By on March 27, 2018

The recent report that Lincoln might return the Continental to its suicide doored past aroused a cornucopia of feelings here at TTAC. Among them: guarded titillation, with many — your author included —  envisioning a retro-themed alternative reality in which slab-sided Continentals remain the pinnacle of roadgoing luxury. A crossover-free world in which the 1961 Lincoln is a template for how to clean up in the premium segment.

Basically, the movie Her, only with Continentals instead of high-waisted men’s pants.

The second feeling: a deep sense of distrust in both the automaker and the buying public, as the report goes against everything we’ve heard up to this point — and everything we know about the average American’s fondness for full-size sedans.

Which emotion should gain the upper hand?

Let’s face it — until this past weekend, things weren’t exactly rosy for fans of the Continental. A report last fall claimed development work on the next-generation Ford Fusion was called off, and Ford CEO Jim Hackett’s later words didn’t exactly inspire hope in those who value the Fusion or any other Blue Oval car. Of course, the Continental rides atop a modified CD4 platform, the same one underpinning the Fusion. Our own source claims the CD6 platform, which underpins the 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, and seems like an obvious candidate for a next-generation Continental, is an SUV-only platform.

Since last year, we’ve seen another report, also derived from sources close to Ford, claiming a next-generation Continental is also off the table. This didn’t come as a surprise; sales have declined markedly since the model’s late 2016 debut, and both Ford and the buying public seem ready to accept an automotive landscape that relegates vehicles without a liftgate to the sports car segment.

Alden Jewell/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Jim Farley, head of global markets at Ford, steadfastly refuses to discuss the future of Lincoln passenger cars. Nor has he mentioned the continued existence of any Lincoln car. But hey, there’s two new utility models coming by 2020, and four more after that!

Things looked grim for lovers of the traditional American luxury car. Then came word from the NADA meetup that Lincoln showed dealers a next-generation Continental with suicide doors, one it’s apparently determined to build, and… it just seems like too much hope. Too much like cynically placating a nervous dealer body that still holds fond memories of the Town Car years.

There’s a number of competing elements in all of this. First, there’s Ford’s desire to streamline its lineups and position itself for future success. That means SUVs in the short term and whatever electrified mobility the crystal ball crowd says we’ll be gaga for in three, five, seven years. Whatever’s necessary to boost profits and get that valuation on an upward climb. Whether heritage factors into this plan in any great measure is unknown.

Just last week we talked of car-less Lincoln, and it seemed like a very plausible near-future reality at the time. If buyers aren’t even taking to the Continental in Cadillac XTS-like numbers, who can honestly state, with any measure of accuracy, that a successor with suicide doors would perform any better? The current Continental’s development wasn’t cheap, so why would Ford sink more money into redesigning the model and potentially plopping it onto a new platform? Besides keeping a famous model nameplate alive for heritage reasons, what’s the upside in keeping a Continental in the Lincoln lineup?

Is it even possible, in this day and age, that a Continental sedan that fully embraces the Kennedy era (as the Lincoln Continental Concept did back in 2002) could actually become the hit Ford wants?

What’s your take on all of this, B&B? Are we being taken for a ride, or is our dream ride looming just beyond the horizon?

[Images: Ford Motor Company, Alden Jewell/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

61 Comments on “QOTD: Cruel, Cynical Tease, or a Return to Past Glory?...”


  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I maintain that this would both be more worthwhile and result in more additional sales at a higher profit, and be more doable from an engineering standpoint, in the new Navigator. Also, it’s a lot easier to make different bodies for a body on frame truck platform, than a super custom luxury platform.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    American automotive taste – at least in recent years – is a real tragedy. The current Continental is the first Lincoln in well over 40 years that actually looks like a real Lincoln to me. A Lincoln at the height of its powers – from the mid 1950s through the 1960s. I hope the latest rumor is true but I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Honestly, if they think the Continental name still has value, Ford should just give in and have it become an SUV. Either the top trim of the Navigator, or better yet, an X6/GLE Coupe competitor. Like it or not, those vehicles are what passes for luxury and style in 2018, and Continental has always stood for those things.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      All due respect, but…no, no, no, no. A million times no.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        It made me feel a little sick typing that too.

