SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 38,325 Price As Tested $ 41,985 Engine Type DOHC 32-valve 4.6 Liter V8 w/SMFI* Engine Size 280 cid/4605 cc Horsepower 275 @ 5750 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 275 @ 4750 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 109.0"/73.6"/208.5" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3883 pounds Fuel Capacity 20.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/60R16 97H all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 85 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 17/24/21 0-60 MPH 8.0 Seconds 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.0 seconds 88.5 mph Top speed 120 mph * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
The history of the Lincoln Continental reads like a novel. It all started in 1936, the first year the car hit the road, then continued to today's version, which was introduced in 1995.
These days, its historical significance is overshadowed by Ford's global expansion, but Continental remains true to its American roots of being plush, luxurious transportation for multiple passengers.
OUTSIDE - Continentals through the years were enormous and utilized acres of metal, chrome ridges and toothy vertical grilles up front. The latest Continental has a toothed grille too, but uses a softer approach and an aerodynamic flair. Major sheetmetal changes came last year, which helped increase sales and quiet the critics who said the old model's exterior styling was too bland. The new Continental measures just under twelve feet long and a bit over nine feet wide, which classifies it as a large car according to the EPA. New 10-spoke aluminum wheels are now standard Continental fare, but our test car came with a new appearance package that included highly polished 16-inch alloy wheels and special "run-flat" tires good for up to 100 airless miles.
INSIDE - The car holds five very comfortably, with ample room for three in back. Soft leather upholstery covers the seats and wraps the steering wheel, while chrome accents are used sparingly. Modest amounts of real wood trim isn't overdone, but the deep padding that stuffs the seats could be too much for some. Programmable memory buttons hold the positions of the six-way power front seats, which can be ordered with fold-down armrests for three across seating. Power lumbar adjustments and new two-way headrests allow for significant tailoring of the driving position, and an overhead console with storage compartments is standard. We especially liked the backlit analog gauges, which were easy to see and uncluttered in their pod. With a name like Continental, luxury "standard" features are expected and delivered. Air conditioning, an AM/FM/cassette stereo, air filtration system, cruise control, variable speed intermittent wipers, rear seat heater ducts, keyless entry and a rear window defroster are standard. An optional CD changer fits in the center console, while a satellite/cell phone system can automatically summon help in the event of an emergency.
ON THE ROAD - Buyers will like what Lincoln has done in the power department for '99. Its standard 4.6 liter, dual overhead cam, 32-valve V8 engine now puts out a healthy 275 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. This was accomplished by incorporating cylinder heads that "breathe" better and burn fuel more efficiently. But the Continental isn't an economy car. It's designed to run on premium fuel with a maximum of 24 miles per gallon on the highway. Acceleration is brisk, however, and comfortable freeway cruising is its specialty. Ford calls its powertrain InTech, which includes the seamless four-speed automatic transmission. And like many cars these days, it can go without a major tune-up for 100,000 miles.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Continental's mission is to provide a smooth ride and it performs that task. When it first came out, we appreciated its adjustable suspension, which had driver-selectable settings for a Firm, Normal or Plush ride. What they more accurately should have been labeled were soft, softer and softest because the suspension is plush at all times. It was standard on all Continental models in the past, but was made an option last year. We also were impressed with the driver adjustable variable-assist steering system. Its Low, Normal and High assist levels are best left in Normal, where the steering feels just right. The tail of the car rides on inflatable air bags, which automatically raise the height of the car when weight is introduced into the rear seat or trunk. This feature really helps keep the car's handling consistent. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.
SAFETY - Four air bags and ABS are standard.
OPTIONS - Chrome wheels, $845: Heated seats, $290: Driver select system, $595: Compact disk player, $595: Alpine Audio System, $565.