A Short Note On The New Continental

Note: Today’s guest post is by Barry Wolk, a friend of mine and Lincoln owner. His Mark II convertible is well-known in collector circles, and appeared on Hemmings Classic Car several years ago. There has been a lot of flack on the 2017-present Lincoln Continental, and social media and third-rate blogging sites are awash in fear and loathing on a car they’d never buy in the first place. Why so many spleens are vented on something they hate rather than things they enjoy is beyond me, but such is the state of many corners of society today. This is Barry’s response. -TK

Mark II

While the new Continental was still in clay form I was asked if the Lincoln Division studio could borrow my Mark II for the winter for inspiration, for an upcoming car that had no name at that time. It didn’t have door handles yet, so I asked if it would have rear-hinged doors. I was told that their surveys of potential buyers found this less than important.

I also asked David Woodhouse why the LCOC or any Lincoln club members weren’t asked to participate in focus groups for the new car and he sat me down and explained that people that buy old Lincolns rarely, if ever, buy new ones, making their opinion about new cars irrelevant.

As a business model making cars for the used car market makes zero sense. Still doesn’t.

I asked him about the shared platform and he educated me as to how many shared platforms we have in our lives. TVs, washers and dryers, cars and houses all have shared platforms. The difference between luxury items and base items is what added to the base, not the base itself.

I asked why it wasn’t rear-wheel drive and he responded that AWD is better, and it’s true in every circumstance, whether you believe it or not.

If Ford isn’t building a car that suits your needs or desires, please buy what you want, but quit grousing about cars you’ll never buy new. That’s the true definition of an anachronism.

Steam and coal aren’t coming back, either.

36 Replies to “A Short Note On The New Continental”

  1. AvatarCarmine

    “As a business model making cars for the used car market makes zero sense. Still doesn’t.”

    Though of course for a car to be desirable when its used……it also has to be special when its new too…….

    “The difference between luxury items and base items is what added to the base, not the base itself.”

    Very much disagree with this statement too…….there is no amount of Shinola thats going to cover shit to make it special, its just shit with more shit on it…….a pretty good description of the subject car too.

    “I was asked if the Lincoln Division studio could borrow my Mark II for the winter for inspiration, for an upcoming car that had no name at that time.”

    So they took a good look at your Continental and said “Yep……we don’t want any of this…….lets go with Chrylser 300 mixed with Hyundai Azzera with a dash of faux Bentley”

    “I asked why it wasn’t rear-wheel drive and he responded that AWD is better, and it’s true in every circumstance, whether you believe it or not.”

    Corporate BS translator on-“We don’t have a decent RWD platform and we aren’t going to spend money on anything that doesn’t say Fseries on the fender….sorry”

    Reply
    • AvatarScoutdude

      I agree that some of the responses are basic curated PR responses.

      As you stated they aren’t going to say that it is built on a FWD platform because that is all they had at the time. They also weren’t about to admit that this car was a stop gap until the RWD platform was ready.

      I do agree that Ford is right to not put too much faith in a customer clinic with a bunch of people who collect vintage Lincolns. Fact is those people alone are not enough to build a car for, they need to build a car for a wider audience.

      Reply
    • AvatarDetroit-Iron

      “As a business model making cars for the used car market makes zero sense. Still doesn’t.”

      Though of course for a car to be desirable when its used……it also has to be special when its new too…”

      This is what rings false to me. It’s my understaning that almost all mid-tier luxury cars and SUVs are leased. If this is a sustainable business model and not a Ponzi or tax scam it is dependent on strong residuals, i.e. used car prices. Maybe Jack or Bark can explain it or maybe there are just a lot of people who can afford $70k-$120k cars every couple of years but I don’t think so.

      Reply
  2. Avatarczed

    “The difference between luxury items and base items is what added to the base, not the base itself.”

    I would disagree with this statement. Luxury is about perception, not reality. Mercedes and Lexus build smaller vehicles with luxury items, but they are still down in the corporate pecking order. Continental was built on a mid-size platform, and it looks it. Vehicle does not have the presence of a luxury vehicle, which is a shame as if you scaled up the dimensions it would look fantastic. Continental is not going to roll up and make people say wow. Like building a house with a bad foundation, Ford picked a platform that was too small for the mission of the vehicle: a brand flagship.

