Unveiled today the Lincoln Continental Concept is an impressive work of automotive design that deftly balances heritage with bringing the brand into the future. This modern swagger is the kind of momentum we’ve been waiting to see from the brand.
“The icon cars—the design icons that everyone recognizes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s—those Continentals were very special because they were intercontinental style,” Lincoln Motor Company Design Director David Woodhouse tells CH. “It’s where the name came from. It’s what’s stood the test of time.” For Lincoln, the Continental Concept is a pathway to their expressing this heritage without feeling trapped in it, and you can feel the liberation in the air. While much of the luxury segment competition has chiseled and sharpened and angled, Lincoln is taking a more subdued approach, and it works for them.
Woodhouse points to the grille of the Continental Concept, a notable deviation and new design language for the brand. “A lot of our competitors are in the business of scaring people these days. The front ends of the cars have gotten so overt and aggressive,” Woodhouse explains. “We really want to do the opposite to that, we want to see the humanity in the designs of the cars and seduction. We want to draw people in, not turn them off.”
The quiet, relaxed confidence of the lines on the Continental Concept exude a contemporary luxury that feels simultaneously classic and modern. Woodhouse further assures us this design won’t only live in the showroom. “The face of the car, the face of Lincoln, the grille that we’ve developed—that’s a huge marker to the future. That will migrate to other products in good time.”
The Concept features a new generation of LED lighting, the impressive new Revel sound system by Harmon that debuts in the 2016 MKX, an interior that’s restrained, modern and swathed in blue leather, suede and Alcantara with stainless accents. The 30 way adjustable seats are particularly impressive—a bit of Eames, complete with massage and independent thigh adjustment for each leg. You’d be happy with chair versions in your living room. The rear seats follow the recent trend of feeling like you’re flying in a private jet. The E-latch entry system makes the door handles become part of the car’s lines instead of breaking through them. Enhanced parking assist helps those who need it, as do the car’s active safety features.
A glance of the Continental Concept calls to mind other rolling saloons like Bentley’s Flying Spur, with city cars that can act as a board room on the go. While the Lincoln is still an expression of American luxury, it is definitely one inspired by it’s Continental name and heritage. It’s clearly informed by the rise in significance of the growing luxury market in China, one that Lincoln is courting aggressively. Woodhouse points out that the Continental Concept (which will be very similar to the production model Continental arriving next year), that it’s more about “defining a new path for Lincoln,” not following in the footsteps of other automakers.
Images by Evan Orensten