The Lincoln brand desperately needs a savior, but I’m really not seeing the 2016 Lincoln Continental Concept as the car to do it.
Establishing a solid brand identity for Lincoln is really the only thing that matters here, in my opinion. And, frankly, if the new Continental isn’t going to do that, then it is total a waste of effort and money for Ford. My problem with it is that most of it’s good aspects are done the wrong way to establish a real unique brand identity. There is too much copying going on, and you can’t anywhere new as a follower. There are a few good things, though, so let’s begin with that before jumping into the ocean of criticism I have to voice.
What I Like
The Engine Choice
The Lincoln Continental has a new twin turbocharged 3.0L V6, which will surely make its way into other Ford/Lincoln vehicles in the coming years. A smallish V6 gives all of the power you need, and has wonderful torque for the effortless performance that a Luxury car should have these days. The Continental doesn’t need to impress on the Nurburgring, but it does need to be able to get on the highway with a sense of ease, while still being fuel efficient.
The Features and Value
Lincoln is saying that the Continental aims to offer BMW 7 Series luxury at a 5 Series price. It has a lot of impressive luxury features like reclining rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a “Champagne Cooler”, and infotainment-equipped tray tables. Much of that is reminiscent of the Rolls Royce Phantom that we reviewed last year, so the Continental surely aims to impress.
If the Continental does come to market at a BMW 5 Series price, with its features intact, then Lincoln will have taken a page out of Hyundai’s book by offering a lot of bang for the buck.
There’s no denying that the Continental Concept is a beautiful car. It will fit right in with the Mercedes S Class, and BMW 7 Series to be sure. I love the illuminated Lincoln badge on the grill, and those wheels make the look of the car something special.
What I Don’t Like
While it is a good looking car in the sense of conventional 2015 luxury, Lincoln has no business making a conventional luxury car that merely “fits in” with the crowd… And where the Hell are the suicide doors?!!!
In fact, the Continental’s design is so conventional that Bentley’s designers have informally accused Lincoln of ripping-off the design of their Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Other than the headlights, I’m afraid they do have a point. The Lincoln’s lines are VERY similar.
Imitation is not how Lincoln will find a real identity for themselves. The Continental is pretty, but it doesn’t really say “Lincoln” in the same way that a 1960’s Continental does. And I think that is a huge mistake by Ford’s design department. Conformity is the opposite of what the Lincoln brand should stand for.
This Continental concept looks too much like an Audi or a Mercedes (or the Bentley). The world is tired of interchangeable luxury cars, and the market is ripe for disruption from anyone who can muster the balls to assert a truly distinctive sense of style, instead of just copying Mercedes over, and over again.
Honestly, a unique style is what the Lincoln brand needs more than anything right now. I actually think their cars are just fine being mere Fords underneath, so long as they have jaw-dropping “cool” looks and a genuine sense of quality in their cabins. In other words, make it a sheer vanity item, people love that stuff. The car needs to feel “special” and drive smoothly. But that’s actually not as hard to do as competing with the Europeans in every aspect of high performance, like Cadillac is doing.
The truth is that most luxury buyers don’t give a rat’s ass how fast a car gets around the Nurburgring. Most probably don’t even know what the Nurburgring is. Performance is secondary for Lincoln, style and comfort come first. The performance need only be competent to suffice because buyers looking to go fast won’t even consider a Lincoln at this point. They could take a Ford Taurus, put some classic Lincoln lines on it with a Rolls-quality interior, and I promise that would sell. Lincoln has to give people a reason to buy a Continental over a Mercedes S-Class, and they sure as Hell won’t do that by making an S-Class copy.
Lincoln Is Following Hyundai?
If Lincoln’s aim here is really to make a 7 Series for a 5 Series price, then they are late to the party. Hyundai did this years ago with the Equus, which has only enjoyed average sales. It’s not a bad idea to offer a lot of features for a bargain price, but you’re still just a follower, a cheap copy if you will.
Lincoln really needs to be a trend setter, marching to the beat of their own drum. I don’t think the bargain route will get them to anywhere they aren’t already.
The Interior Looks a Bit Cheap
Maybe it’s just me, but the seats in the Continental look pretty low-rent for a car that is supposed to be so high in luxury. Next to the fine-pressed suit that is the cabin of the Mercedes S-Class, the interior of the Continental almost looks like denim overalls. Sure, the metal trim is nice, but I just can’t get over how cheap the seats look. They look like they belong in an F-150 Truck.
If Lincoln is going to try and emulate anyone, it needs to be Rolls Royce. They should try and emulate that sort of special feeling you get sitting in a Wraith in the new Continental. Supple leather, rich quality materials, and fine details like the LED stars in the headliner, all of that makes the Wraith feel so special, and it’s all totally do-able in a car 1/5 of the price. Most fancy features are pretty much a gimmick to begin with, but people love that stuff. Excessive style and cool features wrapped in a classic Lincoln design is exactly what a modern Lincoln should be.
Lincoln Needs To Be Lincoln, Not Anyone Else
I do think the Lincoln Continental Concept looks good, but I really don’t think that it takes the Lincon brand in the direction it needs to go.
I think they have conformed too much to the existing luxury market, and that the Continental isn’t distinctive enough to really set itself apart from the crowd. If they stay on this path, they will have to rely on value for money, as Hyundai has. That may get them a few sales, but the Continental will remain a “me too” follower of the Mercedes S-Class… and the world already has more than enough of those.
I also find it utterly shameful and embarassing that Lincoln’s designers had to basically copy Bentley’s design, especially when their own company has such an iconic history. There are so many jaw-dropping Lincolns from the pre-war era on up to the 1960s. They couldn’t manage to find all the inspiration they needed right there? It makes me wonder if the designers even knew about classic Lincolns, or if they are part of the “I’m not into cars, it’s just my job” crowd that has infected the Motor City in recent years.
For me the European-esque design of the Continental represents exactly what is wrong with the American Auto Industry across the board… There is a total and complete lack of self-identity at every level. This Continental is trying to be like a Mercedes or an Audi, but why the Hell couldn’t it just try to be a Lincoln?! What exactly is wrong with being yourself?
It’s not like American cars don’t have a rich history to draw from. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s American cars were probably the most distinctive automobiles in the world. All it would take to return to that is to kick the “play it safe” approach out of Detroit’s offices. American cars were cool back in the day because they were bold, Lincolns especially.
If Lincoln really wants to do the Continental right, they need to turn up the style and the interior build quality big time. The Continental should be a curbside jaw-dropper, one that could be nothing but a Lincoln.
This Continental Concept is entirely the wrong thing in my opinion. They’re going to have to make it a hell of a lot more distinctive if they want it to be anything special. Take away those fancy wheels, and it’s basically an Audi A6.
It really comes down to this. If I want to buy a Mercedes, I’m going to buy a Mercedes, not a Lincoln. If I want to buy a Lincoln, then I’m going to have to go look at the classics, because a real Lincoln hasn’t existed since that era. Look at the style that green 1956 Mk2 Continental has, why is it so hard to put that same flavor into a modern Lincoln?
The new Continental is Lincoln’s chance to start getting their true brand identiy back. If they’re smart, they’ll go back to the drawing board.
-Article by Nick Walker