Ford’s luxury brand goes all-in on utility vehicles.
The Lincoln Continental is one of the most storied models for Ford’s luxury marque, a big sedan with outsized styling, generous amenities, and class-leading comfort. In 2016, Lincoln resurrected the Continental to critical acclaim. Alas, its revival came as consumers eschewed sedans for utility vehicles, effectively ensuring that the latest Continental would serve only the smallest audience.
Production Ends in December
North American consumers will not see a Continental for the 2021 model year as Lincoln announced on Wednesday that production would cease by end of the year. Those models built this fall will be allocated exclusively for China where large sedans have a stronger following. Nevertheless, Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly plant will finish producing Continentals in December.
Lincoln revived the Continental nameplate by unveiling a concept with center-hinged doors at the 2015 New York International Auto Show. Just over a year later, the all-new Continental rolled out for the 2017 model year. It replaced the previous and comparatively anonymous MKS, sitting on a stretched and modified version of the platform underpinning the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ.
An Outlier Among Luxury Sedans
With standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, the current Continental competed in a segment dominated by rear-wheel-drive models. That said, customers could upgrade from the standard front-wheel-drive model with a naturally aspirated V6 engine and go with one of two turbocharged V6 engines with all-wheel drive.
We reviewed a Black Label model in 2017 outfitted with the larger of the two turbo engines and lauded its performance. Although we couldn’t call it a “Hot-Rod Lincoln,” its performance credentials were certainly noteworthy.
Sedans Give Way to SUVs
With the Continental following the MKZ to the defunct model playground, Lincoln will rely on its quartet of utility vehicles to advance the brand. These models are the full-size and traditional SUV Lincoln Navigator, a pair of midsize models – the three-row Aviator and two-row Nautilus, and the compact Corsair. We may yet see additional models although the planned all-electric SUV built with upstart Rivian will not happen.
Lincoln may point to the decline of sedans as a good reason to cancel the Continental, but its competitors aren’t giving up on them. Indeed Cadillac, its arch-rival domestic competitor, currently offers a trio of sedans although the largest of three, the CT6, is slated for cancellation. The CT6 is a near competitor to the Continental and rides on a rear-wheel-drive platform as do the smaller XT4 and XT5 models.
Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand has effectively demonstrated that building quality sedans still finds a ready audience. It, too, has a trio of sedans for the offing (we’re currently reviewing the G70) and will soon at its first SUV this fall. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are also deeply invested in sedans even as demand for SUVs soars.
Ultimately, it comes down to investing priorities – Ford has cast its lot exclusively with SUVs, following the pattern that has made Land Rover the respected brand that it is.
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