Unlike Lexus, which changed only a few minor details when turning the LF-LC concept car into the LC500 production vehicle, Lincoln has watered down the cool and sexy Continental Concept from the New York Auto Show last year. That doesn’t mean the production version is ugly or dull, it’s still one of the best looking Lincolns of the last decade, but I can’t help feeling a bit let down by the final design. Maybe it just looks better in dark colors and the white of the press images doesn’t really help it, but you’d think the marketing folks would figure that out themselves, wouldn’t you?
Take for example the rear fenders: the Continental Concept had pronounced shoulders, giving it a bit of a rear-wheel drive look. The flared fenders have been flattened and straightened out in the production version, which makes the Continental looks less energetic and less powerful. It also seems like the C-pillar flows into the rear quarter more smoothly in the concept than in the final version.
Then the doors: the curves that gave the concept a lot of its sexiness and a more stretched look from the side have been flattened out to give the production Continental a much more anonymous side. And the chrome line that ran along the bottom of the doors and continued in the rear bumper was a pretty neat feature, but I can somehow understand it didn’t make it into production. It’s still a pity, though.
I’m the most disappointed about the front-end of the new Lincoln Continental, at the first impression it doesn’t seem all that different, but I just didn’t feel quite right. At second glance, it looks much cheaper than the concept. I really liked the inset hood, but it’s been dropped in favor of one that runs all the way to the headlights. Again, perhaps understandable from a practicality point-of-view, but it makes the car so much more ordinary and it breaks the nice flow that ran from the headlights to the side mirrors. Then there’s the grille, with the Lincoln-logo mesh which fortunately survived the transition from concept to reality, but at the Continental Concept the mesh lay much deeper into the grille, and that gave it more character than the way it’s been executed in the production version. Especially the lower part of the grille, with the Kia-like indent looks much better on the Concept than on the final version, but again that might also be an optical illusion because of the difference in color. The Dark Blue contrasts more with the chrome than the White does.
Is there nothing I like about the Continental? I like the door handles, and it’s a surprise they made it into the production version, but they are utterly cool, the way they are integrated into the chrome door strip. And they are fixed, all you need to do is touch the inside and the door will open. Critics have compared it to a refrigerator door handle, but those are the vast minority as most people think they’re absolutely fabulous. I also like the side mirrors supports, they look kind-of luxurious. And although the rear looks less sinister because of the larger rear lights, and the boot-lid is less sleek with the small integrated spoiler, and also although it somewhat reminds me of the Hyundai Azera, I still like the rear of the Continental.
Of course nobody expected the blue interior color from the concept to end up in the production Continental, but it has become a very luxurious interior. I also like the way the speakers are placed in the door where usually the door latch would be. Because of the positioning of the door handles on the outside and the electric open and close of the doors, the speakers could be positioned in an acoustically more optimal position.
I understand why the final design has been watered down from the concept version, but it still leaves me longing for more and I also think it shows that Lincoln isn’t fully committed to its target audience (read: younger buyers) yet, because the Continental Concept might be a bit too much for the loyal elderly Lincoln customers, while the brand image may still scare away some of the younger luxury buyers. So let’s hope the Continental can help the brand shed some of its retirement vehicle image, and maybe the next generation will become the sexy sports sedan we’re all hoping to get. And make it rear-wheel drive then as well, please.
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