Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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The latest incarnation of the Lincoln Continental is a lengthy cruise-beast that’s laser-focused on delivering an effortless, comfortable, and relaxing drive that’s ready to coddle, even on the most extensive treks. If you’re the sort of driver who will use their vehicle as a personal decompression chamber, a rolling social lounge, a private listening space, or a place to unwind during hours and hours at the wheel, the 2017 Lincoln Continental would like to meet you very much indeed.

It all feels a clay mask and a few cucumber slices away from a day at the spa.

Effortlessness is the name of the Continental’s game – and it’s an attribute demonstrated several times, before drivers even take their seat on board.

For instance: use the motorized trunk to load up your things before a trip. Many luxury car trunk closers beep loudly a moment before an electric motor kicks in with a sound like an overloaded wood planer, as it slams the trunk closed. In the Continental, the process is virtually noiseless. There’s no beeping, the electric motor makes about as much noise as a laptop fan, and the action sees the trunk close gently into place.

Or the fixed door handles. A swanky styling touch, these seem to melt out of the Continental’s prominent chrome belt-line. Beyond the looks, though, their action is unique: rather than pull a heavy handle or lever, a simple tap on a button concealed in the handle-hoop electronically pops the door from its latch for you, with no more effort than clicking a mouse. I showed this to one family friend with severe arthritis in her hand, and she’s fairly convinced the Continental is a strong contender for her next car based on this feature alone.

Little touches. Little fancies. Little bits of attention to detail. It’s the little things, sometimes, that make a car stand out in its segment, and Continental flaunts at least two good ones, before you even get inside.

Open the big doors on their big openings and slide in, with a slight drop. Entry and exit is a cinch, even for larger or mobility-challenged passengers. The seats are deep, pillowy and almost infinitely adjustable. In addition to massage functionality, heated and chilled leather, and no fewer than 30 possibilities for adjustment, another little touch is built-in too: thigh support adjustments are possible on a per-leg basis. If you like to stretch out one leg at a time, this is great stuff.

If you’re say, recovering from the installation of a new knee, like dad, this feature is “absolutely [strong expletive] perfect” (his words, not mine).

Driver and front passenger are surrounded by a formal and rich arrangement of wood, leather, stitching and chrome – with a digital display screen comprising the instrument cluster, and another touchscreen display nearby operating as the central command interface. The atmosphere is upscale, largely convincing and supporting of the tester’s big price tag, and also just that touch high-tech and digitized. As an added touch, the angles and tapering to the chrome trim seem expertly chosen to capture and reflect light after dark, giving the cabin a dynamic shimmer, like a city skyline. At night, the Continental’s cabin is a shiny, shimmering and vibrant place to be.

There’s no gear shifter lever, because there’s push-button gear select, instead. This is unusual and makes some car reviewers freak out. In real lifesies, this is awkward for a day or two, but if you’re familiar with how to operate a button, you’ll get used to it in a few days.

So: here’s a cabin that’ll impress luxury aficionados readily, but won’t leave the tech and gadget enthusiasts out in the cold.

Other on-board notables? There’s storage galore – big, deep bins in the doors, console and centre stack provide plenty of options to keep smaller at-hand items organized, tidy, secured, and out of sight. After all, clutter is yucky.

In back, it’s much the same: rear seats offer ample room, impressive legroom, and the tester’s optional rear seating package included heated and chilled leather, seat recliners, and massage. Manual sunshades were included as well. If treating two rear-seat passengers to first-class travels is a priority, Continental nails it. Just note that the rear seats tighten up quickly in instances where they’re occupied by three adults.

Fancy a cruise while getting a massage and enjoying new details in your favourite music tracks courtesy of the high-definition Revel Ultima stereo? Continental has you covered. Add in the gorgeous décor, fixings, and accoutrements, and it all feels a clay mask and a few cucumber slices away from a day at the spa.

Continental’s long-haul cruising experience is its strongest asset. Kill the big stereo, and take in the silence: extensive fine-tuning to nuke offending noise from the outside world sees the use of laminated acoustic glass, special noise-deadening provisions, and even active noise cancellation, which emits white noise to electronically neutralize many sounds before they reach your ears. Even cruising at a (really) good clip, there’s no need to raise your voice, no straining to hear your passengers talk, and no callers asking you to speak up over the Bluetooth.

