by Jay Traugott
While the latest iteration of the Lincoln Continental may have a style that evokes nostalgia for a bygone era where enormous land cruisers were the epitome of status and class, everything else about it is as modern and high-tech as you could ever want a luxury sedan to be. With a standard safety suite that leaves almost no advanced driver-assistance features out, the Continental certainly warrants its place in the luxury sedan segment. Nevertheless, it is remarkably affordable with a starting MSRP of $46,305, a pittance more than you would have paid for last year's model. However, the Lincoln struggles to compete with its so-called class rivals like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, which offer much more powerful engines than the V6s you'll find under its hood, be they standard or turbocharged. With a maximum output of 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque on its highest trim, the Continental seems better suited to compete with the midsize sedan market. But even when it matches up more favorably on power, the large sedan is a gas guzzler and offers surprisingly little cargo space for such a large vehicle.
For the most part, the Lincoln Continental enters 2020 without too many changes. Perhaps the largest difference is the slimmed-down trim selection, with the Select having been dropped from the line-up. This also resulted in the shuffling around of some features to better align each of the remaining three trims to their respective tiers. On the aesthetic side of things, three paints have been traded out for new variants that share the same hue but a different name. White Platinum is now Pristine White, Ingot Silver is Silver Radiance, and Ruby Red is Red Carpet. Several packages have been added to allow for more customization, most likely due to the deletion of a full trim level. The Premium, Luxury, and Monochromatic Appearances packages are all new additions.
With a classic style that many will find appealing in a luxury sedan, the Lincoln Continental looks like it belongs beside leading luxury rivals. The sedan is a sleek and elegant giant cruiser, with its front-wheel-drive stance being the only thing that really stands out about it, for better or worse. The Standard trim rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, while 19- or 20-inch wheels are available. The standard adaptive xenon headlights can also be upgraded to premium LED variants. A limited-edition Coach Door model, featuring rear suicide doors and unique badging, was released for 2019 and orders were taken for 2020, too.
The large luxury sedan certainly looks the part, measuring in at an imposing 201.4 inches long, with a 117.9-inch wheelbase. With its side mirrors folded in, the Continental is a broad 78.1 inches wide, but it sits low at 58.5 inches high. As expected, a car of such exorbitant dimensions carries quite a lot of weight, with the base model weighing in at 4,224 pounds, while a fully loaded model can weigh up to 4,523 lbs. Opting for all-wheel-drive over the standard front-wheel-drive will increase the weight.
Reds, blues, and neutral tones make up the color palette for the Continental, with three outgoing colors, White Platinum, Ingot Silver, and Ruby Red, replaced by renamed hues. The Standard is available in Infinite Black, Blue Diamond, Magnetic Gray, and Silver Radiance, with access to a $695 premium palette comprising Burgundy Velvet, Iced Mocha, Red Carpet, Ceramic Pearl and Pristine White. Only an extra premium color, Rhapsody Blue, enhances the palette for the Reserve. The top-tier Black Label refines the choice and removes the extra charge for basic premium colors, offering Infinite Black, Silver Radiance, Pristine White, and Rhapsody blue as standard. It also gains exclusive access to the $1,750 premium Chroma paints, with a choice between Caviar Dark Gray or Crystal Blue.
Of the three engines on offer, the base V6 is, naturally, the weakest, delivering only 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. But, perhaps, weak is a misnomer. Even this is enough to get the hefty cruiser around town, but lacking the kick needed to do so quickly. The standard twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 present on the upper trims pumps up the power, and especially the torque, to 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. This certainly gives the luxury sedan the kick in the pants it needs to be more on par with similar performance-conscious luxury rivals. But the real power in the Continental range is delivered by the optional 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, which develops 400 hp and 400 lb-ft and comes standard with AWD. With this powertrain under the hood, the large sedan can hit 60 mph in as little as 5.5 seconds, according to independent tests. Unfortunately, the true potential of this potent powertrain is wasted thanks to the unrefined six-speed transmission that comes equipped on every model. The janky gear shifts cause an unwelcome degree of acceleration stagger.
An impressive line-up of three engines powers the range of Lincoln Continental sedans. The base-model only gets access to the more economical 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine, which develops 305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque for the front wheels, or all four if you opt for that drivetrain. This is certainly enough power to get around town, but it won't move the hefty sedan with a great deal of haste.
The Reserve and Black Label trims come standard with a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that directs 335 hp and 380 lb-ft to the front wheels, although all-wheel-drive is available, again. While the increase in overall horsepower isn't that impressive, the massive 100-point jump in torque gives this powertrain a lot more urgency off the line. This makes moving between intersections in town far less tedious.
