Ford keeps banging out the hits, from its best-selling F-150 pickup, to its range of affordable compacts and hybrids, to its upscale family haulers. Its comparatively low-volume luxury brand, Lincoln, could use some of that energy.
Although Lincoln’s doing a little better in 2016, with sales up 16 percent for the first quarter of this year, Ford still needs to revitalize the brand. Its current lineup, comprised of sedans and SUVs, hits some of the marks but misses many others. Lincoln’s top-selling model, the MKZ, was redesigned for 2017, but that alone isn’t enough.
Lincoln has big plans to revamp its customer service, which they hope will help provide the personalized experience the company’s potential customers are seeking, as well as further elevate the brand’s image above Ford’s. One of Lincoln’s forthcoming models, the 2017 Continental, marks the start of this program, known as The Lincoln Way. Lincoln developed this program to launch the brand in China in 2014, and its experiences there have helped shape its plans here. Planned perks include valet pickup and tracking service online.
Lincoln’s also considered its model naming convention, although they’re keeping the existing “M” monikers around for a while. The company has said that customers are familiar with the names and they work well for certain vehicles, although they plan to use more traditional names on new models – more on that later.
The company has confirmed the MKS sedan will be phased out soon, and auto industry experts expect the MKT SUV to follow. So, what’s next for Lincoln? We have some concrete information, as well as some suspicions. Let’s start with the 2017 Lincoln Continental, which has been confirmed, is the most talked-about, and is the closest to release.
Lincoln describes the new Continental in glowing terms. This is not unusual for a company introducing a new and very important product, but it seems to signal a new direction for the brand. According to Lincoln spokespeople, the Continental name was chosen during the vehicle’s development to draw a connection between this new car and the iconic Lincoln Continentals of the past.
The base version of the Continental will come powered by a 3.7-liter V6 engine that produces 300 horsepower. An upgrade from front-wheel to all-wheel drive will cost about $2,000 more. Two more V6s (likely sourced from Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost range) will be available to provide the Continental with extra power. Several trim levels will be available, up to the ultra-loaded Black Label, which is further broken down into three stylistic themes: Chalet, Rhapsody, and Thoroughbred, each designed to evoke a particular exclusive lifestyle.
The Lincoln Continental is priced, powered, and equipped right in line with its key competitors. Lincoln’s going mainly after the German imports here; the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6 have all been identified as targets. Of course, we can’t forget about Lincoln’s primary cross-town rival. Cadillac’s new full-size sedan, the CT6, is another vehicle likely to be comparison-shopped against the Continental.
According to Lincoln, there is already considerable interest in the Continental; in fact, the company has already identified 40,000 potential buyers for the sedan. It’s scheduled to arrive at dealerships this fall and has an MSRP of $46,410.
Lincoln Navigator Concept
Though the full-size Navigator SUV was just updated for 2015, sources have confirmed that there’s a new, different version on the way that's expected to debut in time for the 2017 model year. Calling out the Navigator as one of Lincoln’s “new vehicles” is a little questionable, but the Navigator Concept that was revealed at the 2016 New York Auto Show indeed shows something drastically different.
Experts say that some of the most eye-catching features of the concept – particularly the gull-wing doors and the cascading steps – are unlikely to make it to production. However, this reimagined Navigator is still much more elegant and sophisticated than the existing model, and that overall look will probably stay, even if some of the details change. It’s no easy task to make a bulky, full-size SUV with three rows of seating look svelte, but the Navigator Concept comes pretty close.
Whether or not the upcoming Lincoln Navigator counts as one of Lincoln’s mysterious new additions to the lineup – well, that remains to be seen. We can’t dispute, though, that the brand’s supersized SUV is under a lot of pressure, although there will probably be more new models coming to help out. Let’s take a look at more expert speculation.
From Aviator to Zephyr
These are two names from Lincoln’s past model lineup that could reappear, the company says, although any older name is fair game. This statement just adds to the suspense, because we don’t yet know anything about this third vehicle. We just know that company reps have told the media that it’s coming. Though Lincoln has stated that there are three new models in the works, they’re holding the third close to the vest for now. Unlike the Navigator, we haven’t seen any concepts; unlike the Continental, this new mystery vehicle is almost certainly not in production. That doesn’t stop industry experts from speculating, of course.
Between the Continental and the Navigator, Lincoln’s got the supersized sedan and SUV niches covered, so a smaller vehicle would be a good bet. Since Lincoln needs to attract new and younger buyers to the brand, a somewhat more affordable vehicle would be a smart move. Based on what we’ve seen of the Continental and the Navigator, Ford’s resources are still being wisely leveraged, and the Ford brand has a lot of inspiring models in its current lineup that could be adapted for Lincoln's use. We’re unlikely to see a Lincoln version of the Focus RS, but anything is possible.