The Lincoln MKS luxury sedan has not been an overwhelming success. Year to date through November 2016, the MKS sold less than 5,000 units. Lincoln dealers must be breathing a sigh of relief as its replacement, the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental, arrives at their dealerships. Already in 2016, the Continental has sold almost 3,500 units. The Continental is also out-selling the all-new 2017 Cadillac CT6. While the early sales results are promising, let’s see if the new Continental is an improvement over its predecessor.
Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. In this case we will compare the 2016 Lincoln MKS with the MKS’ competitive set (Cadillac XTS, BMW 5-Series, Acura RLX, Audi A6, etc. – $50,000 to $70,000 mid-size luxury sedans). We will also provide AutoPacific’s evaluation of how much the 2017 Lincoln Continental will move the needle.
It becomes immediately obvious, however, that the owners of the MKS are much more traditional in their desires than the likely buyers of the all-new Continental. Compared with the competitive set, MKS owners are ten years older, less likely to be college educated and earn $50,000 less. About 76% of MKS owners are retired compared with 38% of the competitive set.
AutoPacific’s research shows that over 20% of MKS owners want more safety features (40%), technology that is easier to use (36%), better driver’s seat visibility (36%), more distinctive styling (34%), better ease of getting in and out (31%), improved roominess (27%) and better driver’s seat comfort (23%). AutoPacific’s assessment of the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental is that the new car will substantially improve the results for the car over the MKS. We predict that the owners of the 2017 Lincoln Continental will be a very satisfied bunch.
Here are the results of the major areas MKS owners want improved and our take on Continental compared with the outgoing MKS and its competitive set:
Safety Features: 40% of MKS owners want more safety features than now compared for 27% of the competitive set. The outgoing car has blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist available in an expensive technology package. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has the totally modern driver assistance suite available as well, but the features are more seamless in the new car and are available as a $3,100 Technology Package on the $54,000 Reserve model. This package includes: 360-degree camera, Active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Lane-Keeping alert, Lane-Keeping aid, Driver Alert System, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision assist with Pedestrian Detection, Collision warning, Brake support, Active braking, Auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rain-sensing wipers and Windshield wiper de-icer. Unfortunately, the totally cool LED headlamps are only available as part of a $5,000 Luxury Package that also includes the $1,130 REVEL sound system. Egads! Does this mean the LED headlamps are $3,870?
Technology: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. Compared with the competitive set, the older Lincoln MKS buyer is much more likely to want technology that is easier to use (36% compared with 18%). The MKS uses Lincoln’s much-maligned MyLincoln Touch infotainment system that was glitchy and difficult to use. The 2017 Lincoln Continental uses the new Sync 3 system that is much easier to use and has includes Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The new system is much more intuitive, faster, and seems more stable. We wish Lincoln had adopted a larger center stack screen mounted higher in the center of the vehicle. Also, the gray tones Lincoln uses in its graphics are difficult to see because the contrast is subtle. It would be much more satisfying if more vivid colors were used.
The Continental’s instrument cluster is reconfigurable and can provide an overwhelming amount of information or a very simple amount of data. AutoPacific’s complaint with the instrument cluster is that it cannot be made bright enough to see clearly on days with heavy sun loads.
Driver’s Seat Visibility: About 36% of MKS owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 22% for the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has good forward visibility, but the visibility to the sides is restricted by the high passenger seat back and headrest and the rear sail panel. The backlite is relatively high and rear seat headrests restrict visibility. The Continental is likely competitive, but not better than its competitors.
Styling: About a third of MKS owners want more distinctive styling. Only about 20% of the competitive set want more distinctive styling. While some criticize the 2017 Lincoln Continental as looking too much like the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lincoln certainly has more presence than its predecessor. We believe the 2017 Continental will be judged as distinctive or more distinctive than its facing competition in next year’s research.
Ease of Getting In and Out: As a person gets older flexibility becomes a challenge. About 31% of the older MKS buyers want the car to be easier to get in and out of. This compares with 23% of the competitive set. The new 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very fast A-Pillar which could interfere with head clearance when getting into the vehicle. The A-Pillar is pushed forward enough that this should not be a problem with the new car. Continental is at least on a par with its competitive set.
Roominess: About 27% of MKS owners want more passenger roominess compared with 22% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very spacious seating package. Its rear seat is very luxurious and accommodating especially with the $4,300 Rear Seat Package. Since Lincoln is making a concerted effort to sell the Continental in China where it likely will be driven by a chauffeur instead of the owner, the Rear Seat Package is very important. Cosseting the Chinese CEO in the rear seat is what this package is designed to do. Overall, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is more than competitive in terms of passenger roominess.
Driver’s Seat Comfort: About 23% of MKS owners want a more relaxed driver’s seat compared with 10% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental evaluated by AutoPacific had Lincoln’s 30-way power seats. Like many features with multiple adjustments, you can adjust it to any position but great. Several AutoPacific staffers loved the adjustability of the seats and especially the adjustable left and right leg thigh support. Starting with the default position may be result in the best overall seat feel. The new Continental’s seat firmness may be a bit too stiff for the traditional Lincoln buyer.
Engine Power: While MKS owners do not particularly want more power or better fuel economy, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is available with powertrain selections that would satisfy almost any type of driver. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.7L double overhead cam V6. The mid-level engine is a 335-horsepower 2.7L turbo V6. The top engine is a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin turbo V6. For a company that used to provide only one engine per vehicle, the choices offered are excellent. Driving the all-wheel drive 400-horsepower Continental can be an exhilarating experience.