2018 Lincoln Continental Group Review: a High-Tech Take on the Big, Comfy American Luxury Sedan

Lots of standard tech and some bold design touches—plus a few gimmicks—means this (mostly) doesn't feel like your grandfather's Lincoln Continental.

Josh Condon / The Drive

Two of The Drive’s staffers—Erica Lourd and Josh Condonrecently spent time with the 2018 Lincoln Continental. They discussed the finer merits and detractors of this luxury sedan via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

josh 
Okay, let's start: We both drove the 2018 Lincoln Continental, and one thing is for sure: neither one of us fits that car's demographic. But I found myself really enjoying it, especially after I acclimated myself to its, er, particular driving style.

/giphy Soft as Hell

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What did you think?

eureka
awwww, look at that sweet baby angel.

yeah, i felt really ridiculous driving it, especially on my cruise to Manhattan to pick up a friend and spread the joy of butt-massaging seats. i kept thinking "everyone is looking at me saying, 'well that's DEFINITELY not who i expected to see behind the wheel'," just like when i see a woman driving a raised pickup with balls hanging off of it

josh
Which I assume happens all the time.

It's definitely a good car to drive people around in, though, right?

Tons of space, super comfortable seats, high-touch everything.

Josh Condon / The Drive

"Super comfortable seats." —JC

eureka
everything feels good to the touch, the seats are really incredible (especially the massagers), and everyone has a lot of space

yet it felt more like a car to drive rather than to be driven in

josh
Really? I didn't think so.

Well, I'll clarify: It's a driver's car in the sense that I can tell it's not meant to be a limousine, like a less-expensive Mercedes-Maybach, or Bentley Mulsanne. (Which is what a Genesis is, essentially.) I understand it's a driver's car in that sense. It's just that I felt the car was purpose built to go 85 mph on I-95 from the Northeast Corridor down to Florida for hours at a time.

It's not exactly a canyon-carver, because it was never meant to be a canyon-carver; it's a comfy sofa on wheels.

Josh Condon / The Drive

eureka
thats true

josh
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that—and it was really, really good for swallowing highway miles.

eureka
BUT there is so much cool driver-focused tech and a lot of thought put into what the driver would want, and while the back seems comfortable and what not, it doesn't have the same amount of amenities, i guess

Josh Condon / The Drive

josh
Sure, makes sense.

What did you notice about the "driver-focused tech"?

eureka
but, this is also coming from the worst backseat driver of all time, so maybe i'm always biased towards being the driver

the heads up display. it's stunning and really detailed.

josh
Yeah, really well done.

eureka
and then the digital gauge was really sweet

Josh Condon / The Drive

"Pretty sweet." —EL

josh
I have a tough time with digital gauges. Personal annoyance. I really prefer analog gauges. They're getting better, but they almost always look like a video game.

eureka
i sort of understand that, i mean the option for the gauge that didn't even have tick marks on it was too weird for me, i always kept it on the one that looked more analog

josh 
Oh, speaking of pet peeves: those fucking door handles.

Josh Condon / The Drive

Weird door growths.

eureka
but we both know you love video games 

HA yeah

why.

josh
I understand what they were going for—integrating the handle along the windowsill, as opposed to integrated into the body of the door, makes the profile of the car a wide, smooth expanse of sheetmetal, which is attractive. But every time my eye caught those handles from an angle it looked like part of the car was separating itself. Or it was a weird growth. 

A solution looking for a problem.

eureka
yeah, sometimes i don't like when automakers try to stand out by reinventing the wheel. this is definitely one of those times.

obviously i adjusted over time, but i just want my door handles to be proper door handles.

josh 
It's okay, you can say it: they're ugly and weird.

eureka 
ugly is a strong word, Joshua

josh
And a notable misstep in an otherwise handsome design, or so I thought.

eureka 
they weren't my favorite

josh
Those handles are ugly; the rest of the exterior was pretty good.

Josh Condon / The Drive

eureka 
so harsh. what did you think of the rear end?

i kinda didn't like it.

josh 

Oh, no? Do tell.