        But if the choice is between a FWD/AWD V6 Continental and an SUV, well I don’t really care since I wouldn’t buy either. Might as well build the one that keeps the lights on. If I thought they could sell a RWD sedan with some version of the 5.0 or 6.2 V8, with the same interior they have now, then that’s different. I just don’t have any faith that they would do it, or that it would sell even if they did.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Most crossovers bare far more resemblance to a minivan (looking at you, Traverse) or a 1930s car in basic format than to any real SUV (which, on some days seems more endangered than than sedans). We’re just seeing the preference for tall, easy ingress/egress two box designs come back from the dead. Unfortunately, design for the format didn’t come back with it.

      http://welovelincolnspastpresentandfuture.blogspot.com/2016/12/1938-lincoln-zephyr-v12.html?m=1

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      An SUV? Hell no. I’d rather they kill off the name for good.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I think there is room for the Continental sedan in the Lincoln lineup. The problem is Ford did not try hard enough. The design has to be a lot bolder and American, and the sense of occasion has to be much more special and luxurious. It needs to replicate the *impact* of the famed 65 Continental, but in a modern and relevant context- no lazy “retro” aping.

      I said it before- leave the ambiguous edges, soft shoulders and mushy generic styling for the Europeans. They have afforded themselves the brand equity to be lazy and derivative in their designs- for now. Lincoln has to draw a line in the sand and redefine American luxury- bold, hard edged, assertive, a little gaudy. This all accurately describes the Escalade and newly successful redesigned Navigator.

      In this market climate if you are going to make a sedan you have to make it effing count.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Would I love to see it? Yes. Will it happen? I doubt it.

    But the real question is: will this theoretical car sell? Unfortunately, I doubt that too. But I’d sure love to see Ford try.

    If they do try, though, it has to be a better effort than the current Continental, which we all know is basically a really, really nice, stretched Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      I, too, would love to see it. I’d never buy one but, like the Thunderbird redux a few million years ago, it would feed my soul every time I saw one. Incidentally, my friend’s Mom had a ‘The New Thunderbird’. Audrey Hepburn cowl, indeed.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    All the “CD6 is SUV only” reeks of exsessive protestations. If sales don’t justify platform development for large cars utilize an existing large platform. Unibody suvs and crossovers were built on car platforms because those platforms existed and were the volume drivers. The market has flipped; it’s only a matter of time before an automaker flips the script and builds a utility-based car.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Probably. I just don’t see what you could do to a platform to make it friendlier to a CUV than a car. The whole reason the manufacturers switched to car platforms was because they were lighter, cheaper and more fuel efficient. These are not attributes that the automakers want to get rid of. I don’t see why both can’t continue with sales swapped.

      As for the Continental, it’s stupid for Ford to give up so quickly. It will take more than a decade to regain any brand equity. I think the ideas to get rid of cars like the Fusion and Continental come from the fact that most of Ford’s management knows they won’t be around after the period of time required to fix Lincoln.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The (Chrysler) Imperial was the pinnacle of roadgoing luxury.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    ×1000 on the car buying tastes of current new car purchasers. They suck. CUVs are wasteful, don’t drive as well as cars, in offer little added utility in day to day use.

    I recently wrote about how I rented a RAV-4 for an extended period of time. Not only did I find its supposed greater utility be questionable due to the huge bulky hatch, but it guzzled fuel at a 4-5 mph greater rate than my Honda Accord with the same sized engine and much slower and labored acceleration. I also don’t see how it’s easier to get in and out of. If anything my Accord is easier to get into and out of because you don’t have to step up to get in and down to get out.

    This is just getting stupid. Anyway, back to your original point, I would say the car version of the Continental is probably toast, especially from a company that seems to be doing everything within its power to crap on its brand-loyal car buyers. They’ll probably give us a Continental badged Navigator with the suicide doors knowing Ford.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve surrendered. Cars are dead. Make the Conti a utility vehicle or kill it off.

