First drive: 2017 Lincoln Continental in the UAE
When you’re shopping for luxury sedans, Lincoln isn’t exactly the first name on your list. It probably isn’t even the tenth car on your list, and you probably only remembered the brand when you went to the showroom looking at the three other luxury brands that the UAE dealer forces the Lincoln to share showroom space with. Truth be told, they do have some competitive products, such as the Lincoln MKZ that one of our writers owns. And their new Continental flagship sedan sets the bar higher still for American luxury, as you’ll see in this first real review of the car on UAE roads.
The Lincoln Continental has been around since 1939, starting life as a coupe/convertible and eventually transitioning into a front-wheel-drive full-size sedan by the time it was last killed off in 2002. The new model is still based on a front-wheel-drive chassis, but it is offered with all-wheel-drive on most versions, including in the top-spec 3.0-litre turbo V6 version we drove last weekend from Dubai to Sir Baniyas Island in Ruwais for a family mini-vacation.
The reimagined Continental is somewhat conservative in design compared to Lincolns more recent efforts, sharing some design cues from a certain Bentley of the same name, while changing the corporate face yet again from a split-grille to a rounded mesh grille. It won’t turn heads at first glance, but on closer look, the hidden door handles along the chrome window trim and the multiple-LED headlights are worthy of attention. On the highway to Abu Dhabi, it won’t move slower traffic out of the fast lane, except at night when those fancy headlights appear in their rear-view mirror.
Inside, there’s the requisite soft-touch materials from top to bottom, with almost no hard plastics to be found. The materials are premium for the most part, but some other brands do a nicer job with the trim on the dash and window sills.
There’s an overload of tech, starting with the fancy multi-layered front seats themselves that can be adjusted every which way, including individual bolsters for each thigh. The rear seats recline a bit, and come with inflatable seat-belts and sun-blinds. The inner doors are opened using buttons. The gear-selection is done via buttons on the centre-console. The gauges consist of one simplified LCD screen with sharp graphics. And the new SYNC3 capacitive multimedia touchscreen is finally easy to use, with a very responsive smartphone-like interface. There’s four-camera top-view and auto-parking systems. Rear passengers get hideaway cup-holders and a full set of controls for a/c, multimedia and even the sunroof, but it’s all in the centre armrest, so once that is folded up to accommodate a middle-seat passenger, they don’t have any controls any more.
It’s very spacious, with a huge boot. And we liked the attention to detail, such as the silky-smooth movement of the front cup-holder cover and the substantial feeling of the door opening/closing action. The entire roof in our tester was made of glass, although from the inside, the panoramic transparency doesn’t quite extend all the way to the rear windshield. But the front half opens up like a huge sunroof.
However, our test car had issues such as a plastic door panel getting jammed somewhere and popping loudly when the door is opened wide. And for some reason, the power seat adjustments and the rear door-opening buttons sometimes refused to work, and we’re not sure what set of conditions was causing this to happen.
The top Continental drives well, and is a rather excellent long-distance cruiser. Engines include a 344 hp 2.7-litre twin turbo V6 with 575 Nm of torque, and a 313 hp 3.7-litre V6 with 379 Nm, but our tester had the GSO-rated 378 hp 3.0T motor (compared to 400 hp in the States) with 575 Nm, all-wheel-drive with rear-axle torque-vectoring, and a rather traditional 6-speed automatic. There is a swift kick of torque when moving from idle, but otherwise power build-up is surprisingly linear to the point of simply feeling quick rather than rocket-like. The gearbox works smoothly and always selects the right gears. And fuel consumption, with a lot of “high-speed” highway driving once we got out of traffic areas, clocked in at 13.4 litres/100 km.
Like the acceleration, the steering and pedals all feel a bit “damped” rather than razor-sharp. We’re guessing it’s intentional as we’ve encountered the same in cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The Continental is not quite in that league, but it mimics the driving experience rather well. The only gripe we have is that, while the steering is light at parking speeds and firm at highway speeds, it stays a bit too heavy in low-speed town driving. There isn’t much feedback either.
Otherwise we like the smooth drive, with instant response to inputs and no delays like you would find in many German cars saddled with electronic throttle control. The ride is very smooth and quiet thanks to the adaptive suspension, with some bumpiness only on uneven pavement thanks to the low-profile 245/40 tyres on the optional 20-inch alloys. Wind noise only becomes very obvious at speeds well above the posted limit, and even then, it’s possible to have a conversation without shouting.
Backed up by all-wheel-drive, grip is rather excellent around fast corners, and we never heard a squeal from the tyres in street driving. There is no obvious body roll or floatiness. But we still didn’t have the confidence to push it to its high limits, if only because the controls have an artificial damped feel to them. Still, it makes for an awesome high-speed cruiser (where conditions allow).
The full-size Continental is clearly aimed at a specific type of buyer. The kind who dream of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class rather than a Chrysler 300S. The kind who prefers the ultimate comfort of a Lexus LS rather than the ultimate performance of a BMW 5-Series — a balance that is increasingly being lost in German luxury cars that are trying to set records at the Nurburgring for no apparent reason. While the Continental is not our cup of tea, there is clearly a resurgence of comfort-biased large cars such as the Cadillac CT6 and the Genesis G90, all priced at the same level as German midsizers.
For prices and specs, visit the Lincoln buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.