I though it looked like you want a Lincoln Continental—a real one, not a "black car" (New York-speak for a fancy taxi)—to look: solid, sleek, imposing. Potent.

eureka 
it looked like a face, wearing sunglasses, that was melting

Josh Condon / The Drive

"Like a face, wearing sunglasses, that was melting." —EL

maybe that isn't my best comparison

but what i'm trying to say is it looked scrunched. i would've rather had a touch more junk in the trunk appearance. just a TOUCH.

josh
Interesting.

From the profile, there looks to be a LOT of junk in the trunk—it's a weirdly big butt from that angle.

eureka
disagree. car needs to do more squats.

but i do love the profile, overall. timeless.

and huge.

Lincoln

​josh
Look at that heavy, and heavily-sloped rear roofline, and how much overhang the trunk has. That's a big butt, from the side.
I also like this angle on the car—quite elegant.

eureka
lets just say we have different definitions of big butt, and move on

josh
Sure.

What about the front? I liked it.

eureka 
LOVED it.

josh
Very clean, dramatic but not too showy.

Josh Condon / The Drive

"Clean, dramatic, not too showy" —JC

eureka
exactly. i love LEDs, too.

josh 
Going back to the trunk: there's a bit of Bentley Flying Spur in the styling, which proves me correct that it's a substantial rear end. 

[After-the-Fact Check: the 2018 Lincoln Continental has 16.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, which is exactly that of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur.]

Ugh. LEDs are awful.

eureka 
(going back to the trunk: stop trying to be right)

you didn't like them?

josh
They were fine. They just hurt my eyes and now they're everywhere. But it's a nice light signature.

Okay, so we have a large, soft, comfortable flagship sedan with a big scrunched butt and an elegant face, that's good at chewing up highway miles. 

30 years ago, this model would have sold so many cars. Now, since it don't have ride height, it don't mean shit.

eureka
is that your fun new slogan?

i just think that this car won't really be considered because unless you are Matthew McConaughey, you aren't really thinking of Lincolns when you are thinking of your next comfortable, larger sedan.

especially when you can just get a Ford Fusion.

the luxury was quite over-the-top for the average person

josh
But nobody's buying sedans. Crossovers are boring yet completely wiping out the entire sedan species. It's like the common carp somehow exterminating the tiger, and no one gives a shit.

eureka 
right, why get a sedan when you can just buy a compact crossover?

or something with way better MPGs... you drove on the highway, did you ever come close to 27? 

[After-the-Fact Check: The 2018 Lincoln Continental is EPA-rated at up to 18 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway.]

josh
This car is for 85-year-olds. I mean, that's not the car that Lincoln built—they clearly went for a high-touch yet accessible feel, with plenty of power and a flowing ride—but only 85-year-old dudes want to spend that kind of money on a luxury sedan, especially an American one (that isn't a Tesla Model S), especially a Lincoln.

Oh, god, no. Fuel economy was rough.

eureka
yeah no milennial thinks a Lincoln Continental sounds like a tech-filled fun daily driver.

and yeah, even a Model 3.

josh
Just given the American market, this car was always going to play second-fiddle to the new Navigator—LOOK HOW MUCH OF IT THERE IS!—and so it's unsurprising that most people I talked to who drove both would pick that vehicle. But it seems that's causing at least some perception that Lincoln under-delivered with this car, and I don't think they did. At all.

Josh Condon / The Drive

eureka 
i like how Lincoln's website says "calm. cool, decidedly continental." because it totally is.

yeah no, they definitely over-delivered. i can't think of anything off the top of my head that it was missing.

josh 
So, confession time: My grandfather used to have Lincoln Continentals and then Mercury Marquis (same thing), and when he passed he gave the last Mercury Marquis to my dad—which was around the time I started to drive.

eureka 
ooooh i love confessions

josh 
So I learned to drive in two cars: an old Volvo station wagon, and a big, boaty, V-8 powered American luxury sedan. So I have a real affinity for lots of horsepower with oversprung suspension and featherweight steering.

The new Continental is much more planted and well-built than that old Mercury, but the DNA is there: large, floaty, effortless driving. At its best, at least; sometimes the Conti was downright sluggish, especially low in the power band.

