“Don’t call it a comeback,” Ford might say of its new 2017 Lincoln Continental, but there can be little doubt the carmaker’s luxury arm needs to make one.
Although one of the oldest and most well recognised names in motoring, Lincoln has struggled for decades now to compete with its rivals in the American luxury market.
The brand has found renewed support at Ford, however, with new CEO Mark Fields in 2014 confirming a huge US$2 billion investment in the brand and a 2020 sales target of 300,000 – up from 81,694 at the time.
It’s no surprise then that Ford has revived Lincoln’s most revered badge, not seen in the market since the ninth-generation model retired off the back of falling sales in 2002.
This reborn Continental, then, is intended as just the first salvo in a new offensive on the likes of Cadillac, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, among others.
Little about the concept’s styling has changed in the leap to production, with the full proportions, broad new signature grille, slender LED headlights and the slim beltline-mounted door handles all carrying over to the final design.
The cabin is likewise largely unchanged, with a nearly identical spread of leather, silver, aluminium and wood highlights featuring throughout.
Power in the variant shown at the Detroit show is provided by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol V6 producing 298kW and 541Nm of torque. Details are light-on, but Lincoln promises – of course – “smooth, responsive yet quiet power”.
That’s the flagship engine (for now, it could be assumed), but Ford’s 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 will also be offered. That engine offers 224kW in the Ford Edge Sport SUV and an even sweeter 243kW in the new Fusion (Mondeo) Sport.
Unlike just about all of its rivals, the Continental rides on a front-wheel drive platform, although all-wheel drive will be standard for most variants.
Adaptive steering and suspension will feature, offering Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
And, like all of its key rivals – and many below – the Continental will offer a suite of autonomous driving systems, including automatic braking and acceleration in stop-start traffic.
Lincoln is also making noise about its passenger jet-inspired seats, which feature 30-way power adjustability and enough inventive development work to have the company granted “over 50 new patents”.
There’s also a premium Revel audio system, incorporating Active Noise Control into its suite of features. That’s matched to acoustic laminated glass, contributing to Lincoln’s promise of a quiet ride.
The Continental is yet to be confirmed for right-hand drive production, but even if it does, a focus on rebuilding the Lincoln brand’s influence in America – and the booming Chinese market – means an Australian launch anytime in the foreseeable future is unlikely.