Spell it ‘refreshing’ for new Continental

The new Lincoln Continental, with all-wheel drive, is suited to Colorado. (Bud Wells photo)

I’ve this summer driven the best-looking and most-comfortable new luxury sedan sold in the U.S. – the 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Black Label four-door.

After rolling that name around in your mind, it may be a bit of a stutter to vocalize competitive models, such as the S, 5, A, CT, LS, XJ.

Stutter aside, the alphanumeric crowd welcomes a new model with an old name. The Continental, except for the early ‘50s, was a popular Lincoln almost yearly from 1939 to 2002.

Fifteen years later, it returns as flagship replacement for the Lincoln MKS. Before the Benz and Bimmer supporters begin e-mailing me, note that I didn’t say best-performing sedan.

Inside and out, though, the Lincoln is a standout. Park one of those others beside it and take a look.

The Continental I drove is finished in chroma elite copper hue, and its alpine venetian leather interior is as plush as anything offered in the luxury field.

Caitlyn, at the window in the Starbucks’ drive-through lane in Greeley, exclaimed, “My word, I can smell the Lincoln’s wonderful leather inside here.”

The seats, in Lincoln terminology, are Perfect Position Seats, inspired by private jets and high-end office furniture. The modern design allows the seat to adjust to individual body shapes and weights, and the thigh cushions can be adjusted independently in order that one leg remains at rest as the other engages the pedals.

The high-end Black Label version of the Continental is powered by a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 engine producing 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, with impressive midrange performance. Other lesser-priced models are the Premiere, Select and Reserve, and other engines are a 3.7-liter V-6 of 305 horsepower and a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 of 335 hp.

The Continental’s electronic push-button shifter is tied closely to infotainment display screen. (Bud Wells photo)

An electronic push-button shifter controls the 6-speed automatic transmission. The buttons, at first glance, might be mistaken for part of the infotainment center; they’re positioned along the left edge of the infotainment display screen.

The luxury sedan probably deserves an 8-speed setup. The use of paddle shifters with the transmission in sport mode, however, gets some quick responses between the gears and firms the suspension.

The paddles were effective in a drive toward Allenspark and, particularly, through the twisting narrow lanes of the Raymond community.

Much of the outstanding ride comes from an improved suspension system, replacing struts/multilinks of the MKS with continuously controlled damping with MacPherson strut and aluminum control arm and stabilizer bar at front and advanced integral-link with coils and stabilizer at the rear.

If the big car wanders near the edge of its driving lane without signaling, its lane-departure warning system will send shudders through the steering wheel. Eventually, the system will even guide the steering wheel back into the lane, though not as quickly or as effectively as several competitive makes.

Ultrasonic sensors at the front and rear of the Continental will assist in finding a parking space, and will guide the car into the space, with the driver operating only the brake and accelerator. The process is aided by a 360-degree camera system.

The new Lincoln, with a 117.9-inch wheelbase and 201.4-inch overall length, has a 5-inch longer wheelbase than the MKS, though is 4 inches shorter overall. The Continental’s curb weight is 4,547 pounds, about 100 heavier than the MKS AWD.

Its EPA estimate is 16/24 miles per gallon; my overall average was 19.9. The Lincoln rode on Pirelli 245/40ZR20 tires.

The amenities and all-wheel drive associated with the Continental Black Label model pushed sticker price to $74,815, including adaptive cruise control, alcantra headliner, heated and cooled seats, remote start and automatic high-beam headlamps.

High-riding exterior door handles, with only a light touch inside the handle, will open the door with no other assist; inside the cabin, a button is pressed (a la the Chevy Corvette) to open the door.

Harking back to the earlier days of the Continental, suicide doors (hinging at the rear, rather than the front) reportedly were considered, but modern tradition prevailed.