New York Auto Show: Lincoln Continental Concept Unveiled

Courtesy of Lincoln Motors
Lincoln Continental concept

Resurgent Lincoln Motors revives the Continental marque for its new full-size sedan, which will enter production next year.

Declaring "this represents our flagship," Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields officially unveiled Lincoln Motors' Continental concept at the New York International Auto Show Tuesday.

The car is a marked departure from Lincoln's recent design vocabulary, which invoked cues from Lincolns dating to the 1930s (the split-wing grill from the Zephyr, in particular) in a misguided attempt to mine the glories of the brand's past.

The most striking change is to the grill — "the new face of Lincoln," Fields said — and it is likely that the car's design cues will spread across the Lincoln lineup, just as Audi's Prologue concept, introduced last fall, will become a style template for that brand. 

The Continental concept looks so good that designers at Bentley accused Lincoln of basing the design on Bentley's Flying Spur, which it superficially resembles, Car and Driver reported.

Though presented as a concept, Fields and Lincoln chief Kumar Galhorta touted so many features at the unveiling — including self-closing doors with handles that seem to disappear and seats with 30 adjustments — that it seems likely most will make it onto the car when it enters production next year.

Reviving the Continental name, missing in action since Lincoln stopped making Continentals in 2002, imbues the car with just the right blush of retro and may have informed it design.

The initial designs for the car were lackluster, Galhorta told The Hollywood Reporter, until "we told them, 'You're designing the Continental.' But you can't let the past drag you too far back. You've got to capture the spirit of Continental, but it's got to be a thoroughly modern car. And that's what they've done."

The Continental is meant to extend Lincoln's nascent comeback — sales were up 16 percent last year, Fields said — partly due to strong demand for the MKC compact SUV, boosted by a much-parodied ad campaign featuring Matthew McConaughey — along with strong demand for large luxury cars in China, a market Lincoln entered last year.

Lincoln Continentals have appeared in countless movies and television shows over the years, from Goldfinger, to the opening credits of Entourage.