Monday, January 25, 2016

The Forthcoming 2017 Lincoln Continental

The 2017 Lincoln Continental was previewed at the recent (January 2016) Detroit auto show.  (Yes, I know there is a pretentious official name for that event, but I choose to ignore it.)  A history of the brand and its various generations is here.  It notes that the most recent Lincoln Continentals went out of production in 2002.

Auto industry insider and commentator Peter De Lorenzo reported on the Detroit show here, mentioning the new Continental.  De Lorenzo compares marketing strategies of Cadillac and Lincoln there and in other posts on his web site.  He points out that Cadillac's strategy has been to produce performance cars in the mold of BMW, Audi and Mercedes and naming them using short codes such as CTS, XTS and ATS.

He goes on to mention that Ford management decided to avoid the long, hard haul of creating Lincolns with a high-performance image that would eventually fill the mind-space of potential buyers.  Instead, Lincoln's strategy is to create a luxury image, where raw performance is incidental.  A key element is the revival of the Continental name.

De Lorenzo claims that Cadillac's three-letter codes are too cryptic for most potential buyers, a mimicking of German practice.  But the name Continental is meaningful to most potential buyers, and therefore is a powerful marketing tool.  I tend to agree with Peter, finding the Cadillac codes difficult to associate with the various models they are supposed to represent.  As for the Continental name, I think it will work provided the car it labels is a good one.

Let's see what Lincoln stylists have created.


1940 Lincoln Continental
This is what the original production Lincoln Continentals looked like.  Most observers, me included, consider this a classic design.  Because of this, there was great pressure for the styling of later Continentals to continue featuring cues from the first design.

1982 Lincoln Continental Givency edition
For example, this 1982 version is a four-door sedan, not a coupe as in 1940.  But a fake rear-mounted spare tire has been added to the trunk as a reminder of the original.  Such faux-spares were used on most post-1948 designs as the means of proclaiming Continenetal-ness.

2002 Lincoln Continental
The last production Lincoln Continentals finally abandoned the false spare tire bulge, resulting in a run-of-the-mill large American luxury sedan.

2017 Lincoln Continental
Again, no trace remains of the original Lincoln Continental.  What we see here is typical of contemporary luxury sedan styling in this era of high, supposedly safety-related, hoods and wind tunnel tested body forms.

2017 Lincoln Continental
The general feeling is Bentley-like, with a slightly dropped, slightly flowing fender line.

2017 Lincoln Continental
The grille opening is also Bentley-inspired, but flatter.  The sparkly reflections on the surface remind me of the latest Mercedes-Benz theme, but whose roots go back to 1958 Buicks.

2017 Lincoln Continental
A non-Bentley feature is the crease along the upper part of the side with a chrome flash at its front.  The current fashion for extravagant side sculpting is avoided here -- probably good for a luxury car.

2017 Lincoln Continental
A better view of the rear.  De Lorenzo was not impressed, and I think Lincoln stylists could have done something more distinctive, yet tasteful.

The 2017 Lincoln Continental's styling is not especially distinctive.  But it does proclaim that the car is of the luxury or near-luxury variety, and perhaps that's what the folks at Ford intend for now.  According to one source I read, the Continental is based on the Ford Taurus platform that has been in production since 2010 -- and the Continental indeed looks like a facelifted Taurus.  Perhaps more distinctive styling will appear on future Continentals based on a forthcoming platform, the 2017 model being a placeholder for a really desirable Lincoln.


GrouchoMarxist said...

I think this car will drop like a dud bomb. The car is aimed at an older buyer group. As Bunky Knudson said when he was transforming Pontiac in the 1950s, "You can sell a young man's car to an old man, but you cannot sell an old men's car to a young man." If the car has really super performance, like an American BMW, then maybe alright, but to my mind, Lincoln would be better to design a car with the internal passenger structure of, say a 1953 Senior Buick/Cadillac 62. Older Americans want a car that will meet the needs of their increasingly creaky bodies, but will, at the same time be cool rides.

mike won said...

We are wondering if front or rear wheel [or all wheel] drive is in this sad excuse for a comeback. Our 2002 Town Car isn't blue, white or burgundy, it's parchment gold! ['Presidential', with a roof, missing the hood ornament & opera windows.] The sad fact remains that the prices are prohibitive yet our 'oldie but a goodie' is still the best car in town! These designs are cookie cutter pitiful! Options are very limited so we thank you for allowing us to more completely enjoy the treasure of yesteryear, you know, when Quality was Job 1!

Paige Hollingsworth said...

I really like the look of the 2017 Continental. I really hope that the car does well. I have always like the Lincoln brand but have been underwhelmed in recent years. Hopefully, they are able to revive it and bring it back to what it once was. I'm interested to see what happens with them.

emjayay said...

At least they finally gave up on the split grille. Awesome on the original, never worked in any iteration on any modern Lincoln. Not for lack of trying.

Anyway, the Continental is a relief from the forced angles and overdone details of any Cadillac. I just think (once again) that it could have used a bit of the drama and elegance of the '56 and '61. A little spookiness. A bit stiffer rear fender line would be in this direction and set it apart a bit more from European competition. Something different with the tail lights which are too much like a lot of other cars. The interior is very nice, but again doesn't have a strong design concept. It could be any expensive car.