Ride quality is expectedly brilliant. Styling suggests a ride like a bloated tarmac walrus, though the Continental is less of a road-going sponge-cake than it looks. From the driver’s seat, and thanks in no small part to adaptive road-sensing dampers, drivers can expect carefully controlled body motions and a fantastic sense of the suspension filtering out all but the very nastiest bits of the road beneath. It’s a creamy, velvety, and nicely isolated ride, without excessive undulation on lumpy roads. Most notably, the setup of the suspension and chassis keep the Continental’s body (and therefore, cabin and occupants) largely stable and in place, even as the wheels take light to moderate abuse from the surface beneath.

Further, at higher speeds, the car feels confidently connected to the tarmac, not flubbery and gelatinous. In all, it’s a machine expert at quietly hovering along while those on board unwind, relax, and socialize. And though it’s rarely thrilled about it, the Continental handles being chucked through fast corners better than you may think, largely due to the careful and constant control of the body’s positioning over the wheels. There’s less body roll and protest during hard driving than expected – but if the desire to rip corners has you itching like a cheap Christmas sweater, this isn’t your ride.

Headlight performance is good, about middle of the line as premium flagships go. Lighting colour, saturation, and spread is top-notch, but I wished for a touch more overall brightness. If you’re cross-shopping, the Cadillac CT6’s lighting system is a few measures more potent and far-reaching. Ditto the Volvo S90.

Brake feel is par for the course: Conti’s pedal is more numb and vague than your writer likes, making the brakes tough to modulate, but preventing them from feeling too touchy and sensitive. Called upon for an emergency stop, there’s a little drama: the Continental’s front squats down hard, the brake pedal vibrates intensely, and there’s plenty of noise from the ABS system and tires. Still, for a hefty hauler, it pulls down from speed with a strong sense of urgency.

Power came from Continental’s optional top-dog 3.0L V6, with twin turbochargers pegging torque and horsepower at 400 apiece. Lesser models get a 2.7L turbocharged V6, good for 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are fitted with a six-speed automatic.

The up-level V6 impresses mainly for its effortless light-throttle performance, and a sense of ease in lazy cruising, where the low-end torque quietly glides the Continental to speed and beyond with minimal fuss or noise. Power for merging or passing is also top notch, even bordering on excessive at times. Still, the big V6 feels a little overworked when pushed for a quick start off the line, where Continental feels like it struggles with its weight a little.

Notably, the Cadillac CT6 powerplant (which is virtually identical in spec and output), feels less strained at lower speeds than the Continentals, and is a touch smoother, quieter, and more refined, more of the time.

Shoppers considering the new Continental are advised to consider said CT6, the Volvo S90, and also, the Genesis G80 Sport. The latter is in the same comfort ballpark, a little more engaging to drive, and the better part of $20,000 cheaper in top-dog guise, though lacking a few of the Lincoln’s big goodies.

The CT6 might be the Continental’s biggest problem – it has a more modern-looking cabin, a more effortless powertrain, a more athletic-looking body, and a suspension setup that’s just as comfortable, but a lot sportier, when requested.

At this price point, there aren’t a lot of ways you can go wrong with a luxury car – and Lincoln’s offering hits the mark when shopper priorities include first-class treatment of rear seat passengers, as well as a full suite of tech and features designed to pass hours and hours on the road with space, power, and especially comfort, to spare.

If you’ll primarily use your new luxury sedan as a place to unwind, decompress, and socialize, and you want a car that demands virtually nothing of the driver, put this one on your test drive hit list.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 400 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Peak Torque 400 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel Economy 14.4/9.7/12.3 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 472.9/1,308.2 L rear seats down
Model Tested 2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve
Base Price $62,150
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,000
Price as Tested $81,900
Optional Equipment
$17,650 – White Platinum Paint $700; Technology Package $4,000; Luxury Package $5,000; Twin Panel Moonroof $2,200; Rear Seat Package $5,000; Perfect Position Seating $750