Continental FIDifferent Approaches to a Legendary Competition

Even thought the reveals of the Lincoln Continental Concept and the Cadillac CT6 were in April, I wanted to take a moment to reflect before I just made a spur of the moment and emotional commentary of these two models. Well here it is in May and I’ve had a bit of time to let these models season in my thoughts and opinions of what they represent and where they are going.

There’s no doubt that Cadillac and Lincoln have traditionally battled for the American luxury car market. In the past it was one or the other trying to claim the King of the Hill spot of America’s favorite luxury brand. Of course there were other foreign brands that were present in the past, but it was always these two that held the patriotic dollars and hearts.

Well those days have changed with the likes of a more global market and offerings. It’s no longer about what American car can I buy to suit my needs. Its more about what BRAND suits my needs and likes. It was Lexus, Mercedes and BMW that have gained some traction in the American market. So much so that if Cadillac and Lincoln want to compete in any decent numbers, they are going to have to match the competition and do it globally as well.

For the past number of years we know Cadillac has been trying to re-invent themselves. It started with the “Art and Science” edginess in design and focus. Lincoln really didn’t make any serious moves in my opinion. They stayed with the formula that worked in the past of producing more of a formal luxury model. These days they really need to make a new push toward their roots, as they seem to be loosing the battle for the American market to Cadillac and others.

It was no secret that Cadillac has been developing a new model to fill a void left open by both manufacturers. Between the two brands, there was no true full-sized luxury model available.

Cadillac has several models but the XTS was the largest model available. But this was seriously close to the CTS, especially the 2015 CTS in space and classification. The absence of a traditional Lincoln Town Car meant that they were in just as bad shape in providing a full-blown American cruiser for the executive set.

The American Black Car industry desperately needs a new model to replace the aging Town Car. This Black Car industry is the closest thing we have to a true executive limo service on this side of the world. True these cars still look great and being homegrown, can be maintained properly; but its time for an update.

Just as Ford did in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by upstaging the much anticipated Acura NSX by first (and unexpectedly) revealing the Ford GT, they did the same thing in New York this year. This was Cadillac’s stage to reveal the production CT6. Ford however stole the thunder once again by suddenly revealing the Lincoln Continental Concept FIRST.

This set the stage in my opinion of a new generational round of King of the Hill battles between Cadillac and Lincoln. Who’s going to win this battle for the American luxury market between these two domestic brands? Well not so fast.

This is specifically why I wanted to hold my opinion until the dust settled. In the emotion of these reveals, I could be wrong. Or I could miss the true story altogether, blinded by the glare of the stage lights and hype. Right or wrong I think I have a clearer picture of what these two models are and how they are approaching a similar problem. Their problem is how do they become relevant again in todays expanding market.

So initially, I thought like everyone else…”Okay its on now! Cadillac versus Lincoln.” And that might be true to some extent. However not as much as in the past, or at least not in the same manner. These two brands are going for a similar market with full-scale luxury models, but I realized they were going at it in different ways.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Cadillac is offering a production model. The Lincoln is a concept of what their vision is of what a Continental should be like. True, Ford says this is very close to the production plans; but we will see just how much of this or any concept makes it to the production model as costs, production capabilities, and practicality has a way of toning it down a bit.

The one thing that is consistent between these two brands as well as other worldwide brands is that the growing Chinese market is the target.

With the Chinese market being the new frontier for market share. All manufacturers have realized that there is a place for ultra luxury and rear-compartment conveniences in particular. It is imperative that any new luxury model that wants the attention of China must have a stretched version or at least something that has executive level space in the rear seats and upscale conveniences.


Lincoln Continental Concept

This Lincoln Continental Concept is aimed directly at this new Chinese buyer. Not that they won’t go after the American luxury market, but it’s clear that the space and conveniences are targeted for the executive in China.

But here is where the similarities between these two vehicles end in my opinion. Yes, both represent full-scale luxury models not to be confused with a midsized offering. Yes, they both are suitable for the American Black Car industry as well as the worldwide executive. Yes, at this time they plan to be the flagship model of their respective brand. But its what they offer and how they approach it that is different.