An optional 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 is also available to the two upper trims, if you are willing to shell out for it. This powertrain only comes paired with the all-wheel drivetrain and develops a solid 400 hp and 400 lb-ft. The impressive output figures of this engine help to move the luxury sedan with remarkable briskness. While this still won't make the Continental the quickest luxury sedan on the road, it delivers much more enjoyable driving experience, albeit at the cost of significantly worse mileage figures.
Regardless of the powertrain you end up choosing, an uninspiring six-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifts for you. You can control shifts manually with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, but it doesn't feel as engaging as what rivals offer.
While it may claim to compete with the high-performance BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, the Continental lacks the athleticism of the illustrious German cruisers. It might be able to keep up on long, straight roads, where it can cruise once up to speed, but when you invite the transmission and mediocre handling dynamics to the party, things quickly turn to gumbo.
While many luxury sedans opt for extremely light electronically assisted steering, the Lincoln once again shows its old-school charm by presenting a steering wheel with a bit more heft to it, a welcome change to the new tradition. Sadly, it sticks to popular trends when it comes to feedback, which is to say there is none. And while the stately sedan seldom loses its composure, it lacks any sense of grace, understeering all too readily when taking corners quickly. More refined and well-rounded luxury sedans don't make this mistake.
The Continental offers a relatively comfortable ride, and the seats combine with the adaptive suspension to mitigate most road imperfections. But, yet again, the suspension isn't as refined as what you'll find in the more premium sedans. The poor build quality of the cabin doesn't really make itself apparent at lower speeds, where wind and road noise are dampened well enough, but the significant increase in noise over rougher roads reveals this weakness.
Few luxury sedans are truly fuel-efficient, but the Lincoln Continental is particularly thirsty. The base 3.7-liter V6 paired with front-wheel-drive only achieves 17/26/20 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. This figure slightly improves with the smaller-displacement 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that comes standard on the upper trims, which gets 18/27/21 mpg with front-wheel-drive. However, these gains are quickly lost when upgrading to the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which manages a measly 16/24/19 mpg with its standard all-wheel drivetrain. Similarly-powered luxury sedans get equal or better results, like the V6 Mercedes S-Class (19/28/22 mpg) or the six-cylinder BMW 7 Series (22/29/24 mpg). On the plus side, the Continental uses regular gasoline instead of premium, like its rivals. With an 18-gallon fuel tank on hand, the most efficient model can cover up to 378 miles before needing to refuel.
Luxury is the name of the game when it comes to the Lincoln Continental, and the interior reflects that ideal. The cabin is plushly appointed, whether you opt for simulated or genuine leather, and a plethora of comfort and convenience features come standard. Styling-wise, retro is the motto, with plenty of glossy trims complementing the upholstery. The infotainment system is easy to use and the controls for the available tech features are laid out in a logical manner, even if the tech itself doesn't quite match up to that in European rivals.
There is room enough for five inside the sedan, but the low, sloping roof does impinge on headroom, especially in the rear. Passengers over six-feet tall may find themselves slouching a bit to fit, but that's not the end of the world, as legroom is excellent in both rows. Those in the front get ten-way power heated seats as standard, with available 24- or even 30-way power heated and ventilated seats with thigh extenders, meaning that finding the perfect driving position is only a matter of time. Visibility is good all-round and is further supported by standard blind-spot monitoring. Getting in and out of the vehicle is relatively easy, assuming you have plenty of room to open the broad doors on an already wide car. The suicide doors on the Coach Door edition don't help much here, either.
Even the entry-level Standard trim comes with comfortable synthetic leather, while the Reserve and Black Label get genuine leather upholstery. But, while it might feel comfortable enough, the material is not as upscale as you would expect from a sedan with a luxury tag, especially on the pricey upper trims, and the presence of hard plastics around the cabin breaks the sense of immersion desired when driving in a true luxury sedan. The interior of the Standard is available in Ebony upholstery with Brown Swirl Walnut trim or Cappuccino with Espresso Ash Swirl. The Reserve can also opt for Terracotta with Brown Swirl Walnut, while the Black Label can choose between three themes: Chalet consists of Alpine/Espresso leather with Silverwood trim. Rhapsody Blue offers leather upholstery in said color, with Silver Mesh trim. The Thoroughbred option colors the seats in Jet Black/Belmont and trims the dash and doors with Chilean Maple.
While the interior may not amaze in terms of build quality and passenger capacity, the Continental provides slightly above-average cargo capacity for the luxury sedan segment. Within the trunk, buyers are presented with 16.7 cubic feet of storage space, besting the Merc S-class by 0.4 cubic feet and the Audi A8 by 2.5 cubic feet. The BMW 7 Series offers more, however, with a total capacity of 18.2 cubic feet. Still, 16.7 cubes is more than you should need for everyday light errands, accommodating a dozen shopping bags or up to six carry-on suitcases. If you need to stow something a bit longer than the trunk can manage, the rear seats do fold down in a 60/40 split.
