I've never really believed that a single feature could seal the deal on an automobile purchase.
But I've changed my mind after experiencing the sumptuous, 30-way adjustable seats in the 2017 Lincoln Continental, a 21st century re-imagining of one of the iconic luxury cars of the 20th century.
About five minutes into my test drive, I was hunting buttons to lower the driver's-side window when I accidentally activated the seat massage feature. Immediately I felt pressure building on both sides of my lower back and traveling up my spine. Within seconds, I could feel my shoulders drop as I relaxed into the sensation.
Soon, I discovered another feature that lets you adjust thigh support in the front seats individually, which worked like magic on my sciatica.
Actor and pitchman Matthew McConaughey — he of the backward pool dive — may represent the younger face of Lincoln, but these seats are exactly why seniors and near-seniors like me will be drawn to the 2017 Lincoln. As more and more luxury car makers try to inject high performance features into their vehicles, Lincoln has gone back to basics. The company says the flagship sedan has been designed to provide a "personal sanctuary."
In other words, they are putting the luxury back into luxury cars. I don't know about you, but I'll take a "personal sanctuary" over a neck-snapping 0-60 mph sprint any time.
Doug Cawood, sales manager at Mountain View Ford Lincoln on East 20th Street in Chattanooga, said earlier this week he had two 2017 Continentals on the ground and more of them on the way. A hot new Continental with a 400-horsepower engine is expected down the road, Cawood said.
Our $60,250 tester was equipped with a 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 engine that makes 335 horsepower; and there's a normally aspirated 305-horsepower 3.7-liter engine option available, as well. The 400-horsepower model will be equipped with a 3.0-liter engine with twin turbochargers. All Continental trims are available with all-wheel-drive as an option.
Our White Platinum Tri-coat tester is out-fitted in Reserve trim, the highest of three grades. The tester has a sticker price of $60,250, while base Continentals start at $45,485.
STYLING AND FEATURES
The sleek lines and mesh grille of the Continental look like something you'd see at a Jaguar dealership. Unlike the massive Lincoln land yachts of 60 years ago that used to compete with Cadillac Fleetwoods for the title of king of the road, the 2017 Continental has a svelte profile based on the mid-size Ford Fusion.
Besides the mesh grille, one of the most distinctive designs on the Lincoln are door handles that are molded directly into the car's belt line. The Platinum Tri-coat paint has a deep luster that makes it look like the car is sculpted from a giant pearl. Folding side mirrors and a foot-activated trunk lid are practical touches.
When compared to the early 2000s Continentals, the new Lincoln flagship is an entirely new species. A replacement for the MKS, the Continental may have the most comfortable interior this side of a Mercedes S-Class, which costs up to twice as much.
In the competitive international luxury market (read China) back seats are the new front seats. And the Continental has limousine quality rear quarters including climate-controlled, reclining seats clad in ultra-soft leather.
Up front, meanwhile, a wrap-around cockpit includes a deeply padded dash with gleaming wood trim on the doors, center stack and steering wheel. Standard equipment includes ambient lighting, heated and cool front seats, one-touch windows and tri-zone temperature controls. Options on our tester include a huge, twin-panel sun roof ($1,750); the deluxe, 30-way seats ($1,500); and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($750).
The 2017 Continental competes with the Audi A6, the Cadillac CTS and the Lexus GS, so the driving experience meets or exceeds the segment's lofty standards — and it does.
The turbocharged V-6 in our tester is a testament to the power (325 horsepower) that can be squeezed out of a small-displacement engine these days. While the powertrain isn't pin-your-shoulders-back strong, it's more than adequate for point-and-shoot driving. Plant your right foot in the throttle, and charging up a freeway ramp can be an adventure.
On our test drive on Interstate 24 and on Highway 41 near Raccoon Mountain the Lincoln handled like a dream. Sight lines are a bit pinched by the raked windshield and swept rear window, but the driving experience overall is excellent.
For mature folks, like me, the rebirth of the Continental is a smile-inducing event that brings back fond childhood memories.
For younger customers (read under 50) the Continental offers a blend of comfort and performance that is on par with the best of the luxury imports — at a competitive price.
Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOL UMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/ mkennedycolumnist.
' Model: 2017 Lincoln Continental 2.7L Reserve
' Exterior color: White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat
' Interior color: Ebony
' Engine: 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6
' Horsepower: 335
' Transmission: six-speed automatic
' Fuel economy: 27 mpg highway, 18 mpg city
' Local Dealer: Mountain View Ford Lincoln
' Price (as tested): $60,250