Overview & Reviews
The earliest Lincoln Continental was the automotive equivalent of Catherine Zeta-Jones -- it ought to have come with a warning label that read "May Cause Shortness of Breath." Based on the Lincoln Zephyr, the Continental got its start as a one-off drop top commissioned by Edsel Ford in the late 1930s. Serving as his vehicle of choice during his annual jaunts to Palm Beach, the car's exquisite shape generated so much buzz that Lincoln decided to put the Continental into production. Available as both a cabriolet and a coupe, the Continental debuted in 1940.
World War II and other events resulted in stops and starts in the car's production over the next decade or so, but by the mid-'50s, the Continental was back -- this time as its own brand. That arrangement didn't last (the Continental brand was folded back into the Lincoln marque in 1957), but the Continental did. For more than two decades, it served as Lincoln's flagship model.
As a recipe for ailing sales, the Lincoln Continental was redesigned in 1961. Now available as either a sedan or a four-door convertible (the nation's first in more than a decade) it was hailed for its clean good looks and winning performance. That era's photogenic First Family was often snapped riding in the Continental; it came to be known as the "Kennedy Lincoln" and enjoyed a wave of popularity. Another redesign took place for 1966 and again in 1970, which left the Continental with a blocky, more formal look (highlighted by hidden headlamps and a larger grille) and a coil-link rear suspension.
Fuel economy and emissions regulations forced Lincoln's hand, and the Continental was given makeovers in 1980 and '82. The car rode on a much shorter wheelbase, and offered improved gas mileage. In 1988, the car was given a new platform -- one shared by the midsize Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. This Continental was the first Lincoln to offer front-wheel drive and a fully independent suspension.
Unfortunately, this move to front-wheel drive eventually doomed the Lincoln Continental as it progressed through the end of the 20th century. Late-model Continentals didn't exactly crackle with the same desirability as that very first model, as consumer tastes had moved away from the soft-riding big-car brand of luxury that was the Continental's stock in trade. Even more notably, foreign rivals such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz had eclipsed the car in performance and refinement and had become top choices for shoppers in this segment. Dogged by weak sales, Lincoln's big sedan was retired in 2002.
Most Recent Lincoln Continental
The most recent generation of the Lincoln Continental luxury sedan got its start in 1995. This version distinguished itself from its predecessor with a sleeker, more upscale exterior designed to shed some of the sedan's stodginess and attract younger buyers. Other changes included a new suspension and a more powerful 4.6-liter V8 engine.
Sometimes luxury meant not having to worry about petty details, like, say, selecting a trim level for your mansion-on-wheels. Lincoln kept things easy for buyers by offering the Continental in just one trim level, which came with standard features like keyless entry, leather upholstery, full power accessories and an AM/FM/cassette audio system. The options list allowed drivers to raise the level of coddling with features like Alpine audio, heated seats, auxiliary steering-wheel audio controls, a CD changer and a power sunroof.
Literally keeping up with the Joneses wasn't a problem, thanks to the Lincoln's capable engine -- its 4.6-liter V8 brimmed with 260 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. Sending this power to the front wheels was a four-speed automatic transmission. The Lincoln Continental also featured an air-spring suspension and an available Driver Select System that came with variable-rate steering assist and electronically adjustable shock absorbers that could be set for plush, normal or firm ride control. The air springs are known to wear out, so pay particular attention to the car's suspension during inspection.
Lincoln gave the Continental a few useful tweaks during these years. A 1998 refresh gave the luxury sedan a more streamlined look, with smoother lines, wraparound headlights and a new grille. This refresh also gave the Continental a nicer cabin, set off by elegant bird's eye maple wood trim. Audiophiles should choose models made in 1999 or later, since these Continentals were endowed with an improved sound system. The V8's output also increased slightly this year to 275 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque.
Safety took a step up in 2000, when Lincoln's sedan gained standard side airbags, along with an emergency trunk release and child-seat anchor brackets. In 2002, its final year, the Continental got an optional (and now defunct) Vehicle Communications System that included hands-free cell phone communication.
Our editors appreciated the fact that this Lincoln offered a wealth of gadgets and features to use and enjoy. Strong acceleration was another impressive point. Still, this big car had its flaws. In reviews of the Lincoln Continental, we criticized its lack of maneuverability and dearth of interior storage. The sedan's gravest shortcoming, though, was its lack of refinement relative to its competitors. Though the Continental was perfectly adequate, cars in this price range from Germany and Japan offered a driving and ownership experience that was more polished and engaging.