A number of small-item storage options are provided around the cabin, such as cupholders, door pockets, and trays around the center console, but none can accommodate anything more than the smallest of items, save for the glove compartment and center armrest cubby.
Living up to its reputation as a luxury brand, the Lincoln Continental boasts a long list of features, even on its entry-level Standard trim. These features include dual-zone climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, ten-way power heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start, and a set of three 12-volt power outlets. The extensive Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 suite of safety features is also included on every model and comprises forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, lane departure alert, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Most of these features are upgrades or additions as you move up the trim levels, such as leather upholstery, up to 30-way power heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats (cooled too, if you opt for the Rear Seat Package), tri-zone automatic climate control, a 110-volt power outlet, and a dual-panel moonroof. The upper trims also come equipped with a high-tech head-up display, active parking assistance, and a surround-view camera.
Every model in the luxury line-up comes equipped with the best infotainment Ford, and by extension Lincoln, has to offer. Unfortunately, the more established premium brands, like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, offer much more high-tech systems. On base Standard trim, you will get an eight-inch touchscreen display that comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, two smart-charging USB ports and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot compatibility. Despite its less modern design or, perhaps, because of it, the infotainments system is extremely easy to operate compared to more complicated systems found in premium rivals. A Lincoln ten-speaker premium audio channels sound throughout the cabin on the base model, while the Reserve gets a 13-speaker Revel system, and the Black Label boasts a 19-speaker Revel Ultima sound system. HD Radio, navigation technology, SiriusXM Traffic, and two additional rear USB ports are available on upper trims or through optional packages.
As a low-volume luxury sedan, the Lincoln Continental has not received many complaints, and it has not been rated for dependability by an independent body. The 2020 model has not yet been subject to a recall, but the 2019 Continental was recalled for faulty door latches. New purchases of the sedan are covered by a 50,000-mile/48-month bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 70,000-month/72-month powertrain warranty. The Black Label comes with an inclusive 50,000-mile/48-month maintenance plan.
The Continental has not been rated by the NHTSA since 2018, but since the sedan hasn't changed in terms of its chassis and standard mechanical features, the five-star overall rating from that year should still be applicable. The IIHS also hasn't evaluated the 2020 model of the luxury sedan, but all of its safety features carry over from the 2019 model, which was awarded the institute's Top Safety Pick+ award with an overall rating of Good.
Every Lincoln Continental leaves the production line equipped with ABS, traction control, hill-start assist, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and eight airbags: dual-front, front knee, front side, and side curtain. The Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 safety suite is also standard across the range and comprises a rearview camera, automatic high beams, forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping alert and assist, pedestrian detection, blindspot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Further available features include active parking assist, a surround-view camera, and a head-up display.
The current iteration of the Continental has never felt truly modern, and the lack of any significant changes for the new year only serves to strengthen this opinion. But that isn't necessarily a drawback; the retro-styling and nostalgia-inducing interior have a charm all their own for those who remember the heyday of large luxury sedans.
But while we may be willing to overlook the design choices on this American cruiser, we can't excuse the lack of updates when it comes to the mechanics and tech below the surface. To say the Lincoln boasts a powerful V6 engine is misleading when you consider the far more capable V8 and V12 engines under the hoods of its so-called rivals, namely the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series. Even smaller luxury sedans seem to hold their own against the Continental and they still beat it in several key areas, like cargo space or tech features.
What the American luxury sedan has going for it is affordability; the base and even mid-tier trim are significantly cheaper than German rivals' similarly sized sedans, but the low-budget materials and questionable build quality might not be worth the savings. To top it all off, the Continental provides buyers with only moderate trunk space, despite the enormity of the car, and below-average fuel economy, although it uses regular gasoline instead of premium. To get the most out of the Lincoln Continental, you will need to aim for its priciest options, and when you're paying as much as you would for Merc S-Class or BMW 7… why aren't you just buying one of those instead?
The Lincoln may have an appealing price tag, but if you want a luxury sedan at the same level as those the Germans offer, you will end up spending almost the same as you would if you simply bought a foreign car, and you'd have a lot more disappointment. The Continental isn't as fuel-efficient, doesn't have the same refined tech features, uses lower-grade materials, and doesn't feel as well-built. Add to this the subpar trunk space and less-than-stellar driving dynamics, and you really have to ask yourself why you aren't driving away from this relic of a bygone era as fast as you can in your new BMW or Merc.
