1998 Lincoln Continental 4.6 liter V8 from North America
A reliable, luxury bargain with excellent performance
Nothing has gone wrong with the car.
I've changed the oil, fan belt, transmission fluid, coolant and spark plugs as preventive maintenance.
The previous owner changed the ball joints, tie-rod ends, battery and brakes at 98,000 km.
This is a fantastic car and is a tremendous value.
These cars are cheap to buy used, due to market forces. Sedans are not very popular these days (everyone wants an SUV), Lincolns are not popular sedans (everyone wants a Honda or Toyota), and even among Lincoln fans, no one wants these Continentals because they aren't as ostentatious as a Town Car or as sporty as a MkVIII.
But people are missing out. This is a tremendous car for the money; smooth, luxurious and powerful with great handling. Ford put a lot of money and effort in developing these cars, and giving it far superior performance and handling over the Town Car. It may be based on a stretched Taurus platform, but I don't think they share many parts. Most of the car is purpose built for Lincoln.
The engine is a sophisticated DOHC V8 that has more than enough power and speed for any situation, yet runs fine on regular gas. The transmission always serves up the right gear. It has front wheel drive for good winter traction, but there's no torque steer at all. It has excellent cornering characteristics and decent 4-wheel disc brakes.
The ride is firm and controlled and not soft/floaty like a Town Car. If anything it's a bit too firm for lazy cruising around. But it's well controlled and feels more sporty than the average Lincoln. The rear air suspension works well and always has the proper ride, regardless of the load. I've packed in 5 people and full luggage and it never feels overloaded. It's an excellent system and works better than steel springs.
The front suspension is just average, though. It has struts and coils, and like some other strut systems, the suspension travel is limited. It will bottom-out at high speed on some rough roads. The components all look like new so I'm not sure if it's the limitations of the design, or the struts and springs are wearing out. My car does not have the electronic shocks which might help. I don't mind though; those electronic shocks are far more expensive to replace.
My car came loaded with options, including keyless entry with number pad, chrome wheels, sunroof, heated seats, and the super JBL stereo with factory subs and CD changer. It sounds excellent.
It has an interesting column-shift option. The standard Continental has a console with floor shift between the front seats. But there was a no-cost option of a traditional column shift and armrests for a more roomy feel. My car has this arrangement; dual fold down armrests with storage and cigarette lighters, and a pull-out console with cupholders, tray and another lighter. They relocated the CD changer for this arrangement. One can even fold up the armrests and put a 6th person in the middle of the front seat. It's interesting that Ford took the time to develop two versions of many components (seats, column, dashboard etc) for a pretty minor change.
The interior fit and finish is great. The wood trim is real birds-eye maple and not cheesy plastic. All cars came with leather seats that are long wearing. I have the optional elaborate 8-way power seats with adjustable lumbar, and electric heat, seat and back, all with thermostats.
Additional features include a roomy trunk, adjustable steering effort, and an underhood layout that's conducive to service (I do all my own mechanical repairs). It's pretty tight, but everything is reasonably accessible and straightforward.
The faults are minor and due to Ford's cost cutting: the carpet looks thin for a luxury car, the door keypad and door lock are not illuminated, there's no engine oil-life monitor, and the factory paint is just ordinary clearcoat with mild orange-peel effect. Earlier Lincolns and even upmarket Mercury models had these features with better paint, so it's unfortunate that Ford didn't include them.
This car has been completely reliable. Nothing has gone wrong. Indeed, some of the service items I changed (spark plugs, fan belt etc) were the factory original ones which had lasted 20 years. The factory rustproofing is decent, as the car is clean and rust-free underneath. The original exhaust system still looks solid. The chrome on the optional rims is peeling, though on the insides where you can't see. The base model aluminum rims may look more plain, but are more durable.
As for looks... it does not look like a 20 year old car. The appearance is quite conventional and fairly up to date. I think the grille arrangement looks pretty, but the rest looks like a generic larger sedan. It certainly looks better than the Taurus upon which it was based.
Overall this is a great car and I highly recommend it. I suggest looking around for a low-mileage one that's been well cared for. The market value for these cars is low so even a pristine one will be cheap to buy. My car, low mileage and excellent condition, cost only $1800, ready to drive. The problem is the cars were never big sellers, so there's few available. I live in a big city and I've only seen two other Continentals of this generation in the past year.
Finally... this car has a lovely low growl from the engine when one accelerates hard. It's quite sporty, and I suspect has been designed-in to give the car a sporty sound for the driver. I have other cars with the same engine that don't do this. It's easy for Ford to make it quiet, so... I think engineers deliberately tuned the air intake and sound insulation for a sporty note. Other Continental owners report hearing the same thing. Some new cars give the option for fake V8 noises from the stereo for "an enhanced driving experience". How lame! With a Continental the sporty noises are real.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 26th September, 2018