The new Lincoln Continental: roomy, comfy and sporty?

2017 Lincoln Continental-03082017-0003
2017 Lincoln Continental

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve AWD: Bringing back the ’70s?

Price: $76,130 as tested ($59,340 for the trim level; Technology Package adds $4,215; Luxury Package adds $5,000, and Climate Package adds $850; more below). A far, far lesser Continental can be had for $44,560.

Marketer’s pitch: “Cool. Calm. Decidedly Continental.”

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver says, “Tasteful if familiar design, ample power, decent performance” but pans “Interior diminished by poor choice of materials, excess brightwork, ergonomic flaws.”

Reality: If the ’70s combined comfort, luxury, and sporty driving like this, we might still be there.

What’s new: The whole Continental for 2017, the new flagship for the brand.

The Lincoln feel: Back when Mr. Driver’s Seat was a wee Sturgis Kid 3.0 myself, I expected fancy cars to have a learning curve because they were so darn fancy and gadgety, and I was wee. These days, though, I find the best fancy cars are those that offer luxury and some level of user-friendliness.

Unless you’re familiar with them, Lincolns will keep you guessing. Why, even the interior door handles are difficult to find — because they’re buttons. Hmmm.

Outside: I look at the Continental, and I see a Bentley, so that’s a good thing, although the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat was not impressed. The grille has gotten a much better look than recent Lincolns, though the taillights still come in a big bar.

But I see funky, pull-style door handles that are built into the chrome trim strip along the windowline, so I also see a 1960 Mercury Monterey. Kind of Edsel-y. Not a good accent.

Driver’s Seat: These are “Perfect Position Seats.” As Lincolns tend to, the Continental bathes the driver in both luxury and support. The 30-way (Yes, that’s three-oh) multicontour front seats with thigh extender and head restraint are worth the $1,500 price tag. The pillow tops resemble Lincolns of old, but the resemblance ends there.

Also, as Lincolns tend to be, the door-mounted seat controls are fussier than necessary. And they send you to the center touchscreen to complete all the options.

Up to speed: The 3.0-liter GTDI V-6 engine creates 400 horsepower. It moves the giant beast to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, according to Motor Trend.

Shifty: It’s not my first Lincoln, so I know full well to look for the transmission buttons next to the radio.

This remains, to me at least, not a better idea. Again and again, I almost pressed one while trying to operate the radio. Because, well, that’s what’s next to the radio in the rest of the world.

Outside of that, the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission works well in both Drive and Sport modes, and the paddles work divinely.

On the road: Switch the Continental into Sport mode, activate the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and you’ll feel as if you’re driving a European sports sedan. Yes, the Continental is that good.

Hushed, but loud: The Continental is exceedingly quiet but offers a sporty exhaust note when it’s put through its paces.

In the parking lot: Here, the Continental reveals the true beastliness of its character and becomes more like the 1976 version that my college housemate drove (affectionately nicknamed “The Grandfather Car”). It swings into parking spaces, adds a couple of points to the Sturgis Château driveway turnaround, of which it’s fairly impossible to judge the far corners.

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2017 Lincoln Continental

Friends and stuff: But, oh, how the 6-foot-1 Sturgis Kid 4.0 loves that backseat. Lots of legroom, lots of headroom, lots of foot room. And a full monitor of heat and radio controls to keep an eye on the old man. The seats also massage, heat, and cool, just like up front.

Cargo space is a generous 16.7 cubic feet.

Play some tunes: The Sync 3 system functioned well during testing. But it can be cumbersome to use, with many touchscreen presses required to change the music source, change the station, and change to other screens.

Dials do control volume and tuning, which is again becoming a standard for most automobiles. Sound was above average.

Some glitches: The Apple CarPlay menu seemed like a good idea a few cars ago, but these days, I’m not so sure. I prefer the car maps, and the Continental didn’t want to give them up unless I unplugged my phone.

Also, the CarPlay screen would get stuck on while I was fishing through the radio presets, a major annoyance.

Finally, the trunk close button was not functioning on the test model, which had about 8,000 miles on it. This causes me to fear for the future of the door release buttons.

Night shift: The interior lights are beautiful, with a nice glow all around.

The headlights are fine for the most part, but I’ve never driven a vehicle that made me so clearly think, “Headlights that turn would really help this experience a lot.” Cornering on rural roads at night seemed a darker-than-usual experience.

Fuel economy: I averaged just under 21 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver’s Seat round of testing. Unlike some of its highfalutin’ counterparts, though, the Continental is not fussy about its fuel.

Where it’s built: Flat Rock, Mich.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the Continental reliability to be 3 out of 5. Ford also builds the Mustang there, and its reliability has been bottom of the barrel for the last three years.

In the end: I found the Lincoln Continental to be quite out of the ordinary for its price segment, so despite a few glitches, it’s worth a test.