It took about 25 years to sink in.
The bestselling Lincoln of the modern era isn't a car. It's the Navigator — Lincoln's version of the Ford Expedition SUV. On the strength of Navigator sales, Lincoln outsold Cadillac for a while back in the '90s.
Until it tried selling cars again.
Including cars such as the Continental — a car that was iconic back when JFK was president but hasn't done as well with Donald Trump as president.
Not because of Trump. But because things have changed since JFK was president.
The new Continental has a lot going for it — including that it's a much better deal than other high-end sedans. It's much roomier, more powerful — and costs tens of thousands less.
But the one thing it hasn't got going for it is that it's not an SUV — or even a crossover SUV.
Those are selling. Sedans aren't.
Which is why Lincoln won't be making any more sedans after this year — including the Continental.
What It Is
The Continental is a full-size luxury sedan that can be compared to both midsize and full-size luxury sedans from rivals like Mercedes-Benz and BMW as well as Hyundai's recently launched Genesis brand.
It is not quite as large as a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series, but it's significantly larger (and roomier) than a Mercedes E-Class or a BMW 5-Series while being much less expensive than a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 sedan.
Prices start at $46,305 for the base trim, which comes standard with front-wheel drive and a 305-horsepower V-6 engine. All-wheel drive can be added, upping the price to $48,305.
A top-of-the-line Continental Black Label with a 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine, all-wheel drive and Lincoln's concierge services stickers for $75,470.
2020 will be the Continental's final year.
It's genuinely luxurious.
It has a genuine value.
It has a very large trunk (16.7 cubic feet).
What's Not So Good
It's a fraction of the "trunk" you get with a crossover or SUV.
It's not 1963 anymore.
They won't be making any more.
Under the Hood
The standard Continental engine has six cylinders, versus four in all of its price-comparable rivals. It's a 3.7-liter V-6 engine, and it makes 305 horsepower.
Optional in the Reserve trim is a smaller 2.7-liter V-6 — but turbocharged to produce 335 horsepower.
Black Label trims come standard with a 3.0-liter V-6, also turbocharged (twice) and making 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.
All three engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and all except the 3.0-liter V-6 are available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The top-of-the-line 3.0-liter V-6 is paired with all-wheel drive as part of the deal.
On the Road
The Connie's engines — all three of them — are not designed to run like racehorses. They are more like Clydesdale horses — immensely strong with seemingly effortless pull — without appearing to be working very hard.
As was the case with classic Continentals, which had huge V-8s (460 cubic inches, or more than 7.5 liters in today's way of measuring) that delivered torque tsunamis when asked, which was just the thing to get 5,000 pounds of chrome and steel rolling with apparent ease.
Today's Continental hasn't got a V-8, of course — but the V-6s it does have make V-8 torque.
It wafts along like the road-going ocean liner that it is. It's supremely comfortable — provided you don't drive it like a sport sedan through the curves. This will cause you to spill your Grey Poupon.
Better to enjoy the ride — which is what this car is built to make you enjoy.
At the Curb
Today's midsize luxury cars — models like the Benz E sedan and the BMW 5 — are actually pretty small ... relative to the Continental, which is almost as large, outside and inside, as the full-size Mercedes S-Class sedan and the BMW 7 Series.
For about half the money.
The Connie stretches 201.4 inches end to end, versus 193.8 inches for a Mercedes E-Class. It is much closer to the Mercedes S-Class, which is 206.9 inches long (but stickers for $94,250 to start).
It has 41.3 inches of legroom for the rear-seat passengers, versus 36.2 in the Benz E.
It also has a very large (16.7 cubic foot) trunk.
The problem is that it's still a very small space — relative to the space in crossovers that are much smaller on the outside. A current compact-sized crossover will generally have at least 40 cubic feet of cargo capacity, which makes it much more practical for people who need a vehicle that has as much (or more) room for stuff as it has for people.
This is a deficit that even tremendous power wrapped in an elegant shell and opulent luxuries cannot overcome. It's not just Lincoln that's having trouble selling sedans.
Everyone selling them is having the same trouble — including Mercedes and BMW.
Black Label Continentals come with more than just what's in the car. They include a superb 19-speaker ultrapremium surround-sound audio system. Buyers also get white-glove treatment that includes complimentary pickup and delivery of the car when it needs service and exclusive access to restaurants and other venues that Lincoln has partnered up with.
The Bottom Line
This is not only your last chance to buy a new Continental. It may be one of your last chances to buy a new sedan — period.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.