As a luxury sedan, the Lincoln Continental has a pretty high starting price tag. Getting behind the wheel of the entry-level Standard will cost you $46,305, while the Reserve sees the bill rise by a whopping $13,565. The top-tier Black Label makes you pay for its good looks and premium luxury features, with a hefty price tag of $70,205. If you want the most powerful engine option on the Reserve or Black Label, you will need to shell out an additional $7,015, which also covers the upgrade to all-wheel-drive. While they were created only as a limited-time special order, you might still be able to pick up a Coach Door edition with suicide doors, which debuted for $115,470. These prices are MSRP and exclude tax, registration, licensing, and a destination charge of $995.
Three models are available bearing the Continental name tag: the Standard, Reserve, and Black Label. The only engine available with the Standard is a 3.7-liter V6, which directs 305 hp and 280 lb-ft to the front wheels, with optional all-wheel-drive. The Reserve and Black Label come standard with a more powerful 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that develops 335 hp and 380 lb-ft, also for the front wheels with optional all-wheel-drive. An optional 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 is available to the upper trims. This potent powertrain directs 400 hp and 400 lb-ft to all four wheels. Every engine and drivetrain combination comes mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The Standard rides on 18-inch wheels and comes equipped with automatic xenon headlights and an adaptive suspension. Inside, it gets synthetic leather upholstery, keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start, dual-zone climate control, ten-way power heated front seats, and adaptive cruise control. Also standard is Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, which comprises forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping and departure assist, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The infotainment suite includes an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a ten-speaker sound system.
Up a trim, the Reserve upgrades to leather upholstery and installs 24-way power and heated front seats. Tri-zone climate control is added along with additional USB ports for the rear seats, and heated seats for rear passengers. The mid-tier trim also rides on larger 19-inch alloys and receives a surround-view camera, active parking assist, a head-up display, and a 13-speaker Revel audio system.
The premium Black Label trim shows off its prestige with 20-inch alloy wheels and unique badging. It also receives an exclusive color palette, 30-way power heated and cooled multi-contour front seats with thigh extensions, upgraded leather upholstery, and a 110-volt power outlet. The infotainment receives its final upgrade, too, with the installation of a 19-speaker Revel Ultima premium sound system.
3.7-liter V6 Gas
2.7-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
2.7-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
A few new packages have been made available to the various trim levels to allow for more customization without needing to upgrade to a pricier model. The Convenience Package ($1,500) for the Standard adds a hands-free power trunk lid, soft-close doors, and voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM Traffic. Also for the Standard, the Premium Package ($3,450) equips the Continental with 19-inch wheels, leather-appointed seats, and a 13-speaker Revel audio system. The Rear Seat Amenities Package ($3,000), available on the Reserve and Black Label, installs a rear seat armrest with the 40/20/40 seat structure and adds heated and cooled rear seats with power lumbar adjustment, a 110-volt power outlet, sunblinds, and a moonroof shade control switch.
If you're looking at Lincoln sedan, you probably want a car that balances luxury with a modicum of affordability. Ergo, we would recommend the Reserve trim. As standard, it gets the peppier 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, which makes driving around town or on the highway far less tedious. We don't recommend opting for the 400-hp V6 unless you really don't care about your mileage figures. The mid-tier Reserve gets comfortable leather-appointed seats with 24-way power heated and cooled front seats, as well as all the safety features available to the range, including the head-up display and surround-view camera. The Reserve is quite a bit pricier than the Standard model, but it would be even harder to justify the $70k price tag on the top-tier Black Label.
Each of these luxury sedans has more in common with one another than they do with the cruisers coming out of Germany or Japan, which are significantly higher-quality vehicles. Like the Continental, the Cadillac CT6 offers a selection of engines, with an available 550-hp turbo V8. Where the CT6 really does a number on its rival, though, is with its far superior ten-speed automatic transmission. The extra speed provided by smoother gear shifts pairs well with the more athletic handling dynamics of the Caddy. The CT6 doesn't beat the Lincoln's cargo capacity, with only 15.8 cubic feet, but passenger space is just as generous. Unfortunately, even the cheapest model is going to set you back close to $60k, which may deter buyers who want luxury without the luxury price tag. But if your wallet can handle it, the Cadillac CT6 is definitely the better buy, and more fun to boot.
Sharing many of the same underpinnings as the large luxury sedan, the MKZ is basically a smaller sibling to the Continental. But size isn't the only thing smaller about the MKZ; it also gets a less impressive 245-hp four-cylinder engine. However, this reduction is power does equate to savings in fuel economy, which is where the Continental really suffers. The smaller sedan is also far more maneuverable than its hefty brother, although it is held back by the same clunky six-speed automatic transmission. For the $10k reduction in cost on the base model, the MKZ doesn't present quite such a luxurious interior as the Continental, but it remains spacious for its size and doesn't skimp on trunk space either. Overall, the smaller sedan looks to be the smarter buy from a value perspective; but, if money isn't an issue, you may as well splurge on the luxurious Continental.