    Reply
    • AvatarMrGreenMan

      “if you scaled up the dimensions it would look fantastic”

      It would have been great to see them do more with the Taurus platform, but apparently, they reached the limits on that. The current Continental is about the same size as a Taurus, and it has similar dimensions to the 1995 Continental (a couple inches shorter overall length; a few more inches in wheelbase). It’s not 230 inches in overall length, but the 98 also lost 3 feet. It’s not 124 inches in wheelbase, but 118 inches in wheelbase is pretty long for today. (It beats the E-Class in both length and wheelbase. If Wikipedia can be trusted, it beats the S-Class in overall length, width, and height; the S-Class has 1.5″ on wheelbase.) The knock on the Taurus was that the interior room was not as usable as on the Fusion; these cars look designed to have easy entry/exit with comfortable room in the seats.

      I don’t think they could have made it wider and been able to park it.

      If they were to try to make this longer, would that all go into the engine bay? I could see how a longer nose would work on it, but we’re in an era where they throw up their hands and say “government regulations” for snub-nosed cars.

      If you want it taller – aren’t Lincolns long, low, and lovely in the classic image? – but wouldn’t you just go buy a Navigator at that point?

      “the mission of the vehicle: a brand flagship.”

      Isn’t the Navigator the brand flagship now? I think of the same thing for Cadillac – however much the putzes in the NY “Cadillac House” liked to sit around and smell themselves while coming up with alphabetically-named cars nobody wanted to buy, lease, or rent, dreaming that the CT6 might be a “flagship” until they could make a CT8, Cadillac has a flagship – Escalade.

      Reply
      • AvatarCarmine

        Its not even about making it bigger, that whole BS about a car needing to be 220 or 240 inches or whatever long is garbage, what this car needed was PRESENCE, it needed to look important and it just looks bland, but now its a bland looking car with a taller, uglier roof and weird rear doors that were added in a “cut and shut” limo shop.

        Reply
    • Avatarjc

      Well, if you try to make a luxury car by what you add to a basic platform, you end up with the Cadillac Cimarron.

      If you try to make a luxury car by developing a high grade platform to start with, you COULD end up with a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

      Reply
  3. AvatarRobert Clark

    Carmin. There you go Tom. Didn’t take long at all to prove your point, did it?

    Thanks to Carmin for validating Tom’s statement about venting spleens. “Why so many spleens are vented on something they hate rather than things they enjoy is beyond me, but such is the state of many corners of society today.”

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      Camine with an e at the end.

      Sorry if you don’t like me calling out BS when theres a stench, but those pre-packaged Ford PR responses were weak.

      Maybe someday in the future everyone will be so afraid to share their opinion on something that nothing will ever be critiqued, but thats not the case today, he felt like he wanted to have Barry pour his purse out about the poor new Continental and ll the critique its had placed on it and share it here on a forum where people are, at least the last time I checked, allowed to express a point of view and my point of view is that the Continental is a pretty lame car.

      Its not even the RWD , shared platform or the lack of suicide doors, its that the whole car is a bland mish-mash, thats barely competitive with the 6 year old XTS, for all the hoo-rah over the return of the nameplate, perhaps Lincoln should have tried a little harder.

      Reply
  4. AvatarGeorge Denzinger

    I was not a big fan of the new Connie until I saw the concept car at the Gilmore, recently. Seeing that car did make me take a second look at them. But I’m not ready to buy any car right at the moment, so no matter how appealing, still no sale. The same goes for the Coach Door Connie, but it is a neat take on an otherwise standard car. Clearly, the folks who get it, get it (all 80 of them) and the rest make derisive comments.

    As an example, I find the new Honda Civic uglier than my Pontiac Aztek and my Yugo GV put together. But, I have no desire to spend a lot of time criticizing the design aspects of the car. The folks who agree with me will still do so, the rest will not and nothing I say will change anyone’s mind.

    I do applaud FoMoCo for taking the time and effort to do this, however. Lots of buzz for very little coin.

    Reply
  5. AvatarJohn C.

    Of course the same question must be occurring at Bentley and Audi. How do you build for China, India and Saudi Arabia and still build a classy car. Given that the rear seat passengers will all be successful, boorish, uncultured thieves. The America that built Mr. Wolks’ Lincoln could picture the successful American man who they wanted to sell to. Who are the modern engineers to imagine as their buyer. It is pounded into their head that it must be a world car. Well this is, and so was the 2002 Hyundai XG300.

    Reply
    • AvatarDirt Roads

      Thing is, they should ask themselves why people want to buy American in the first place. Well, because they’re distinctly American! Make American cars for Americans, and those in other countries who want them will buy them. You can’t please the entire world market with a car that doesn’t attract even your home base.

