Lincoln Continental Concept Debuts At The 2015 New York Auto Show

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Mummified in official, officious words like “effortlessly powerful” and “quiet luxury,” the new Lincoln Continental concept car slid silently into New York City Sunday evening. Wearing the brand’s new face and promising great things for the future, the Continental concept is a huge gamble for the Lincoln brand.

Though it bears a name that could make—and break—the Lincoln brand, the Continental’s arrival feels awkward, certainly not the answer to a brand’s struggle for identity.

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If anything, the Continental concept is an effigy for that crisis of identity: It was built for the Chinese market first—Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] president and CEO Mark Fields said “China” about 50 times in his brief speech to the press last night—even though Lincoln only entered the Chinese market last November.

It wears subtle, understated lines that draw more from the waistline of the beautiful but relatively obscure 1956 Continental Mark II than from the more iconic, more design-forward suicide-doored model introduced in 1961.

But perhaps most representative of Lincoln’s schizophrenia is the response to nearly every question regarding this car’s clearly enumerated production-intent status: “It’s a concept.” Or, stated more plainly, “It’s just a concept.”

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Enlarge Photo
Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Enlarge Photo
Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Enlarge Photo

Variations of this phrase were the sole response to questions about powertrain, pricing, features, and more. And these were the responses not of jaded communications reps, but of the executives, who moments before had emphasized that the Continental concept is, as I wrote several times in my notes, emphasizing their emphasis, a “very strong hint at a production car.”

Those executives included Fields, but more importantly Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln’s president as of last September, a position he holds alongside his title of Ford Motor Company vice president, and Lincoln’s design director David Woodhouse.

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None of this is to say that the Continental isn’t impressive: in fact, it is. It’s also hugely satisfying in many ways, at least for those with automotive aesthetic tastes that span the better part of the last century. Chunky, substantial, vintage design details abound in the sleek, modern Continental’s otherwise svelte form—a form that also has hints of the 2002 concept of the same name.

The heavy, chrome-laden grille—a huge upgrade from the baleen whale of today; the transparent-chrome tail lights; the extensive use of metal in the cabin; even the new super-high-tech door handles. All of these aspects speak of a luxury of time, of mass, and of craft. It’s a refreshing design that almost borders on the cyberpunk.

The profile of the Continental concept gives us yet more hints as to the car’s role—and its nature, under the skin, too. With a short nose, a long, gracefully arched cabin, and a proportional, but snubbed, tail, the Continental concept is classic three-box sedan design with a clear emphasis on the back seat—both requisites for success in China.

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Lincoln Continental concept unveiling, New York City, March 29, 2015

Enlarge Photo
Lincoln Continental concept

Lincoln Continental concept

Enlarge Photo
Lincoln Continental concept

Lincoln Continental concept

Enlarge Photo
 

 
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