Lincoln Takes the Wraps Off a Suave New Continental by @FortuneMagazine January 12, 2016, 1:31 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons Last spring at the New York Auto Show, Lincoln revealed its Continental concept—a credible and handsome four-door sedan that would go up against Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 and Cadillac CT6, among others. This morning at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Lincoln F revealed the production version, which happily is a near-twin of the well-received concept. Both vehicles were overseen by head designer (and well-heeled Brit) David Woodhouse. The production model will go on sale this fall. It’s a huge moment for Lincoln, a brand that has long struggled to move away from its Town Car history and differentiate itself as Ford’s sole luxury brand. In fact, the future success of Lincoln rides on this sleek, new Continental’s ability to woo customers away from competitive brands. “With every new product, we’ve been upping the game,” Lincoln president Kumar Galhotra told Fortune. “We have an extreme focus on understanding what the customer experience should be through observational research both here in the U.S. and in China.” That experience starts with the vehicle itself, and the Lincoln team has focused on every detail. For starters, the Continental welcomes the key holder upon approach by gently lighting up—puddle lights illuminate the ground outside the doors, the headlights come on in an unfolding LED pattern, and the interior softly glows. The door handles–one of the car’s nicest features, integrated as they are into the car’s belt line—require only a soft touch of a sensor to open, while automatic cinchers seal each door upon closing. The Lincoln Continental through the years Replay E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons Fullscreen gallery For years, the Lincoln Continental was one of the pillars of American luxury cars. It was phased out several times, most recently in 2002. But the classic automobile is back, with Ford showing off a flashy new model at the 2015 New York Auto Show. Here’s a look back at the history of the suave, upscale sedan. Photograph by Michael Nagle — Bloomberg via Getty Images The first Lincoln Continental, an offshoot of the Lincoln Zephyr series and developed under the leadership of Edsel Ford, is introduced on October 2, 1939. Photograph by AP 1940 Lincoln Zephyr Continental Cabriolet. Courtesy of Ford 1948 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet tudor V12 engine Courtesy of Ford In a Ford Motor car dealership, two car salesmen talk on telephones as they sit at desks in front of floor-to-ceiling mirrors in which is reflected a Lincoln Continental covered in a clear, plastic sheet and wrapped in a giant red bow, 1955. Photograph by Yale Joel — The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images 1956 Lincoln Continental Mk II. Courtesy of Ford 1957 Lincoln Continental Mk II. Courtesy of Ford 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible Fordor. Courtesy of Ford Pres. John F. Kennedy’s new plastic-topped Lincoln Continental limousine sits outside the White House, June 14, 1961, after its delivery in Washington. Photograph by Henry Burroughs — AP 1962 Lincoln Continental Fordor Convertible. Courtesy of Ford 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV. Courtesy of Ford 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V. Courtesy of Ford William C. Ford Jr., right and Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandsons of Henry Ford, standing behind a new Ford/Lincoln Continental, circa 1988. Photograph by ndrew Sacks — The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images 1992 Lincoln Continental. Courtesy of Ford 1997 Lincoln Continental. Courtesy of Ford 2000 Lincoln Continental. Courtesy of Ford The new Lincoln Continental concept. Courtesy of Lincoln More on Fortune The Lincoln Continental concept: Finally, a touch of class returns ∨ Show Full Caption 1 of Inside, there are clean-lined gauges that you can customize, touch screens, full controls for the reclining rear seats, and most innovative front seats on the market. The patented design includes split leg bolsters to allow independent left- and right-side adjustments, an articulating mid-section, and 30 different adjustments. An active noise control system helps hush an already serene interior, and a Revel sound system will drown out any other real-world sounds that threaten. The top-of-the-line Continental will be powered by a 400-horsepower, 3-liter, turbo-charged, six-cylinder engine and an all-wheel drive transmission. Those are all respectable numbers from a performance perspective, but Lincoln is clearly going for its own version of luxury that is more about a comfortable and effortless ride than sporty performance—a strategy that could give it the differentiation so hard to come by in the overcrowded luxury sedan category.