I recently had the chance to drive a 2018 Lincoln Continental Black Label, which is a big, comfortable luxury sedan. It is not a sporty, go-fast luxury sedan, like so many luxury sedans on the market today. Instead, Lincoln has seemingly eschewed that segment for the old school: This car is designed to be luxurious and comfortable above all else, just like luxury sedans from years ago.
And it succeeds. In fact, it succeeds wonderfully. But before I get to that, a little background. First, I borrowed this Continental from Lincoln South Coast in Orange County, California, which is an impressive new dealership dedicated to the same things as the continental: luxury, comfort, peace and quiet. Lincoln dealerships across the country are getting makeovers to live up to the standards of the brand’s new vehicles, and this dealership is an excellent example.
The Continental is an great example of the type of vehicle Lincoln is committing to. A revival of a flagship luxury name that Lincoln had cancelled 15 years earlier, the Continental offers three engines: A 305-horsepower V6, a 335-hp turbocharged V6, or a 400-hp turbocharged V6. Opt for that version, and you’re driving the most powerful Lincoln ever.
But if you’re looking for that engine, you’re missing the point of the Continental. This car is all about smooth comfort and not performance — a departure from the norm, as most automakers are now trying to corner every market segment, delivering vehicles that can be luxury cars, and family cars, and sports cars, and off-roaders, all rolled into one. Not the Continental. The Continental is pure luxury.
This is obvious from the moment you pull the door handle — cleverly hidden in the car’s chrome window trim — and enter the Continental. The Continental, and especially the luxurious Black Label model I drove, has a gorgeous interior, with soft, infinitely adjustable leather seats, hand stitching everywhere and virtually no cheap materials. This is not a dressed-up Ford: This is a gorgeous luxury car in its own right, and it feels like it.
It drives like it, too. I can’t remember which engine powered the Continental I drove, but that’s because it doesn’t matter: The point is not acceleration, but rather quietness and ease of use (and the fact that the two engine options are only 30 hp apart makes the distinction less important as well). In those respects, the Continental succeeds so wonderfully, with a cabin that manages to keep out road noise tremendously well, and steering that’s light and airy — two words I often dole out as criticism, but not in this case. It fits the purpose of the car. The Continental attempts to be a luxury car, and it succeeds masterfully.
And yet, it’s dying. The Continental hasn’t been a strong seller, and Ford has recently announced plans to quash all of its car models — something that will likely carry over to Lincoln, too. The simple truth is that buyers want SUVs and crossovers, something Lincoln is focusing on, with the new Navigator and the upcoming Nautilus and Aviator. With Lincoln’s efforts heading in that direction and buyers primarily looking for SUVs, there’s not much future for the Continental.
That’s a shame, of course, because the Continental is great at what it does — but it doesn’t seem like too many people remain interested in a vehicle that can do "what it does." But for the few full-size sedan buyers that remain — the buyers looking for a "true" luxury sedan that isn’t compromised by too much sport or performance or a crazy modern design — the Continental is still a great choice.