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Test Drive: 2020 Lincoln Continental
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Test Drive: 2020 Lincoln Continental

Last December, after I drove the then all-new Lincoln Aviator, regular Ladue News readers may remember my declaration that Lincoln at that point was building the most complete execution of luxury I’d seen from an American manufacturer. Thereafter, I told myself I should someday circle back, figuratively, to see if those ideas translated into other Lincoln offerings.

Lincoln typically doesn’t enjoy the forefront of market visibility, but let me tell you why it should and why you should give its vehicles a fresh look.

Car people, I believe, scrutinize performance cars much more heavily than luxury cars. Performance can be broken down into hard data – 0 to 60, quarter-mile, lateral acceleration and so forth – with numbers making an undeniable argument.

Luxury, however, hinges on feeling and a driver’s opinion relative to what he or she has experienced in the past, leading to a case more difficult to make convincingly. Luxury, even more than performance, depends on small details.

Take, for instance, something as small as “new car smell.” Before every inch of auto interiors became made of plastics, luxury cars had a warm and soothing natural smell when new. Now, though, the scent of volatile chemicals escaping plastics has turned “new car smell” into something few people would want in an air freshener. In the Lincoln Continental, I felt myself take a deep breath – within seconds, the soothing scent of high-grade natural materials had returned.

Before putting the car in gear, I let my fingertips run over all the contact surfaces and controls, and everything within reach felt substantial. I adjusted my seat, finding nice touches such as three heights of lumbar support, a headrest that power-adjusts not only up and down but also forward and back, and finally, the most professional masseuse-like massaging seats I’ve felt in any car regardless of price. I was going to enjoy the Continental before even putting it in drive.

On paper, the Continental Reserve – with its 400 horsepower/400 foot-pound of torque twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine – may sound sporty, as it offers enough to accelerate the 4,500-pound car to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat. In practice, though, “sporty” just isn’t coded into its DNA. Throttle inputs are damped noticeably, great for smoothing out any herky-jerkiness, but not so great for driving excitement. The same can be said for chassis and transmission tuning; both have the dial turned way into the “smooth” setting. Pushing the sport button sharpens things up somewhat, but even then, Lincoln engineers were cautious not to dabble in aggression. Composed and quiet, so as not to spill any back-seat tea – that’s the Lincoln Continental.

But the surprise with the Continental, much as with the Aviator, is just how little I miss “sporty” when behind the wheel. All the details are so well executed – interior lighting, seating, materials, the giant glass roof, the Revel Ultima stereo and the suite of every tech and safety feature you could want – that you’re quickly lulled into contentment. And yes, I realize there’s no number I can throw out to quantify just how comfortable the Continental is, but it’s my new No. 1 choice in the segment, displacing the also excellent Volvo V90.

All that said, Lincoln will discontinue the Continental after 2020, moving to a lineup of all SUVs. So that makes now your best chance – and last chance – to own the most luxurious American sedan ever.

Price as Tested: $71,385

Dave Sinclair Lincoln

7500 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

St. Louis, 314-729-2700,

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Skillful bloviator with a penchant for man stuff - cars, cigars, firearms, booze. Not necessarily all at the same time.

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A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Susan Sanders Block has chaired more than 100 events and committees and been honored by various organizations for her contributions to the metro area.