Last year's Lincoln Continental concept was perhaps best remembered for the controversy surrounding plagiarism and its design, rather than for the car itself. However, now it's time to forget the gossip and evaluate the finshed product.
It would be unfair to call this a crib of a Bentley as it establishes its own identity, if in a quiet, almost apologetic way. Is the new corporate face, for example, distinctive enough? We'd argue the last generation of cars – while perhaps sometimes a little overwrought – were unique in their identity. But this car's biggest enemy is not a design issue, it's the constraints of its front-drive platform. The wheels are simply in the wrong place, as is the A-pillar. Imagine this design applied to, say the Volvo S90's proportions, and it would be a pretty compelling sedan.
What Lincoln's designers, led by David Woodhouse, have managed to do is push through design touches that help add back some welcome individuality.
The clean, shear bodyside surfaces are enhanced by moving the door handles up into the beltline, curving out of the metal DLO surround.
As a touchpoint, the handle feels very solid, aided by the fact it doesn't move – the door is opened by clicking an actuator on the inside of the handle.
Inside, the door is released by a button on the armrest, leaving the door card handle-free, and allowing the speaker and seat controls to be mounted higher up.
The 30-way adjustable front seats are another of the car's more distinctive points. Countless moodboards feature the original Eames chair, so it's nice to see the Lincoln's seats get similarly-designed, separate floating cushions that are supported by a solid seat back and look extremely comfortable.
But is it enough? With its chrome and this red colourway, the Continental now feels like it's carrying a better-defined sense of old-school American luxury, harking back to Continentals of old. The new car's design isn't groundbreaking, but choosing to focus on the key touchpoints of the door handles and seats really does help set the experience of the car apart in a unique way.
It’s one that could resonate with old-school US buyers, and perhaps new Chinese ones too, and contributes to making the car’s design notable for the right reasons this time.