      Reply
  6. AvatarTyler

    Well, I like this car. I liked it the first I sat in it at an auto show. I like it on the street. I’d like it enough to give it full consideration if I had anything like Continental MSRP money.

    “It’s just a gussied-up Fusion!” Why is that a bad thing? A full-zoot Fusion was at release and in my opinion continues to be a thorn in the side of some substantially pricier metal in driving experience. Then they fixed the A pillar and gave it their best stereo, interior, and FWD powertrain. What do you people want, an egg in your beer?

    Reply
  7. AvatarM Compact

    My father had a 1986 Mark VII LSC. I absolutely loved that car. It was a big unapologetic RWD American GT that could legitimately be compared to the E24 6 Series and R107 SL. I know the coupe market segment is continuing to contract, but if Lincoln built a RWD coupe with with a similar mix of luxury and sport I would almost certainly defect from the Bavarian fold and buy one.

    Reply
  8. AvatarScottS

    Escalade and Navigator are without doubt the flagships for their respective brands. These are statement vehicles with the size and presence to back it up. The new Continental is simply too small to make a statement. Police departments have abandoned the Taurus for Explorer SUVs because the Taurus is simply too small. The trunk won’t accommodate a standard rifle case and many other common police tools. It lacks adequate rear seat space for the intended occupants and there are numerous accounts of the difficulty of sitting in the driver’s seat with a standard issue gunbelt. Does this sound like a recipe for a world class luxuary car? Maybe if you are a dwarf.

    Reply
  9. Avatararbuckle

    I don’t hate the Continental (I don’t love it either) but this is wishy-washy stuff.

    The reason I “vent my spleen” about certain cars is because I care about those brands in the first place. IMO, mindlessly liking everything isn’t any better than mindlessly hating everything.

    Also, the entire “you won’t buy it new” claptrap is a hopelessly tired (and frequently inaccurate) trope that should stop. It might make you feel better to think everyone criticizing your product bums around in a 2003 Civic, but that’s not the reality.

    Flat stating that AWD is better ***in every circumstance*** is also laughable and sounds like the sort of thing I’d expect from one of the German makers to justify watering something down.

    Who was their target market for this car anyway? It’s a freaking LINCOLN CONTINENTAL. Did they think RX and Macan buyers would flock to it? Who do they think created all the buzz around the concept version? Plus, it isn’t like this car has been a success. Could it have done much worse if they put Lincoln fans in the focus groups?

    Reply
  10. AvatarScoutdude

    My take on this car is that the original intention of this project was to judge market response and to keep some interest going until the replacement came that might have had coach doors on either all models or on a factory built LWB version that wasn’t as limited in availability.

    However in the meantime the market shifted, Ford decided it wasn’t worth tooling up for new sedans and that project has been canceled.

    However this was ready to go and since they are coach built it didn’t cost anything to go ahead and have a limited number of them built. It is generating a lot of free press, far and wide, for the Lincoln brand even if there will not be a Conti past 2020.

    Reply
  11. Avatardejal

    “If Ford isn’t building a car that suits your needs or desires, please buy what you want, but quit grousing about cars you’ll never buy new. That’s the true definition of an anachronism.”

    This reads like the guy Jack had on here who was rich and “talked” down to anyone who drove a bread and butter and not a, I forget, Disco? or Audi? SUV. I believed the guy also did a bit of racing. Because his use case was everyones use case. But hey, that was different, let him have a blog post because rich people are automatically superior to the proles.

    This thing ain’t selling. The limited edition suicide door model may sell to people who will vacuum bag them for 30 years to sell at B-J in 30 years.

    2017- 12,012
    2018 – 7,588 – through November.

    To David Woodhouse, I’ll use this old joke.
    “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      To paraphrase Ford’s design team; ‘your opinions and desires don’t matter, so we built a car that nobody wants.’

      Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      The numbers don’t include China, where half of these go. It does comfortably outsell the MKS, and achieve higher transaction prices. They probably would not have built it except for China, it would have been easy to keep the MKS in production until the Taurus dies. I bet they allowed some Chinese into their focus groups, even if they wouldn’t know a Versailles from a Zephyr.

      Reply
  12. AvatarCompaq Deskpro

    I’ve said this before. No matter how luxurious that car is, it is boring. It is a Fusion, and it is obvious. Kill it now. The Navigator is the brash balls out Lincoln that the brand deserves, and it would be trivial to put suicide doors on that thing. It would trivial to put a huge gas guzzling V8 in it and charge well and above the gas guzzler tax to make up for it. The related Ford pickups already have these things. Do it!!!