Past Lincoln Continental Models
The previous-generation Continental ran from 1988-'94. The car was less grand than later-model Continentals -- not surprising, since it shared some design cues with its platform-mate, the humble Ford Taurus. As this generation drew to a close, power was provided by a 3.8-liter V6 good for 160 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, with two trim levels being offered -- the Executive and the top-of-the-line Signature. Those looking for trademark Continental opulence are advised to skip this model for more recent versions of the sedan.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 194.00
Never again - 1999 Lincoln Continental
By Kcwayne - December 27 - 10:00 am
I bought the 99 Lincoln new, and ownership has been a nightmare. I have had a bad alternator, a bad AC compressor, bad fuel pump, and a catastrophic failure of the rear suspension. Each visit to the shop was a multi-week excursion. It took the service department 5 weeks to figure out what was wrong with the fuel pump, and 3 visits to find out that the problem with the AC was the compressor. The transmission is acting like it is ready to go now. Thankfully, it is a lease, and Lincoln gets it back next week! I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER buy a Lincoln product again.
Great Ride, High Maintenance - 1997 Lincoln Continental
By Alicia Heath - November 11 - 10:00 am
We had to replace brakes (rotors on front too) at 40,000 miles, and the air conditioning was replaced at this time as well. We purchased this car used with 40,000 miles on it, so it could have been due to the previous driver. However, we also have one plug that gets oil in it way before time for a tune-up, especially if driven for a trip of any distance over 400 or 500 miles. Maintenance cost is much higher than for many cars. However, this car has POWER and is a very good ride. It steers and handles great. All the little perks (compass, auto-adjustment of seat and mirrors for the driver, etc.) are great.
Best used ar value by far! - 2001 Lincoln Continental
By Lincoln - November 11 - 12:43 am
I purchased a 2001 Lincoln Conti and love it. My previous vehicles have been Lexus ES-300, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler Concord, Infinity I30 & Honda Accord. I have to say the feature list is extensive. More then in any of the other cars.
Best Car I Have Ever Driven - 2001 Lincoln Continental
By gittingjr - October 14 - 10:00 am
I currently drive a 2001 Lincoln Continental, and I plan to own the car until it dies. It is such a reliable vehicle that also has a great level of performance. Despite the fact that it is a Lincoln, I compare it to a Cadillac because the Cadillacs were always known for their performance while Lincolns were known mostly for their comfort level. This is a great vehicle for people of all ages, but unlike its counterpart Town Car, the Continental appeals a lot more to a younger man like me due to its torque and smaller size. Discontinuing this model was one of the worst mistakes Ford ever made. The car got better as the years went on. Imagine what a 2010 Lincoln Continental would look like.
This car is perfect - 1999 Lincoln Continental
By YoungWhipperSnapper - October 2 - 10:00 am
I love my Lincoln. The 275hp V8 is plenty to kick me up I-70 from denver. I usually do 75 at 3000ish RPM up to the Eisenhower tunnel, blazing by everything on the road. This thing does surprisingly well in bad conditions. I love all the gadgets and toys.
98 Lincoln Continental - 1998 Lincoln Continental
By guitar man - August 21 - 10:00 am
I bought a 98 continental in late 99 ,as it come off lease, with 37,000 miles. Just surpassed 71,000 miles with little trouble. Today, just picked up the car at dealership after 65,000 commplete service, ($1,000). Still some popping underneath the car, that was not repaired at the dealership.
Great Automobile - 2001 Lincoln Continental
By Bald Eagle - August 3 - 2:00 am
First it is a shame "Ford Lincoln Mercury" is discontinuing the continental. This is my third Continental and the dependability and comfort of this car cannot be denied. Performance and comfort with a trunk to boot. I live in the snow belt and front wheel drive in a larger car is not common. My only regret, is that this will obviously be my last Lincoln Continental purchase as there will be no more. So sad...
hot rod lincoln - 1998 Lincoln Continental
By sdgedg - July 29 - 10:00 am
fast cool powerfull fast fast fast fast
Most under-rated Great car on the road. - 2002 Lincoln Continental
By PERRY - July 8 - 7:06 am
I purchased this car in Nov. 01 and its been great. Really dont understand Ford decision to stop making such a nice car. Would buy another, if given the chance.
one of the best cars everrr - 1998 Lincoln Continental
By cole - July 4 - 5:56 am
i bought this car in 2004 with just over 40000 miles when i was only 18 years old, it was and still is my first car.you cant imagine what i have don to that car , two words (extreme abuse) cus i used to drive really really fast. i really admire the heavy engineering of this car. A++++++++++++++++