Classy yet ambiguous, kind of like those strange humming noises Matthew McConaughey makes to warm up for an act.
There hasn’t been so much as a peep from Ford about whether or not it cares to modernize the Lincoln lineup—almost as if the bean counters are taking a wait and see approach, peaking at Cadillac’s sales numbers at the beginning of each month to see if a multi-billion-dollar rebranding is worth the risk. However, there are a small number of loyal Lincoln customers, Matthew McConaughey included, that need to get their fix of crosshairs emblazoned on a big chrome grille.
For those with larger bank accounts who didn't stop when walking by the SUV isle of the Lincoln lot, maybe the Continental is for you. Unlike Ford's accountants debating on whether or not to send money down the Lincoln chute, there was no time to mull over important decisions when the 2017 Continental Black Label arrived for testing. Monday marked the beginning of a hit-the-ground-running kind of week filled with so many obligatory work, household, and social engagements that it wasn't long after pushing the starter button that those dual chrome exhaust tips were projectile vomiting noxious gasses into the atmosphere as Ford’s largest luxury sedan flung itself from one stop to the next, passengers and luggage hanging on for dear life.
The 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque produced by the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 was enough consolation for hurriedly polluting the air, especially because of how the Lincoln put the power down. Unlike Cadillac, which designed everything in its current lineup (save for the archaic Escalade) to better compete with the Germans, FoMoCo mounted the Continental’s power plant transversally and justified the front-wheel drive dynamics by offering customers the ability to send power to all four wheels. Equipped with all-wheel drive, our Chroma Caviar Dark Grey Continental dug into the corners with the agility of a Kung Fu master. The chassis isn't a star standout like the Cadillac CT6’s, but it can be paired with fast-acting all-wheel drive.
When that’s done, the Conti does exhibit an ability to shrink wrap itself around the driver in the corners while rear-seat passenger limbs flail around untethered thanks to ample legroom. This isn't the car you’d pick for a spritely drive down a winding road, but if Lincoln didn't want anyone to drive it fast, it wouldn't have installed a terse and confidence-inspiring Sport mode onto the three-mode adjustable suspension. When slithering through city traffic, sawing the near weightless steering wheel to and fro and defying the full-size luxury sedan’s visually large proportions, it best exhibits its qualities with the transmission and suspension in Normal modes. Here the ride, like the exterior and interior aesthetics advertise, is silk-smooth.
It’s easy to tell that Lincoln did whatever it could to shed the ugliness of the 9th generation Continental that went out of production in 2002, carving the door handles out of high-mounted chrome bits to make ingress and egress a special occasion sealed off by a satisfying, albeit a slightly crackly “thunk.” Even with a subdued color scheme, the Continental looks elegant from front to back, beginning with a chrome-infused bang and ending with smooth and delicate lines over the trunk lid to tie it all together. No sir, no lack of refinement to be found here, at least not on the surface. Hit a pothole, however, and the clunky way the suspension transmits the road’s message to occupant buttocks becomes disconcerting.
It'll bother long-term owners and comfort aficionados, but don't expect the passengers to notice as they’ll be too distracted admiring the gorgeous interior. It’s perhaps the Continental’s most standout feature because of its ability to let a driver get inside after a long stressful week of work and weekend full of lugging friends around town and really know the taste of success. Gorgeous gloss-coated wood meshes together elegantly with soft leather surfaces and chrome-colored trim while diamond-shaped perforations on the Venetian leather seats do their best impression of a Michael Kors bag. The front seats, heated and cooled of course, can be adjusted in almost every way imaginable thanks to the inclusion of thigh bolsters.
The rears, on the other hand, are heated only and offer a plush sofa from which to enjoy the ambient lighting, play with the rear climate control system, and try to enjoy the not-so-stellar 19-speaker Revel sound system. And even with Ford’s highly competent SYNC 3, a grab bag full of modern drier aids like adaptive cruise control, park assist, pre collision assist, lane departure warning, and more, the Continental feels as though it’s missing something. It's not massage seats (seemingly a Lincoln staple) or automatic high beams, although features like that are expected yet not present on the $74,620 sedan. It goes deeper than that. What's missing is most apparent in the Continental’s soul.
Like many American cars it’s rough around the edges, though those edges are pushed away from immediate perception by Ford’s desire to keep up its luxury marquee's reputation. As a collection of odd and stylish bits set into Ford’s CD4 platform, the Continental’s persona seems aloof. The sleek sheetmetal is full of character but it’s not well acquainted with itself, as if certain departments within Lincoln failed to openly communicate with one another during the design process. By the end of the week, the Continental was returned to Lincoln with a smile. We had a deep and rich weeklong fling with it, but memories of the luxury sedan were more satisfying than the prospect of living with it for yet another week.