Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2019 Lincoln Continental

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

The Lincoln Continental has a long, storied history, but unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee it a spot on the short list for those looking to buy a luxury saloon. With SUVs heavily favoured over sedans as of late, the 2019 Lincoln Continental finds itself in a segment that has become smaller and more competitive as manufacturers battle for market share. That competition ranges from highly acclaimed arrivals like the Volvo S90 and Genesis G90, to established models like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

On hiatus from 2002 until it made a grand return for the 2017 model year, the reimagined model was a bold departure from the previous iteration. And that’s a good thing. The former front-wheel driver has been replaced with a luxurious all-wheel-drive sedan that is once again befitting of the badge and namesake that made it a household name. It is far superior to the previous model, but is it good enough to go head-to-head with its competitors?

Styling: 9/10

Even in the subtle hue of Magnetic Grey, this car makes an impression like few others on the road. In a world of copycats where designs are become increasingly staid and similar, the long, elegant Continental breaks away from the pack with unique design elements and features from nose to tail, such as the outward facing e-latch door handles seamlessly integrated into the door trim, or signature lightning, including LEDs up front and puddle lights that create a sense of occasion as you approach the vehicle. This stately presence continues in a cabin that is nicely styled and appointed with high-quality leather, wood, and chrome accents. The 20-inch polished aluminum wheels (a $750 option) finish off the look of elegance.

User Friendliness: 7.5/10

Some of the elements that make the Lincoln unique also make it somewhat frustrating, at least until you get accustomed to them. I can’t say I’ve ever had an issue with exiting a vehicle until I drove the Continental. Rather than traditional handles, passengers must locate and push a button that can eventually be found down low on the door. It happened to be blocked by my thigh, so I legitimately couldn’t figure out how to get out of the car for a good 15–20 seconds. There is an emergency bypass lever on the driver’s door (and only the driver’s door) should the battery die. It seems highly unnecessary for the sake of novelty.

As is common in Lincolns these days, the six-speed transmission is operated by buttons located on the dash to free up space on the steering-wheel column and centre console. If you happen to be new to the brand it will be a nuisance, but it becomes second nature quickly. One thing that didn’t grow on me was the voice activation system which was never able to comprehend my requests to find addresses or points of interest, requiring me to pull over and enter them manually. The Bluetooth also dropped calls numerous times, particularly when transferring from one to another.

Otherwise the car was incredibly easy to live with. The turning radius makes it surprisingly nimble while controls are intuitive. The head-up display offers a laundry list of information that can be customized to include speed, time, ambient temperature, cruise control details, and distance to empty – without the need to drop your eyes from the road for even a second. Push the S button on the dash to activate Sport mode and not only does the throttle response come alive, the HUD immediately switches to prioritize a speedometer and tachometer. When parking, a bird’s-eye view is depicted on the central screen, accentuated by audible and colour-changing visual cues.

Features: 8/10

The Continental’s cabin is a luxurious place to be and is complemented by a long list of features, particularly in Reserve trim. Infotainment functions are handled through the 8-inch LCD touchscreen. The steering wheel is heated, while the seats feature three-stage heat and ventilation functions that are easy to access and use.

The twin panel moonroof creates a bright and airy environment. Should you wish to darken the cabin, an electronic shade can be closed and a power rear-window privacy screen can be raised. It also automatically lowers when the vehicle is put into reverse as to not impede the driver’s view. Additional window screens can manually be raised or lowered on the rear side windows.

Multiple USB ports are available front and rear, as well as three 12V power points and a 110V power outlet; but it strangely didn’t feature wireless phone charging. An extra $2,700 gets you the upgraded Revel Ultima audio system featuring 19 speakers, HD radio, CD player, and SiriusXM capability.

Safety: 9/10

Equipped with all-wheel drive and loaded with active and passive safety equipment, the Continental feels substantial and surefooted on the road. Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking technologies scan the roadway ahead and apply braking inputs in needed to avoid or limit the severity of a collision. The optional Rear Seat package also includes inflatable rear safety belts which spread out the surface area of the belt to reduce injury. It also features BLIS, lane-keeping, and cross-traffic alerts. Airbags are located virtually everywhere – front, side curtain, side of seats and doors, and at the passengers’ knees.

