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High-tech equipment is a requisite for a luxury sedan these days, but Lincoln's Continental is on the cutting edge with computer electronics applied to nearly every facet of the driving experience. We're not talking about gadgets here, although the Continental offers a reasonable share of those, we're talking about the innovative use of electronics to provide comfort and ride quality in a highly maneuverable sedan.
Suspension dampening and steering effort can be adjusted electronically by the driver, allowing owners to tailor their Continental to their driving style and environment. These whiz-bang electronics are not intrusive, however, as owners can choose to use them or ignore them. Either way, driving the Continental is a satisfying experience.
The Continental delivers on the promise of comfort, ride quality, handling and performance.
The 32-valve V8 provides plenty of power to move this 3,848-pound sedan with authority. Merging on to the freeway is easy. Passing on two-lane roads is never an issue. The double overhead-cam engine produces 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The ignition system has a coil for each plug for reduced maintenance and a cleaner appearance. Knock sensors mean premium fuel is no longer required, although it is still recommended for maximum performance.
The engine drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission linked electronically and mechanically to the engine. A constant dialogue between engine and transmission means shifts are remarkably smooth. Traction control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are all standard.
In spite of its size, the Continental does not feel heavy, unwieldy or sloppy when going down the road. The semi-active suspension with adjustable ride should appeal to owners who want more control and driving excitement. The soft, normal and firm settings controlled by the driver adjust the rear shocks. On the highway, we preferred the firm setting for a more controlled feel. On rough roads, we liked the plush setting for absorbing bumps, potholes and vibration. The front suspension is independent with MacPherson struts. Ford's short- and long-arm independent rear suspension is designed to maximize control of wheel movements for better ride and handling.
Speed-sensitive power steering offers driver-selectable settings for low, normal and high effort. The change in effort is most noticeable in tight maneuvering, such as turning into a driveway. On the highway, the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering automatically increases effort for improved road feel.
Overall, the Continental is tuned toward traditional American tastes. It does not feel as taut as a BMW or Mercedes, but the adjustable steering and suspension allow an owner to dial in some of that European feel.
Flat tires are less of a concern with optional run-flat tires that can run more than 100 miles after losing all of their air pressure. A Personal Security Package ($640) equips the Continental with run-flat tires and an air pressure alert system. The system will tell you when you've lost air, and you can continue home even if you've put a hole in your tire the size of a golf ball. An overhead console lamp alerts the driver when the pressure in any tire drops below 18 pounds of pressure; it starts flashing at 10 psi in case the driver didn't notice the light.
The Lincoln Continental is a luxury car in every sense of the word. It offers a distinctive exterior design and a cozy, integrated interior. There is plenty of power available and its over-the-road manners are impeccable. More people would buy a Continental if they took one for a test drive.
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