Lincoln has decided to bring back the romance and black-tie formality of their Lincoln brand. The Continental Concept represents over the top luxury not seen in an American vehicle since they last did it in the 80s. Personally, it’s a bit overdone, in its cushiness and plush surfaces but I get it. They have filled this model with leather, velour, and bright chrome. This is very reminiscent of some of the Lincoln Continentals in the past. More so than even the more recent Town Cars. The only thing it seems to be missing are the suicide-doors.

So Lincoln at least in its vision is going for the aged money and formal and established money market. Senior executives that are may be up in age and expectations and want their Lazy-Boy recliner and be driven in it to the yacht club.

Ultra pampering of the rear seat passengers in this concept is achieved by offering perks like

  • A repositioning front passenger seat for extended rear leg room at the touch of a button
  • Fully reclining rear seat via repositioning of front passenger seat.
  • Thirty-way adjustable seating that will conform to most any passenger’s likes.
  • Revel Ultima System is a premium audio experience that includes Active Noise Control, which alters noise levels to maintain a quiet ride.
  • Soft gold interior halo lighting
  • Deployable tablet lap tray that is stored within the Through-center rear compartment console, which also includes a champagne storage compartment. (Yes, champagne.)
  • As a bonus there are two Venetian leather first class travel cases stored in the front seat backs.
  • An interior laden with leather, alcantara, shearling wool carpeting, satin headliner and bright chrome accents.

This interior is plush if not a bit Victorian. You can tell the focus is to be very formal in its approach to luxury.

The exterior is a bit of a throwback to the days of the Ford Five-Hundred, but upon first glance you immediately see Bentley Flying Spur in its profile and stance. Why not I guess. There are several items that are on this concept that I personally don’t believe will make it to the production model such as the jewel-like headlights in the shape of Lincoln symbols. The flush mounted “E-Latch” door handles might make it however. They are a bit un-necessary, and other vehicles are using electronic door latches so it’s nothing new.

All in all, it’s a wonderful presentation of a “vision” of what the new Lincoln Continental might look like. Time will tell.

Cadillac CT6

Cadillac on the other hand appears to be approaching it from a more modern point of view. They are letting technology be their calling card. I guess this is just another logical step in the previous Art and Science evolution.

Yes, this Cadillac Touring 6 is going to be luxurious with lots of room and conveniences in the rear seating areas. Its introduction did not dwell on that aspect however. They keyed on the modern manufacturing techniques and lightweight construction as well as some of the groundbreaking technology that this CT6 offers.

  • Lightweight aluminum construction at less than 3700 pounds, which is crazy, light for a vehicle this size.
  • Bose Panaray audio system with 34 speaker
  • wireless charging for mobile phones and wifi hotspot
  • 10.2 inch HD resolution CUE interface with handwriting recognition for better search input efficiency as well as a touchpad.
  • Rear legroom stretches to 40.4 inches.
  • Reclining rear seating with “woven-in seat heating elements”.
  • Optional Articulation Rear Seat package includes 3.3 inches of seat travel, lumbar adjustment, massage features as well as the typical heating and cooling functions.
  • Available rear-seat infotainment with 10-inch screens that rise from the front seat backs.
  • Industry first surround-view video recording system. Recording of front and rear views while driving and 360 degrees of recording if the vehicle’s security system is activated.
  • First Rear Camera/Mirror allows HD video of the rear view at the touch of a button via the interior rear view mirror.
  • Enhanced Night Vision to identify people, large animals and more via heat signatures.
  • Pedestrian Collision Mitigation detects, alerts and automatically brakes to avoid collisions.

Again, it’s the focus of Cadillac to push the technology aspect of this new CT6. By doing this they are investing in technologies that will carry to other models in the line.

These two brands and their differing approaches to the full-scale luxury market is refreshing. Time will tell which is more successful. Cadillac has made their bed and they will live in it with the styling not to different from its current language. Time will also tell if the black tie, formal and opulent approach to executive luxury will carry into the production model of the Continental. We’ll see.

After this first shot, I think Ford caught GM a bit off guard with the Lincoln Continental Concept. That happens. But they both are looking at the Chinese market for global growth. The question of which approach is best from a numbers point of view will have to wait.


Cadillac CT6

Lincoln Continental Concept