Lincoln Continental Presidential: Continent-Crunching Confidence

Named after one of America’s best-known presidents and built for a succession of US presidents until the 1990s, the resurrected Continental marked Lincoln’s return to the large luxury saloon segment, with the indulgently appointed Presidential serving as the 103-year old brand’s flagship model.

A seminal comeback car for American luxury car maker Lincoln, the re-born Continental first debuted in 2017 touting a ‘quiet luxury’ approach to the premium automotive segment with an emphasis on comfort, interior appointment and meticulous attention to detail. Harking back to the Continental nameplate’s service as a car fit for presidents and kings, and a long line of Lincoln US presidential state cars from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H.W. Bush, the current Lincoln Continental Presidential is the model’s and brand’s flagship offering with top spec refinement, materials, design, equipment, technology, safety and drivetrain.

A modern interpretation of the American luxury car, the yet stately looking Continental ostensibly competes against the likes of the handsome yet anonymous Cadillac CT6 and fashionably unconventional electric Tesla Model S. However, its tastefully opulent and seemingly well constructed cabin and superb refinement – especially in Presidential guise, as test – are more reminiscent of a European luxury saloon. Given its particular emphasis of a classy yet contemporary cabin, transverse turbocharged engine, front-drive derived four-wheel-drive and confident driving dynamic, the Continental Presidential seems to better resemble a distinctly American flavoured take on an Audi or Volvo.

Styled with a sleek and aerodynamically yet unapologetic saloon car body with a level waistline and big grille treatment taking centre stage – like they do at Audi too – the production Continental may seem slightly taller and conventional, but closely interprets the low, wide and stylishly modern Continental concept circa 2015. Designed with smooth flowing lines featuring subtly muscular rear haunches, full-length ridge across its flank and tapered in rear quarter and descending boot, the Continental well reconciles a conservative saloon design with contemporary elements, and features huge standard multi-spoke 20-inch wheels in Presidential guise.

Featuring slim full-length rear and browed front lights, the Continental Presidential is powered by punchy twin-turbocharged 3-litre direct injection V6 engine positioned behind its wide chrome honeycomb grille. An efficient and effective power unit in place of yesteryear Continentals’ big displacement V8s, the Presidential’s range-topping V6 develops and even 400BHP at 5750rpm and 400lb/ft torque at 2750rpm, driving all four wheels through a 6-speed push-button operated automatic gearbox. Responsive and quick from standstill, with short gasflow turbo piping and tenacious traction, the Continental Presidential blitzes through 0-100km/h in an estimated 5.5-seconds, despite a hefty 2,062kg mass.

Regardless of Lincoln’s overt emphasis on ‘quiet luxury’ being its chief selling point over performance, the Continental Presidential is nevertheless an effortlessly rapid and confident mover. Its 3-litre V6 is a gem among modern turbo engines, with particularly good low-end response and broad rich torque-rich mid-range complemented by a sense of urgent and punchy delivery afforded by having torque peak at a specific point rather than over a flat wide band. Similarly athletic, intense and seemingly relentless as it reaches for its relatively low-revving peak power point with a subdued snarl, the Continental Presidential’s delivery is otherwise smooth and quiet.

Quick and confident accumulating pace and settled, stable and refined at speed, the Continental Presidential’s generous thrust works well with its smooth and slick shifting 6-speed gearbox, and doesn’t seem to quite need a more closely spaced 10-speed gearbox like its in-line engine Navigator stable-mate, despite the latter being smoother shifting and having a broader range of ratios for performance and efficiency benefits. Effectively putting power to ground through all four wheels, the Continental Presidential generates plenty of traction for all-weather driving and seeming bolts away from standstill without torque-steer and eagerly pounces out of corners.

Developing a very high level of lateral grip through fast sweeping corners and tighter bends owing to its four-wheel-drive, sticky 245/40R20 tyres and long wheelbase, the Continental Presidential also proved to be unexpectedly nimble during test drive on mostly smooth straights and fast curved roads. With light, quick and direct steering mated with taut front grip and good body control from its adaptive MacPherson strut front and integral-link rear suspension, it well reconciles lateral body control with ride comfort, it remains settled and stable over imperfections and only feels slightly firm over jagged low speed bumps, where it would benefit from high profile tyres.

A surprisingly but pleasantly agile car that seems to shrink around the driver in most circumstances, the Continental’s size, length and weight are however more clearly evident through very tight, narrow and slower corners where under-steer can elicit electronic stability intervention, and where it is not designed to easily shift weight like a smaller, lighter and nimbler sports car that it doesn’t seek to emulate. Thoroughly insulated and refined from harshness, noise and vibration inside like a true luxury car, the Continental provides a solid and stately feel, but remains a more direct and connected drive than can be expected of such a car, and doesn’t feel disconnected.

Refined, spacious and comfortable for front and rear passengers alike, the Presidential puts particular emphasis on the rear seat experience than garden variety Continentals, and features standard 40/20/40 split massaging, reclining, heated and ventilated  rear seats with 4-way lumbar support, inflatable seat belts and fold-down centre armrest with various controls. Front occupants meanwhile benefit from Lincoln’s 30-way adjustable massaging seats with split backrest adjustability. Supportive, comfortable and ensconcing, the Continental’s good driving position is complemented by good visibility for a car of this size owing to a level waistline and slightly descending, yet generously sized boot.

Indulgently luxurious yet elegantly classy, the Presidential is offered in three interior themes from luscious and rich old school to a fresh, cool and modern styling, and incorporates high grade leathers, wood and metals, including a suede-like rooflining. Sensibly styled with user-friendly minimalism and subtle harmonization, the Presidential is probably the classiest contemporary American car inside, and features seemingly through build quality and soft textures and materials in prominent places. Thoroughly well-equipped with convenience, comfort, safety and driver assistance systems including voice-activated infotainment, heads-up display, 360° reversing camera and 19-speaker sound system, it also includes pedestrian detection, active park assist, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and blindspot warning systems.

Specifications: Lincoln Continental Presidential

  • Engine: 3-litre, all-aluminium, twin-turbocharged, in-line V6-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 85.4 x 86mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.5:1
  • Valve-train: 24-valve, DOHC, variable valve timing, direct injection
  • Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
  • Ratios: 1st 4.48; 2nd 2.87; 3rd 1.84; 4th 1.41; 5th 1.0; 6th 0.74
  • Reverse / final drive: 2.88 / 3.39
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 400 (405) [298] @5,750rpm
  • Specific power: 135.3BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 194BHP/tonne
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 400 (542) @2,750rpm
  • Specific torque: 183.3Nm/litre
  • Torque-to-weight: 262.8Nm/tonne
  • 0-100km/h: 5.5-seconds (estimate)
  • Length: 5,115mm
  • Width, including mirrors: 2,090mm
  • Height: 1,938mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,994mm
  • Track, F/R: 1,605 / 1,628mm
  • Headroom, F/R: 998 / 957mm
  • Legroom, F/R: 1,127 / 1,049mm
  • Shoulder room, F/R: 1,480 / 1,420mm
  • Hip room, F/R: 1,420 / 1,392mm
  • Luggage volume: 500-litres
  • Fuel capacity: 68-litres
  • Kerb weight: 2,062kg
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Turning circle: 12.73-meters
  • Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / integral-link, anti-roll bars, adaptive dampers
  • Brakes: Ventilated discs, 350mm / discs, 345
  • Brake calipers, F/R; Twin / single
  • Tyres: 245/40R20