    I’m picking up my Envision this weekend.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Imagine what it would take to get the car pictured above to pass side impact standards…

    Sadly the car is dying in the US. While I get the utility and user appeal of crossovers (who coined that dreadful name?) they are completely lacking in visual and emotional appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      It can be done, but getting a vehicle with ‘suicide doors’ to pass side impact standards. But wouldn’t that be an engineering ‘nightmare’ and add considerable cost to the design and manufacture of the vehicle?

      However suicide doors would probably provide more elegant entry/exit for those being chauffeured.

      Regarding @Superdessucke’s comments. Roofline height is a major determinant. My mother is having considerable trouble bending down to get into a sedan. However has no issued getting into and out of numerous minivans and CUV’s. Fullsize pick-ups and extra large SUV’s are however a considerable problem.

      Hatches should use ‘vertical’ capacity that trunks do not have. Of course that is not always the case.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, no, a circa-1961 car is not going to pass side impact tests.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    i don’t know where or why everyone thinks that cars are dead and suv’s will replace them………………..not gonna happen. suv’s have had ins and outs since the early 2000’s. cuv’s are just the latest fad(and laughable in my opinion). cars are always going to be around in the forseable future. i feel that both Lincoln and Cadillac really need to stop being stupid and think this is the 50’s where you go to the motorama,show a car like the biscayne or corvair and people will run to dealers hoping the new cars look similar to what they saw at the show. today people don’t like being teased and then not given what they got all excited about. i really hope Lincoln puts the suicide doors on the conti because if they get rid of their cars and only sell suv’s,they will get caught with thier pants down when people go back to sedans(and they will)and have no cars in their lineup. i almost considered buying a lincoln just to support the line…….but quite frankly i don’t want a new car because they all look a like and the tech in todays cars are way to intrusive. i went and found a one owner 88 deville with 63,000 original mile on it and parked it next to my 01 330xi and 85 lebaron convertible.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It was a nice thought, but I don’t see it happening. They teased us 16 years ago with the Continental concept, but never built it. There’s talk of maybe bringing back the Aviator, but that’s another SUV.

    Will Lincoln still be around in five years? I’m not sure.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Suicide doors didn’t make the Lincoln cool. It was already cool. The doors made it even more cool. You can’t relive the past. Come up with something new. An all new cool that hasn’t been done before or just make pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    stuki

    They need a ‘vert…….

    As well as aim for proper-traditional-Cadillac grade quality/panache, AND SIZE, across the board. The most obvious unoccupied square on the luxo car board in North America, are for cars larger than an S class, but no larger than a Crew/Short F150, and less over the top costly than a Phantom. Which is something the Germans and Japanese, stuck having to sell to the rest of the world as well, can’t quite bring themselves to match.

    Everywhere in the world, heck even in Japan, size ultimately is considered luxurious. But virtually anywhere aside from North America, parts of the Middle East, and perhaps Australia, cars larger than an S class are just too cumbersome to avoid being annoying. In North America, the insane popularity of full size pickups, will ensure this does not become the case for a long time.

    Leaving an opening for a make marketed specifically to North America, to trump the Lexuses and Benzes in at least one dimension. Compared to at least the Germans, a North America only (or mainly) brand, also don’t have to be as focused on composure at triple digit speed. Which is another North American peculiarity the popularity of dynamically clumsy pickups will ensure remains.

    Thing is, the cars still have to be very close to a Lexus and a Benz in overall perceived quality. Not just cost cutting exercises named after cars lusted after in the 50s. Nor pimped and/or badged up tractors. A Denali pickup may sell well to many, but not to S class intenders. IOW, whatever little is lost in ultimate engineering sophistication to Lexus and Benz, need to be more than made up for with targeted optimization for North American market peculiarities.

    Do that, and Cadillac/Lincoln at least has something the others dont. Leaving them at least a theoretical chance to be the “standard of the world” for some select buyers. Which is lots more than what can be said for their current cars and marketing focus.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      That is a posting that I can fully agree with.

      A vehicle manufactured primarily for non-city centre, North American roads/tastes.

      No building to a cost point. Surely a low volume, halo vehicle, for brand enhancement can exist with at a ‘break even’ point or even sell at a loss to the manufacturer for the first couple of years?

      Large, heavy, with a massive engine, able to absorb any pothole. Easily converted to a true limousine (not airport limo duty), and ‘over the top’ ostentatious.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    As I said above… if you are going to make a sedan, you really have to make it count.

