New Car Review

1998 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL

by Tom Hagin

lincoln
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 37,830
Price As Tested                                    $ 42,870
Engine Type               DOHC 4-valve 4.6 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 281 cid/4601 cc
Horsepower                                   260 @ 5750 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               265 @ 4750 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    109"/73.6"/206.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3927 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.8 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/65R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 80 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/25/22
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.5 seconds @ 87.5 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

My father tells me that the Lincoln Continental hasn't always been the large, plush, super-smooth four-door sedan it is today. He says the first one was a convertible coupe built from a Lincoln Zephyr for Edsel Ford in 1938. "It was called a gentlemen's custom tourer back then," he claims "which these days it would be describe a GT car or sports sedan."

Fifty years later it again can be called a custom tourer, because our week behind the wheel of the '98 version showed it to be quite comfortable, especially on long road trips.

OUTSIDE - Continental's shape has changed for '98, with a shorter front overhang and trimmed corners, and new composite material for the hood, fenders, trunklid and grille. The base of the windshield has been moved out by five inches, which gives the glass more of a tilt. Also, the rear overhang has been stretched a bit, which transfers some of the styling balance toward the rear of the car. Overall, the look is more rounded and less "pointy" than the 1997 version, with just a hint of influence from Ford's close ties with Jaguar. The trunk is also now one cubic foot larger than last year, and 16-inch alloy wheels and impact-resistant five-mph bumpers are also new.

INSIDE - The interior is plush and comfortable, with workmanship and styling made with convincing quality. Buyers have the choice of front bucket seats with a center console, or a three-across bench seat with a fold-down armrest. Our car had buckets, which would easily handle those with large personal dimensions, but we wished for a little extra side support. Both chairs, however, come with two-way power lumbar supports. The rear seat is roomy enough for three, though taller passengers may find less legroom than before. Standard items include power windows, mirrors, locks and front seats, along with floor mats, an auto-dimming inside mirror, overhead console, automatic climate control, rear defroster, variable speed intermittent wipers and a high-power AM/FM cassette stereo. Other standards are leather upholstery, speed control, tilt steering, memory seats and mirror settings, and keyless entry.

ON THE ROAD - Ford's modular 4.6 liter V8 engine is used under the hood of the Continental, but this version uses dual overhead camshafts and 32 valves. The engine block is aluminum, as are the cylinder heads, and it produces 260 horsepower at 5750 rpm. It requires no tuneups for the first 100,000 miles, and the power delivery is silky-smooth and hushed. A revised camshaft system has bumped its torque figure by five, to 270 lb-ft, and a new set of mufflers have quieted the engine even more than before. Also, knock sensors have been added to the engine management system so it can now run on lower octane fuel. An electronic four-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available, but its gear changes are smooth and nearly imperceptible. Traction control, which limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces, is standard, and the fuel tank has been enlarged by just over two gallons to almost 18 gallons.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Both the front and rear suspensions are independent, with a strut-type setup up front, and a link-type system with an automatic ride height system in back. This year, gas-pressurized shocks, new front strut mounts and springs, recalibrated steering and new tires all help give it a tighter ride than before. As part of its Driver Select System, our test car came with a three-position adjustable suspension. The settings include Plush, Normal and Firm, and are selected via a switch on the instrument panel. The speed-sensitive, variable-ratio steering is also adjustable from the dash with settings for Low, Normal and High effort. We left it at Normal, but the Low setting could be handy for around-town parking. Four-wheel disc brakes with a four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS, traction control and side-impact beams come standard.

OPTIONS - Driver Select System: $595; power moonroof: $1515; personal security system (w/multi-function garage door opener): $750; uplevel JBL-brand stereo: $565; polished alloy wheels: $350; CD changer: $595; destination charge: $670.

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