Comfort: 8/10

At 5,116 mm in length, the Continental has a 2,994 mm wheelbase, making for a smooth and supple ride, soaking up bumps and road irregularities but also being engaging to drive. The 401 Expressway from Toronto to Detroit is among the most tedious and uninspired route imaginable, but the Lincoln made for an excellent highway companion. Laminated glass and insulation keep road noise to a minimum, even on the highway. Active Noise Control also works to counteract unwanted noise by monitoring sounds within the cabin, which are filtered through a signal processor to produce opposing sounds that cancel the original ones out.

Boasting the 30-way power multi-contour seating up front (a $750 option), the “Perfect Position Seats” are swathed in leather and offer three stages of heat and ventilation, in addition to an enjoyable massage function. They also offer a thigh extender for added support.

Dual climate control functions are easily adjusted with dials, knobs, and toggles, even with gloves on. It’s important for us Canadians! Unlike most vehicles where the rear occupants aren’t treated to the same comfort as front seat passengers, the Lincoln provides heated, ventilated, and reclining rear seats, as well as dedicated climate and audio controls when equipped with the $5,000 Rear Seat Package. My only complaint is that at six feet tall my head was touching the ceiling when seated in the upright rear seat.

Practicality: 8/10

Front and rear sensors, along with the available 360-degree camera, make manoeuvring in tight parking garages easier by using the back-up camera, a bird’s eye view, or the front camera’s 180-degree-split view that lets the driver monitor cross-traffic situations. Storage may not be as big as an SUV, but the trunk is massive and usable thanks to a large opening, hands-free operation, as well as a pass-through for skis or hockey sticks. This is Canada after all. There’s also lots of storage space for coffee cups, keys, phones, and wallets. Simple things that you don’t really think about until they aren’t there.

Power: 8/10

While competitors are going to eight-, even nine- or ten-speed transmissions, the Conti only offers a six-speed automatic transmission, manually selectable via wheel-mounted paddles. Engine options start with the 2.7L turbocharged EcoBoost good for 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, our Reserve trimmed tester featured the available 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 mated to an all-wheel drive powertrain putting out 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque ,which is available at as low as 2,750 rpm. Performance was more than ample in virtually every scenario one could find themselves in whilst piloting a sedan weighing over 2,000 kg, particularly when in Sport mode. Strangely there isn’t an Eco mode.

Driving Feel: 8/10

The Continental is not a small car, but its performance and handling characteristics make it feel smaller than its proportions would suggest. Steering is communicative and balanced. Thanks to adaptive steering and suspension, plus dynamic torque vectoring that brakes inner wheels to help pivot the car around turns, it is surprisingly enjoyable and engaging to drive. It’s no sports car, but as boulevard cruisers go, it’s a good one. It also has 18-inch twin piston brakes up front and 17-inch brakes in the rear. Did I mention it has 400 lb-ft of torque?

Fuel Economy: 7/10

Fuel economy is listed as 14.5 L/100 km in the city, 9.8 L/100 km on the highway, and 12.3 L/100 km combined. Over the course of a week of driving mixed between stop-and-go city commuting and long stretches on the highway which included some spirited acceleration to pass transport trucks, I managed 11.1 L/100 km. If fuel -fficient transportation is of the utmost priority, then the Continental won’t be within your wheelhouse and that shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Value: 7/10

Offered for sale at $58,765, the Reserve package starts at $68,265. Options add up quickly to reach an eye-watering as-tested price of $85,515 with the decadent Rear Seat package adding $5,000 to the bottom line and the LED headlamps a staggering $2,800.

The Lincoln Continental is in a challenging spot; it's positioned between established leaders in the segment and overlooked by more recent newcomers that have received high acclaim from media. Those looking for a unique luxury sedan should at the very least have it on their list of models to test out as it’s worthy of a second look.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 400 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Peak Torque 400 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel Economy 14.5/9.8/12.3 L/100 cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 473 L
Model Tested 2019 Lincoln Continental Reserve AWD
Base Price $68,265
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,000
Price as Tested $85,515
Optional Equipment
$15,150 – 3.0 L V6 engine $3,000; LED headlights $2,800; 30-way Power Multi Contour Seats $750; Rear Seat Package $5,000; Polished aluminum wheels $750; Revel Ultima Audio w. 19 speakers $2,700; Floor mats $150