    The current Continental is a big improvement over the MKS, but it’s not enough. It’s too soft shouldered, too ambiguous, too ovoid. Suicide doors are a start (and would actually be a welcome addition for families with child seats), but the whole design, in and out, has to have that same wow factor. They need to take the gravity, presence and, for lack of a better word- MANLINESS- of the ’65 Continental and reinterpret it in a modern and relevant way.

    The great thing about such an approach is I don’t think it would cost any more than the current car. Good design is cheap. But it requires upfront commitment and dedication. If Ford cannot provide that then they should kill it off.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The front-wheel drive (or all-wheel drive) transverse-engine just doesn’t quite cut it in a luxury car. (The ’93-’97 Cadillac Seville STS came close, though.)

    Putting suicide doors on the current Continental is like putting lipstick on a pig. It isn’t enough to overcome all the things that are wrong with the basic design.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Game’s almost over for Lincoln. Maybe if they didn’t let the Navigator wither or were the ones to debut the Model S (and not Elon), they could’ve redefined themselves.

    If you’re 35-50, maybe you have vague memories of your uncle’s
    Lincoln Continental, Mark VIII or LS.

    If you’re under 35 and not a petrolhead (and don’t have access for Ford’s employee discount plan), Lincoln is a president. Not a car brand.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Ford operates within the realm of business reality, Tesla does not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla was actually getting DoD, DoE, or some kind of black bag funding to supplement it’s losses.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        Space X is getting covert funding, they’ll be sending govt. goodies into the void. It wouldn’t be difficult to funnel some of this back to Tesla.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I had it on good authority many of the SF tech firms were getting DoD money for the personal information they were gathering through the end of the Obama administration. This is one of the reasons for the high profitability of some of those companies. Not sure on what’s happening now. Now this Cambridge thing is all over the fake news, its all old hat.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        Well, the dude DOES build working rockets, so there’s that.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      “If you’re under 35 and not a petrolhead (and don’t have access for Ford’s employee discount plan), Lincoln is a president. Not a car brand.”

      That’s horse***t.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Conti convertible with removable hardtop. What the hell.

    Continental: The ANTI-CUV for people who matter.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    The Deathmobile from Animal House lives ! Down with Dean Wormer ! TOGA ! TOGA ! TOGA !

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    As a former 61 Lincoln Conti owner, I can say without a doubt that the 61-65 models were the best cars Lincoln ever produced hands down.

    Everything about that car screamed QUALITY. The solidarity of the body, it’s massive curb weight, mostly metal interior with soft padded armrest, nothing in the 61-65 Lincoln’s felt cheap or flimsy like they did in the 70’s on up. The suicide doors is what truly made the car unique and stand out and Lincoln should definitely add them to the new Conti for an added luxury touch. On the other hand, I personally believe that the 60’s Conti’s lacked excitement and flair but the exterior design was elegant for sure. They were nice looking cars, but a bit too conservative to my liking, and we’re pretty small inside as far as interior room goes the 61-63 were very small compared to a same year Cadillac, but the 64 Conti’s improved on interior space. I owned the 61 Conti for over 10 years and loved it, but it needed too much work and rust was eating away at parts of the body. So I bought a 64 Cadillac instead which as an overall better luxury car than the Conti in every conceivable way and is a lot bigger and cooler looking to me, plus it has a better quality interior than the Lincoln and has way more power and that typical pillowy soft luxury ride compared to the Lincoln which rode very firm and stiff as the Lincoln surprisingly had leaf springs in the rear.

    Anyways if Lincoln wants to ever be competitive again it really needs to spend the money to make Lincoln on par with RR and Bentley’s of this era since what they are doing now obviously isn’t working well. They need to build a better car than Mercedes, Audi and BMW, so until they can do that, no one that is well off and currently owns a German luxo ride will even consider a Lincoln.

    Also, Lincoln should just become a low volume luxury brand for Ford. They should probably only have 2 to 3 models and that’s it. Focus heavily on them and make sure quality, styling, performance and tech is job number 1. Lincoln doesn’t need to sell a bunch, but enough to become profitable.

