What a Lincoln should be

2002 Lincoln Continental ConceptWhen this concept was unveiled at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show, the company’s “What a luxury car should be” tag line had already been retired. However, I find those words to be rather appropriate here.

The 2002 Lincoln Continental concept, my friends, is the sort of product that I think Lincoln desperately needs–now. Had they made it a reality a decade ago, the American luxury scene might be very different today.

2002 Lincoln Continental concept front leftA few years before Chrysler shook up the luxury market with its rear-wheel drive and sinister-looking 300, Lincoln showed off its ability to design an attractive geometrically-shaped sedan.

Two years in the making, it was described by the company as a “powerful but understated executive car” that “embraces features from Lincoln’s past.” Those past features include rear-wheel drive and visual cues like the center-opening doors from what is quite possibly the quintessential Lincoln, the 1961 Continental, shown below.

1961 Lincoln Continental front left

A lot had changed in four decades though and beyond technological advances Lincoln took the concept’s luxury accoutrements to new heights. According to a statement made at the time by former Lincoln/Mercury president Brian Kelly, its purpose was to “show where we will take the brand in the near future.”

2002 Lincoln Continental concept rear leftThere’s an unfortunate bit of irony to how that prediction played out. See, Lincoln’s slim four-model line-up for 2003 was exclusively made up of rear-wheel drive vehicles which included the LS, all-new Aviator and substantially updated Navigator and Town Car. That’s right, from 2003 through 2005 Lincoln sold only rear-wheel drive vehicles.

Where I see irony is in the fact that Lincoln presently sports an all front-wheel drive lineup, apart from their truck-based Navigator. Some, including myself, see that as a factor that is hampering the company’s current efforts towards brand revitalization.

Stylistically speaking, the concept’s rear-wheel drive layout contributes to its well-balanced wheelbase-to-body proportions. The long, sheer panels, highlighted by chrome work running along the peaks of the shoulder line for the length of the car, exhibit power and stability, to me at least.

Lincoln’s former Design Director, Gerry McGovern, stated, “The Continental is lithe and alive, but simplicity and elegance define the design.” This simple elegance was draped in a paint color called Silver Sea Spray and featured subdued details such as a grille milled from aluminum, LED tail lamps and headlights that looked as unique as they functioned.

2002 Lincoln Continental concept front rightThe four round units employ, what Lincoln described as, a “remote light generator technology” that was developed by Ford Motor Company in partnership with Philips Lighting. It is described thusly: light generated by a single source is transferred to each lamp by fiber optic cable; the technology requires less power than conventional halogen bulbs but produces two and a half times more light; and glare is reduced substantially since light dispersion is well controlled and the beam can be aimed precisely.

One design feature that sort of baffles me are the distracting horizontal breaks in the front and rear side body panels that for some reason wasn’t applied to the doors. (As a side note, I happen to be a fan of strongly-defined horizontal character lines that are all but absent in today’s designs.) In fact, the doors’ surfaces are so clean and devoid of any detailing that even the chrome door handles are flush-fitting and activated by the touch, thereby eliminating the need for the common protrusion.

I initially thought the doors might have operated like a van’s that slide which would require an opening for a track. But they don’t. They open normally, albeit on articulating hinges that open to 90 degrees, as you can see in the picture below.

2002 Lincoln Continental concept doors trunk open

What is a little different is the operation of the trunk lid. It is hydraulically powered and, according to Lincoln literature, “traces a parallelogram as it opens to maintain its horizontal orientation.” The advantage, it says, is that the rear lamps are kept visible at all times.

2002 Lincoln Continental concept trunk openThe 20.5 cubic foot trunk not only had a lid with complex hinging but, rather than a traditional non-interactive storage area, was also equipped with three remote controlled sliding drawers, fitted with Zero Halliburton luggage and golf club cases.

I didn’t get a picture of the hood open, so I am not sure what approach was used for hinging up front. What I do know is that the Continental concept was packing a 6.0-liter V-12 engine that developed 414 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 413 pound-feet of torque (at 5,270 rpm). That’s some serious motivation which was routed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any performance specs.

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