other engine choices are a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6, and a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. Both of those engines can be had in front-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, while the 3.0-liter twin turbo can only be matched with all-wheel drive.  Paired with Dynamic Torque Vectoring, the top-level AWD system transfers torque to the appropriate rear wheel as the Continental negotiates curves, delivering an added level of serenity.

That serenity is enhanced by Lincoln Drive Control that provides the driver a choice of three settings – no, not tranquil, calm and peaceful but instead comfort, normal and sport. As you would expect, the settings tweak the adaptive steering and suspension to deliver the appropriate responses. We also found the continuously controlled damping always appropriate, insolating driver and passengers from those damnable road imperfections. 

Greeted with Broadway flair

Like that warm puppy we alluded to earlier, the Continental greets its drivers with an array of lighting cues reminiscent of a Broadway show. To get the full effect, it is best to approach the Continental in the dark, because that way you’ll see every nuance of the LED lighting in the lower front body and taillamps. But wait, there’s more! A luminous Lincoln “welcome mat” of light appears beneath the front doors while warm interior lights illuminate the cabin.

Most of the time a door handle is a door handle (and a good cigar is a smoke) but not with the Lincoln Continental. The substantial and beautifully integrated chrome sculptures house an electronic door latch system that, with your touch, virtually open themselves. Since a door slam would spoil the serenity, the doors use power-cinching technology to close and secure themselves.

While the door handles are among the car’s most distinctive features (really), the Continental features a variety of attractive touches all molded into a coherent whole. The new Lincoln grille reveals a healthy respect for the brand’s proud history and might well resonate with Baby Boomers who remember the Lincolns of the Sixties.  The exterior mirrors seem to be placed on their brackets, and the sweep of the taillights and the dual exhausts give the rear of the car a settled gravitas.  For those who love sunroofs, the Continental offers one of the largest in the class, a panorama that essentially replaces the steel roof.  When opened, the front portion slides up over the rear, delivering impressive amounts of pure sunshine. 

Interior emphasizing comfort

Quiet luxury finds its home in the Continental’s attractively detailed interior designed to emulate the favorite room in your house.  Peace and quiet aren’t every car brand’s watchwords, but they apply to the warmth of the Continental’s authentic wood accents and to the intentional simplicity of its controls.  The default version of the instrument panel is deliberately minimalist so as not to distract and annoy the driver.

Those seeking comfort will likely find it in the Lincoln’s 30-way “Perfect Position Seats,” inspired by private jets, high-end office furniture and rec room recliners.  No matter what shape you are in – physically, mentally or spiritually – the seats’ patented design adjusts for optimal stretch and comfort. If you’d prefer to have one thigh higher than the other, the seats provide for that, while optional heating and cooling settings help optimize comfort.  Feeling stressed? The available massage functions are just the thing reduce muscle fatigue in the upper legs and lower back. Even when we parked the Continental, we didn’t want to get out.

Amenities front and rear

Rear-seat passengers enjoy similar amenities with available features that include audio and climate control, adjustable sunshades, and reclining, heated, cooled and massaging seats. The interior provides generous rear legroom that partially to the car’s thinner front seatbacks.  Front and rear, we were impressed by the materials used in the leather seating, leather-wrapped console and instrument panel. For example, seat stitching is six to seven stitches per inch, which is a lot better than three stitches per inch, and the slats of the center console door are laser-cut to maximize consistency of the grain pattern.

Of course, it is hard to drive in serenity when you are at war with your infotainment system. Happily, the SYNC® 3 system specially tailored to the Continental (even the display is serene) presents audio, phone, available navigation in a readily usable presentation. If you don’t want to reach across the dash, steering wheel-mounted controls and voice commands allow you to place and answer calls and control the sound system.

Custom-tailored sound

The available Revel® audio system was developed to work in concert with the car’s interior design, offering three distinct listening modes – stereo, audience and on-stage. The 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio system uses a patented music reconstruction technology to enhance digital sources for clear, crisp, dynamic sound. And when you don’t want to hear anything, the Active Noise Control and acoustic-laminated glass deliver a quiet, comfortable space for philosophical contemplation.

Safety provides security

To preserve your inner peace even in difficult stop-and-go commutes, the Continental’s Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection uses radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead to predict and ward off a collision.  If the driver does not respond in time to the initial warning, the system can automatically apply up to full braking force. Optional adaptive cruise control provides nearly effortless assistance on the daily commute, automatically slowing the car Continental in halting traffic and resuming speed when traffic clears.

One additional bit of stress occurs when parking.  In both parallel and perpendicular parking situations, Lincoln uses ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear to help you locate an appropriate parking space, and, if desired, to automatically steer the car in. The driver only has to operate brake and gas pedals, which seems like the least you could do. A camera system uses views from cameras mounted in the grille, decklid and side mirrors to create an image on the screen the seems as if a camera were overhead, and that helps parking immensely.

Driving tranquility

After driving the new Lincoln Continental at length, we can assure you that you’d enjoy parking yourself behind the wheel to enjoy many consecutive hours in the cabin’s well-tailored tranquility. “We build excitement” is not this Lincoln’s catchphrase, but if quiet luxury appeals to you as a concept and a lifestyle the all new Lincoln Continental could well be your chariot of choice. Produced at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan, it is available in Lincoln showrooms now, starting at $44,560.


 

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