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Behind the Making of the Lincoln Continental
By Chris Rahi Kassab

When the Lincoln team began discussing the development of a new full-size flagship sedan, they struggled through dozens of iterations. Plans crystallized when a member of the senior leadership team suggested that the vehicle be named “Continental.”

“Knowing that we were designing the new Lincoln Continental really reset the team in terms of expectations and standards for what we had to achieve,” said Lincoln Design David Woodhouse. “The reason the Lincoln brand still has so much cachet today is because the original Continentals have a legacy of being called the most beautiful cars in the world.”

It was architect Frank Lloyd Wright who described the 1940 Lincoln Continental as “the most beautiful car ever designed.” Honoring that legacy while at the same time creating a vehicle that would stand out among the competition in today’s luxury automobile market presented the team with a challenge.

“Throughout the development of the Continental, we were driving to hit just the right kind of design sensibility that was befitting a modern luxury landscape while still picking up on the iconic cues that are synonymous with Continental,” said Woodhouse. “It’s a fine line to get that right, but I believe this car hits the mark. Continental is a beautiful combination of great design, elegance and beauty.”

Mike Celentino, chief program engineer, Lincoln Continental, said every aspect of Continental was designed and engineered to create a seamless, elegant experience for the client.

“What we’ve found through extensive customer research is that it’s not about how many different technologies are available on a vehicle but how those technologies work with one another to create an experience,” he said, using the walk-up to the Continental as an example.

“When you’re looking for your car in a crowded parking lot with the key fob in your pocket, the lights on the car illuminate in a dynamic fashion to welcome you. As you approach the side of the car, the mirror shines a Lincoln star on the ground to light your way,” he explained. “E-latch door handles are integrated into the beltline of the car. A single touch of a button opens the door and the interior of the vehicle is lit with warm, ambient light. The seat cushion deflates so it’s easy to slip inside and the Lincoln 30-way seat can be tailored to fit your body.”

Everything contributes to a feeling of serenity and elegant simplicity, said Celentino.

“We’ve actually looked at the hierarchy of information, the amount of time and space that we’re using to display it and the ease with which you can get to your adjustments and make them – whether it’s a radio station, a phone call or climate control,” he said. “We’ve counted the number of button-pushes and reduced them to make it simple and intuitive.”

Experience-led design is also evident in the rear passenger area.

“You can recline the seat, put the heat on, tailor the seat to your back and select a massage. There are sunshades and an adjustable wing on the seat so you can rest your head,” said Celentino. “And you can also control the music and climate from the back seat. So you can get really comfortable, relax and rejuvenate.”

Celentino describes the entire Continental experience as “an embrace.”
“The car beckons the customer and invites him into a sanctuary,” he said. “It’s well beyond technology. It is integration and thoughtfulness about each and every second to make everything works together simply and seamlessly.”

Woodhouse said the Continental marks a significant milestone in the Lincoln journey.

“Personally I feel that we’d only come back with a name like Continental at a point where we’re starting to feel confident about the future and where we’re going and I think that’s what this vehicle signifies,” he said.
Woodhouse, who has worked on many notable vehicles throughout his career including Range Rover and Rolls Royce, said leading the design team for the Lincoln Continental has been a privilege.

“To work on an iconic product that has such an esteemed background in design history is an honor and a great point of satisfaction,” he said.
Looking back over this 30-year career, Celentino said the time spent working on Continental stands out.

“I’ve worked on a lot of great cars – the Thunderbird, Mark VIII and Taurus – and they’ve all been great projects but this one has the most focus on moving a brand forward with everybody pulling in the same direction from our CEO to our CFO and from Marketing to Manufacturing,” he said. “If anyone questions the company’s faith in the Lincoln brand, the Continental shows that we’re serious.”
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