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When you are looking for a luxury car, if you are like me, the interior and the accessories are far more important than any other feature. I take a quick glance at the exterior, then head straight for that driver's seat to be pampered by the plush seats and amazed by the newest gadgets created to make me feel less like I am driving and more like I am relaxing in my living room.
One day I hope to sit in the front seat, tell the car where my destination is, then sit back and relax while the car does all of the work. I might even be able to take a nap or read a book while "driving" the luxury car of the future, but until that day comes, I will be happy navigating such sedans as the Lincoln Continental.
Before I discuss the juicy details of this car, let me provide you with a "quick glance" of the exterior. The Continental spans 208.5 inches long and 73.6 inches wide and defines the look of a luxury sedan perfectly. The first thing you notice when looking at the Continental is the unmistakable styling of the chrome Lincoln grille and the high-tech complex reflector headlights that wrap around to the side of the car. The moldings surrounding the car have bright chrome inserts and are colored to match the ten choices of exterior paint. Outside rearview mirrors are body colored, sail-mounted and heated.
The car I drove was the Limited model painted a stunning medium cypress green, which is a color choice only available with the Limited package. Also on the Limited only is the replacement of the standard brushed chrome wheels with the more stylish 10-spoke wheels with painted pockets. Continuing to the inside of the car, 2001 Limited owners ride comfortably in premium Nudo light parchment-colored leather seats with "Limited" stitched to both front seatbacks, while gripping a wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and listening to a CD changer.
The interior of the Continental is spacious and elegantly styled. With head room at 38.9 inches in the front seat (38.0 inches in the back) and leg room at 41.9 inches (38.0 inches in the back), the total passenger volume is 102.0 cubic feet. The roominess continues in the trunk that has a luggage capacity of 18.4 cubic feet.
This car provides ample seating for five adult passengers. If needed, six-passenger seats can be installed instead as a standard feature. Available in four different colors, leather seats are standard on the five-seat models, as are three full seat belts and a middle pull-down armrest on the rear seat. A large console rests between the front seats.
A great design of the driver's seat is its ability to automatically move two inches back when the key is taken out of the ignition to provide easier exit and entry for the driver. The seat's position is then reset once the key is put back into the ignition. The driver and front passenger seats have six-way power adjustments, two-way power lumbar and two-way adjustable headrests. All of this equipment is standard on all Continental models.
The plush extra items are the ones that I especially enjoy testing, realistically understanding that no car I will be able to afford will ever have them. But it is not just the unique designs of these gadgets, but the practical placement in the vehicle that I believe is the most important. The Continental has been designed by someone who shares my beliefs.
This car has one of the best overhead console ideas I have seen. Not only does it have map lights integrated into it, but it also has a place for sunglasses and a small tissue bin. On behalf of all allergy sufferers, I thank Lincoln for putting this holder in the car! Another good utilization of ceiling space is the HomeLink® universal garage door opener. While I am on the subject of the above spaces, the standard sun visors contain cloth-covered lighted mirrors, and a power moon roof can be added as an option.
Lincoln has taken care in placing safety and comfort features in the Continental. The driver and right front passenger each have two airbags, one in the front and one on the side. For security, a driver-side programmable keypad and a remote keyless entry system with panic button come standard. Also standard are a heated rear window defroster, power windows with express-down driver window, dual front seat cup holders in the console and rear seat cup holders in the armrest, solar-tinted windows, front and rear carpeted floor mats, and a cfc-free electronic climate control system that is designed to clean particulates from the air.
Instrument clusters have changed dramatically in the last several decades. Some manufacturers have chosen to update the traditional gauges, while others, like Lincoln, have decided to embrace innovative designs. The Continental's instrument cluster is a virtual display created by projecting three-dimensional images and data onto a black surface. This design is very easy to read both night and day and under any type of lighting condition. The door, power window and speed control switches are illuminated which also make them easy to find.
The vehicle I drove included the Driver Select System package, which has an array of options. My favorite was the steering wheel-mounted audio and climate system controls. The buttons provided for easy changes to both systems. This package also adds an auto-dimming driver's sideview mirror, a memory profile system that allows two separate drivers to preset 11 features, a semi-active suspension, and a driver adjustable ride control which gives the driver the option of having a firm, normal, or plush feel to the car. Personally, I felt the car did not handle well in the firm or plush settings.
The Continental is equipped with a 4.6L 32 valve DOHC Intech V8 engine that provides the car with 275 horsepower at 5720 rpm, and it also has a 4-speed Electronic Automatic Overdrive transaxle transmission. Some of the features added to make driving more enjoyable and safer are its all-speed electronic traction control, 4-wheel power disc anti-lock brakes, a rear air suspension with automatic load leveling, and automatic cruise control with a tap-up/tap-down feature. This sedan creates a smooth driving experience both on the highway and on rural roads. The only feature I was not impressed with was the driver adjustable ride control, which on the firm and plush settings made me feel like I had lost a lot of quick response time by the car.
One package I was not able to test out, thankfully, was the SecuriTire™ System that makes up the Continental's Personal Security package. This innovative system is based on the installation of run-flat tires, that can run up to 50 miles after being punctured, and a pressure alert warning procedure set up to tell you the tires are low. I think we will be seeing more safety packages offered like this.
The Continental's base price is $40,405. Expect to pay $1195 for the Limited Edition package, $605 for the Driver Select System, $1105 for the Luxury Appearance package, and $640 for the Personal Security package. The vehicle we drove was heavily loaded with options packages and weighed in at around $47,000.
One cost factor you should consider when purchasing a new car is the warranty and maintenance agreements the manufacturer offers. Lincoln offers a complimentary maintenance program which provides free regular maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles. Domestically, this is the first time this feature has been available in the luxury class.
Lincoln's official website, www.lincolnvehicles.com allows you to custom build your own Continental and gives a detailed estimate of what your vehicle will cost. If you take advantage of this program, you are sure to find the car that is right for you.