    All this platform sharing is understandable, but as we all know, badge engineering and mixing and matching parts with other lesser vehicles won’t cut it anymore for Lincoln or Cadillac in such a highly competitive market we have today. They got away with it in the 80’s and 90’s when the competition was only really Cadillac, but not today when you have even Kia making near luxury like cars such as the Candenza and now more recently Hyundai Genesis. The Koreans are building luxury cars that America used to build back in the day with V8’s and RWD. That should be an eye opener for Lincoln since they still refuse to offer a V8 and make a truly big full size RWD cruiser (excluding the Navigator). Lincoln still has ways to go, but I am not so sure Fords new CEO will put up with shrinking sales figures and could possibly ax the brand entirely if things don’t improve soon.

    I just wish someone at Ford and Lincoln had the balls to stand up and say something and they finally make things happen. We’re all sick n tired of all the talk and rumors, we want real results as fans of the brands and if they can’t do that, the company should shudder its doors for good and let us admire and appreciate the classics even more.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      What made the ’60s Continentals so classic is that the things just exuded confidence like nothing Lincoln made before 1961, or after 1979, did. After years of chasing Cadillac unsuccessfully, they stepped out with the 1961 design and went their own way, selling quality and subtle elegance rather than Cadillac’s glitter, flash, chrome, and tailfins. It established Lincoln as a serious player in the luxury market. But that was decades ago and it’s been a long time since Lincoln had anything really distinctive.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    LINCOLN NEEDS TO MAKE THIS CAR!

    If Lincoln does it I will be on the phone with the head of the Lincoln division to be the first purchaser of this car. I will make headlines for my enthusiasm for Lincoln.

    Mark my words, save this post.

    I am probably the most enthusiastic Lincoln enthusiast in the world and the genuine Lincoln Lawyer.

    Do it Ford. Give it to us. Give us what we want!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    CAFE has made the V-8 rear wheel drive American luxury car as dead as the dodo. Mercedes makes the S Class and they cost as much as a starter house in non-urban areas. Lexus makes the LS and you’ll be driving it when your next kitchen remodel comes around. Ford COULD make a $90,000 dollar Lincoln Continental but only the hard core Lincoln fans would buy them. Few conquest sales too. I’d like the see the data on luxury car buyers who just trade their old car in on a new on of the same. Bark could prove me wildly wrong. A long time ago pick-up trucks lost their blue collar stigma -winks- some of us liked that and body on frame SUVs are no longer bought by guys with cheap hair cuts and couple of boxes of NRA and John Birch brochures in the back. People who would have bought a Town Car 40 years ago are buying crew cab Platinum F-150 or all four option packages included Navigators. Sorry, but that’s how the market is. It makes me sad that a Lincoln that oozes masculine elegance isn’t player in they serious luxury game.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      The V8 American luxury car is obviously not dead because Cadillac is offering a V8 in the CT6. That said, I would love to see this administration roll back the CAFE standards.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    Lincoln’s used to be masculine cars, huge and imposing and they didn’t give an phuck about it either. That’s what they need now. A little attitude and pizzaz in their styling.

    Too many modern cars are very feminine in design and weak. Too many soft curves and not enough strong angles and edges that make it bossy. Even new Cadillacs lacks the imposing design that made their cars great iconic in the past.

    Let’s hope that a Conti redesign will eschew some extra boldness and powerful looking grills like the 77-79 Continentals and Mark Vs which are one of the most grand and best styled luxury cars of the 70’s and or of all time.

  • avatar
    rmigoya

    Maybe Lincoln is planning to make a Continental named crossover with suicide doors.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 05lgt: It’s not like the ICE exhaust forces any costs on other people, right? Oh. Yeah. You are full of...
  • EBFlex: Right…… Because in todays world of fake news and misinformation, anything good that happens under the...
  • mcs: “until electric vehicles offer an advantage to IC,” They do. instant toque. They’re quieter...
  • ToolGuy: @ILO, Don’t get carried away. Recent Cadillac parts: – New headlamp assemblies...
  • Art Vandelay: Sony makes great phones. They don’t have a carrier deal so they aren’t huge in the US....

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber