Lincoln Continental

Cadillac is not yet up to the best European and Japanese standards, but at least it is aiming towards the correct direction - better handling, better refinement and more sophistication. Lincoln, at least until the launch of LS, still follows the old road. The comment for Town Car and Continental is more or less the same - a lot of room and metal for money, reasonable performance considering its intention, reasonable handling considering its intention, reasonable ride quality considering its intention. So what is its "intention" ? To be a modest, second-class luxury saloon for those never really enjoy motoring. Ford didn’t tell me this, but this is just a secret that everybody knows. 

Concentrating back to the Continental. It’s not a new car today. The basic platform appeared in 1995 and was revamped in 1998, also added the 32-valve 4.6-litres V8 detuned from Mustang Cobra. The latest power output figure is 275hp, not quite matching its arch-rival Northstar from GM. In real usage, it was also found less spirited than the Northstar. Less revvy, less urgent and less beautiful to hear. It’s not as smooth as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Audi V8s either.  

Like Cadillac Seville, the Continental is pulled by front wheels. Inevitably there is torque steer under hard acceleration. MacPherson strut front suspension do nothing to improve that. You are once again reminded what the car’s "intention" is. 

Worst of all is the lifeless power steering. No matter in which of the 3 adjustable weight settings, it is still too light and lack of communication from the black top. Also responsible for this is the soft spring rate. Not only ruin the steering response, it also devoid of a tidy body control. After all, the long body with excessive overhangs inherently limited handling agility. Again, you are reminded what its "intention" is. 

On the positive side, the soft suspension setup provides a very comfortable ride that European rivals need aluminium suspension to achieve. However, when the road surface worsen, the Continental bounce severely, so it is born for smooth highway rather than countryside road. 

Predictably, the cabin has plenty of space. Plastic and trimming are neither very well made nor desirable to look at. Lack of classy feeling is so obvious that those who have seen a BMW 3-series’ interior can tell. There is a lot of equipment, but lack of the sophisticated items as found in Mercedes and Cadillac.  

It is quite difficult to compare the Continental (as well as Town Car and Cadillac Deville) against European and Japanese cars. In size, it rivals BMW 7-series and Lexus LS400 etc. In terms of price, it is even slightly cheaper than a BMW 528i, which is smaller and does not offer a V8. Limiting its competition from the similar Town Car, Deville or at most Seville is also unreasonable, because the market share of these cars are actually eating by the import brands. Political correctness point out that the best of American luxurious cars should rival the best of other countries’, that is, the LS400 etc. Of course the Continental have no chance of winning. Against 528i etc., the Lincoln loses in all fields bar roominess and power. Yet they are not very important, because most people are satisfied with the roominess of its smaller competitors while they are not fully satisfied with the performance the Lincoln V8 delivers.  

One day, the market segment for these traditional American luxurious cars will collapse. Therefore Lincoln should face the challenge like Cadillac, although the learning process will be slow and painful. Thanks God, the new LS has paved the way for reform. The inclusive of Lincoln into Ford’s Premium Automotive Group together with Jaguar and Volvo under the direction of ex-BMWer Wolfgang Reitzle also brightens the future for Lincoln’s product development. Maybe the next Continental will be a great driver’s car. Who knows ? 

The above report was last updated on 30 Dec 99. All Rights Reserved.


Lincoln Continental
Front-engined, Rwd.
L / W / H / WB: 5296 / 1870 / 1422 / 2990 mm
V8, sohc, 4v/cyl
4605 c.c.
275 hp
275 lbft
F: Strut; R: Double wishbones
225 / 60 R16
1745 kg
Top speed
0-60 mph
7.8 sec*
0-100 mph
* Tested by Road & Track

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