By Sue Callaway
March 31, 2015

There’s no spare tire mount with “Continental” emblazoned around it, no “suicide” doors in the rear and no current presidential plans for use, but otherwise the all-new Lincoln Continental concept that Ford unveiled today finally brings the brand back toward the true luxury status it once enjoyed.

The concept, overseen by Lincoln’s British design director David Woodhouse, is well proportioned: a longer wheelbase than rivals like the Audi A6 make for roomy rear seats and a proper road stance (done for the Chinese market, but American rear-seat passengers will also benefit). The view from the rear is strong—clean, vertical lines and taillights that stretch across the car’s rump. At the front, Woodhouse, bless him, has done away with the split-wing grille, which in every incarnation unpleasantly reminds me of the mustached Monopoly Man. Instead, a prominent, upright trapezoidal grille marks the new face of Lincoln, with the brand’s logo backlit in the center and echoed in the LED headlights. Door handles incorporated into the chrome belt line are sleek and modern.

There’s little hope of some of the finer interior touches making it to the production version CEO Mark Fields has promised in 2016. But the fact that the concept’s cockpit is swathed in deep blue Alcantara fabric, with a chrome tunnel distinguishing four bucket seats and a satin headliner signal the company’s determination to hit luxury cues hard. There are also built-in blue Italian leather valises and a pop-up tablet holder for rear passengers and revolutionary seats for the front passengers (split, adjustable leg bolsters, mid-section articulation, and more than 50 patents in all). If those seats make it to production, and the amount of engineering in them points to that, they’ll set a new standard.

Fields has promised that this all-new Continental concept is extremely close to what the production car will be when we see it in 2016. That’s a promise Ford needs to stick by in order to finally start gaining real traction and real fans in the premium and luxury worlds. This Continental concept is a handsome and credible start.

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