    GM, I’m talking to you too. Where is that Escalade Brougham with the supercharged 6.2 and all the tacky colorful interior options you could hope for? With the price to match? Your never going to get your global luxury market back from Bentley by making $80,000 silver and beige low end luxury SUV’s.

    Reply
    • AvatarLionsFansAnonymous

      It would be extremely non-trivial to put suicide doors on a Navigator. Expect a job at least as complex as what they’re doing to the Conti.

      Reply
  13. AvatarMike M

    The Continental is a nice car, the interior is exceptionally nice, but there is not enough WOW factor there. Lincoln needs something with the WOW factor the Marks had in the 70s and the LSC had in the 80s. The Navigator has that WOW factor, but it needs a sister car that also has a WOW factor. That sister car should be a low volume car, a halo car. Ford has the ability to do this, just look at the GT.

    The Continental was their opportunity to make that Lincoln halo car, but they based it on a FWD midsize platform. I can’t think of any other MFR that uses a existing midsize platform for the halo car. They could have made a 4 door suicide door convertible as the halo and the hardtop sedan would have been the volume component of that pair. They could have modified the Mustang platform to get the right proportions to really make it pop.

    Reply
  14. AvatarDougD

    Within reason I think it’s appropriate to complain about a car that you don’t appreciate / and or everyone doesn’t appreciate which appears to be the case here if those sales numbers are accurate. For all that engineering and development could they not have come up with something that is generally well liked? Missed opportunity indeed.

    The end game of not complaining may well be that everyone gets a Lada, or a Cruze because GM can’t close Lordstown. Or that 86 Olds Regency they never should have stopped building.

    Reply
  15. AvatarJeff Zekas

    Remember way back, when, if a U.S. carmaker wanted a really special vehicle, they hired an Italian carrozzeria to design and build the body? Why does every new car HAVE to be designed in-shop? After all, an ugly body costs the same to build as a beautiful body.

    Reply
  16. Avatarstingray65

    Wouldn’t the Lincoln suicide door styling signature be much more appropriate for the Navigator or Nautilus – you know something that is relevant for today’s market and actually sells?

    Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      Giving a SUV suicide doors would make sense in terms of making the model stand out in an increasingly crowded segment. It would also appeal to older folks. It’s counterintuitive but one thing that I’ve found is that seniors don’t seem to mind the increased height of SUVs, or they find getting in and out of them is easier than with a conventional sedan.

      Reply
  17. AvatarGlenn Kramer

    Ford’s comments to Barry reflect the management style that exists there. All accurate answers, but they are playing checkers when the actual game is chess. The ‘middle manager” answers bring you a car that checks every box but the one that matters. The answer given to Barry, “…people that buy old Lincolns rarely, if ever, buy new ones, making their opinion about new cars irrelevant” is accurate, as Lincoln hasn’t produced a car that hit the same buttons (the emotional response, not just the styling cues) that the “collectable” Lincolns hit for years. If they did, I think they’d be surprised at the response in the marketplace.

    Reply
  18. AvatarCliffg

    Important point: I am not a potential buyer. It has to be difficult to build an automobile today that has to meet a variety of safety regulations, somewhat mandating that cars look very similar these days, and stamp unique on something that will retail at less than $120k. So you have to pick a market that might actually pony up for such a thing, single well paid software execs, or 60+ year old successful small business owners who want something nice but not too showy. Ok, all you smart guys out there, build me something. If it doesn’t sell, everyone gets fired except the CEO (that is how it works…). Actually the solution may be an engineering one, if you can produce small lots in that price range at a reasonable profit, then you can niche market to your heart’s content. Not sure if you could find the results on the corporate income page however.

    Reply
    • AvatarCompaq Deskpro

      “something nice but not too showy”

      Nobody wants this, as evidenced by weak sales of Acuras, crazy styling on once reserved Lexus, and clattery turbo 4’s in a BMW 5 series. Showy is more important than nice. Maybe suicide doors will get them there.

      Reply
  19. AvatarJPuddybuc

    I like the new Continental. I did not like the last one. My family have had (and still have) some of those older ones. They’re wonderfully dull, poorly assembled, and dead reliable. Large wallowing luxoliners that’ll can cruise for hours without effort or backache. But I wasn’t interested.
    I would actually buy a new one. I’m impressed. But at that price-point… I expect a lixurious RWD car designed as one from the start, not a $25K Ford Edge with a sexy body and better struts. And there’s the problem, I like it. I want it.
    But I can get an Alfa, Cadillac, BMW, Merc, etc within the same $ range- and those weren’t designed by a beancounter comittee.

    Reply

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