I really wanted a V-8, not a V-6. 

[After-the-Fact check: The 2018 Lincoln Continental offers a 3.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-6, a 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 engine, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6.]

Goddamn, Lexus has a big V-8!

This is America!

eureka 

V-8 would've been nice...

but hey at least it looks miles better. and has all of the technology.

josh 
Well, some of the technology, anyway. 

It's hardly in Mercedes-Benz S-Class territory.

[After-the-Fact Check: Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert comes standard on Select-trim vehicles.]

Josh Condon / The Drive

eureka
damnit germany, you do it so well...

i almost forgot about my least favorite part about the Continental, though. no idea how.

those BUTTONS in the dash to switch gears.

Josh Condon / The Drive

josh
Oh, yeah, garbage. Also a solution seeking a problem. And cheap-feeling buttons, too.

Ford parts-bin stuff.

eureka 
it is so fucking unnatural.

i will never understand the button thing.

josh
Yeah, I actually reversed out of a parking space once and then sat there, trying to remember how to put the car in drive.

eureka
which is ridiculous since you know, thats the whole point.

it made parallel parking in Brooklyn so uncomfortable.

not only are they not where a shift knob would be, but it is a series of buttons.

josh
Yeah, it's hard to look cool when you're stabbing a finger wildly at the center console. 

Okay, let's wrap up. Final thoughts?

eureka
Jacqueline, as i named her (because i always name my cars), was lovely, but i never stopped feeling absolutely out of place driving her. not sure if it's because i am a woman, or because i am less than 50 or 60 years old, or just because i'm not Matthew McConaughey. obviously we knew this going in, but that car is definitely not targeting millennials, between the size, the price and the extreme levels of luxury. frankly, if i wanted a more luxurious sedan, i would gravitate towards an Audi or a BMW, because it doesn't feel over-the-top yet has the same general features. i couldn't live with the buttons to shift, it's that bad for me. i didn't love the all-brown-everything on the screens, it doesn't exactly make me happy. the style is cool, yet somehow feels too old for me. the heads up display might have been my favorite of all the cars i have driven... ever (i think). i liked the power, although i agree it takes a minute to really go. it is just way too big, especially for still being a sedan and not a crossover. i had a lot of fun driving this car for the time i had her, but i never got attached to her.

josh
That's an interesting take. Ford's really penned themselves in, it seems, because they need to make the Continental recognizably Continental-like (big, soft, plush) or none of the dedicated customers will buy it—but younger buyers REALLY don't want that package.

One wonders if Lincoln simply continues to make the Continental until those customers die, or Lincoln does. In the meantime, the Navigator will print money.

It's kind of a shame, really, because like I said, there's a big part of me that digs this kind of car.

eureka
me too!

josh
I like a big comfy thing that's great for road trips, has plenty of power underfoot, and is unapologetic about being what it is.

eureka 
and all the MKs which i can never keep track of...

josh 
More than that, this car is well-executed, aside from some chintzy interior bits; I think the exterior design is quite striking and handsome, and the cabin is a great place to spend several hours zoning out and listening to talk radio.

Oh, man, I sound like my grandfather...

/giphy Old dude

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eureka
the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?

josh 
Apparently not. I was just trying to say that I think Lincoln had a bit of an impossible task, and yet they made a pretty good goddamn car, but that still probably won't be enough.

eureka
i wonder if the aviator will even compete with the navigator. forgot i saw that at the new york auto show.

i know, its really sad. not in this crossover/SUV loving world.

josh
/giphy extinction

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And on that note ...

/giphy That's all, folks!

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josh
/giphy 2018 Lincoln Continental

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eureka
/giphy alright alright alright

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The Drive

The 2018 Lincoln Continental, By the Numbers

Base Price: $45,155

Powertrain: 3.7-liter V-6, 305 hp, 280 lb-ft / 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 335 hp, 380 lb-ft / 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 400 hp, 400 lb-ft; six-speed automatic; front- or all-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 16-18 mpg city, 24-27 mpg highway, depending on engine (EPA figures)

0-60 MPH:  5.0 seconds (3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, Car and Driver testing)