Preview: 2017 Lincoln Continental – Success Against the Odds

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One year ago, Lincoln showed the world the new 2017 Continental. Has it succeded or has it fallen flat?

Car show season is now in full swing. In preparation for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit starting in early January, BestRide staff have been researching the upcoming models of note. While doing so, we were reminded of the hubub over the Lincoln Continental which was revealed in its pre-production form almost exactly one year ago.

I remember walking the Boston Auto show with fellow reviewers Craig Fitzgerald and Kamil Kaluski. Both had reactions to the Continental. Craig said to me, “That right there is the shot in the arm Lincoln badly needs.” I remember Kamil said he thought the new car looked like the handsome Infiniti M45. However, Kamil was more reserved and said he would need to drive it before he was convinced the underlying Ford platform did the Continental justice.  Although the Continental had been shown prior to the Boston show, it was still a big draw with many admirers and critics taking the time to check it out. So has it succeeded?

 – See Craig Fitzgerald’s Lincoln Car Show Overview From One Year Ago Here

First, some facts from the Continental’s first couple of full months of sales that support the argument that the Lincoln Continental is a success. November sales for the Continental were 1,419 units. That number may sound low, but large premium sedans have been in a sales decline over the past five years as buyers flock to crossovers and SUVs.

The Continental is a big front or all-wheel drive large car, but it isn’t a huge car. One vehicle it is similar to in size and also performance, (at its price point) is the Tesla Model S. Inside EVs pegs Model S sales for November at 1,400. Without question, the Tesla Model S is the sedan to beat in this segment. While one month of sales is certainly not indicative of any final result, it should be noted that in October Tesla sold 925 Model S cars and Lincoln sold 1,222 Continentals. Hmm.

The Continental’s sales also ranked highly against the Audi A6’s 1,532 units sold and it beat the A7 and A8 by a country mile. Lexus doesn’t really have a direct model matchup against the Continental, but the sportier Lexus GS sedan’s sales of 1,200 units, and the lower-priced Lexus ES Series’s sales of 4,000 bracket the Continental nicely. The Continental also outsold both the Cadillac CT6 (1,169) and CTS (1,042). An easy sales result summary is that the Lincoln Continental is selling very well.  (Added post-publication – Lincoln sold 1,845 Continentals in December)

BestRide has not yet tested the Continental, but early reviews are positive. Take Consumer Reports’ recent first drive summary, which said, “…the Continental has proven to be a satisfying car thus far, being impressive to look at, ride in, and pilot down the road. Lincoln has waited a long time for a contemporary flagship, and the Continental fills the bill.” CR also said of the Continental, “Steering is precise, and the car feels disciplined and unflappable. It’s not as lithe of a dance partner as a Cadillac CT6, but it is more enjoyable to drive than a Lexus.”

There is one other reason the Continental is a success for Lincoln. Not long ago, the company asked dealers to invest big money making their dealerships fancier to try to keep pace with Lexus and others. Craig Fitzgerald points out that the problem was Lincoln didn’t have any vehicles that wowed customers. Now it does. Craig says, “The Continental is a huge step forward. It’s not the stunning, home run concept car, but it’s a solid, standup double that gives both traditional Lincoln customers and those unfamiliar with the brand a reason to return to the showroom.”

Credit Lincoln for having the guts to bring to market a large premium sedan while knowing that the segment was shrinking. Give Lincoln even more respect for being smart enough to know that buyers don’t need or want a V8 racetrack star in a Continental and are more interested in features like great seats. Shoppers in this segment demand an all-around great car, and from initial reports, that is just what the Lincoln Continental is shaping up to be.

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John Goreham

John Goreham