In 1998 Lincoln was the number-one luxury brand in North America. It's not now. Not even close.
But the brand is on the rebound. Its sales increased at almost twice the rate of the overall luxury market in 2014, and its entrance into the Chinese market – the world's largest, especially for luxury cars – is gaining traction.
The all-new MKC and MKX utility vehicles are key players in the Lincoln renaissance plan. But the company's forte has always been its big sedans and coupes – particularly those that bore the Continental name.
So it's no surprise at all to find that name prominently displayed on the sides of the brand's latest concept car – one that Ford CEO Mark Fields said "very closely" resembles the full size Lincoln sedan that will come to market next year, when he previewed it to a small group of automotive journalists in New York last night.
And he emphasized the word "very."
That's a good thing, for it's a handsome vehicle, with a clear DNA connection to Continentals of yore, particularly the 1955 Continental Mark II and the four-door 1961 model that came to be known as the Kennedy Lincoln.
Which is not to say that it's a retro design. Far from it. It's a modern interpretation of a classic look that conveys both presence and elegance.
It's also a departure from the path followed by its most direct competitors. There are plenty of choices out there for luxury buyers who favour power and aggressiveness, explained Lincoln president, Kumar Galhotra.
But there's also a substantial portion of luxury buyers who prefer the quiet-luxury approach of simple elegance. Those are the buyers for whom the Continental is designed.
It's a role that suits the Continental name and the Lincoln brand well, for it's wholly consistent with their heritage.
The Continental Concept delivers on those attributes.
Its interior is finished with Venetian leather seat and door panels, Alcantara seat inserts and armrests, satin headliner and shearling wool carpet. Rose Gold trim around the instrument cluster provides warmth while bright chrome trim on the instrument panel provides contrast. Soft-gold ambient LED lighting a serene interior environment.
Patented 30-way adjustable front seats use a new-to-market design that conforms to their occupants’ different sizes and shapes – including separate thigh supports to accommodate the driver's different left/right leg angles.
Much attention has been paid to the rear seat passengers, who are often the most important in the Chinese market.
Detachable, hand-crafted Venetian leather travel cases are mounted to the backside of the front seats and the passenger-side rear seat can fully recline by moving the front passenger seat forward with the touch of a button.
Rear-seat passengers also enjoy the benefit of a tablet-supporting lap tray that deploys from the centre console, which also features a champagne storage compartment.
They also can control climate settings and the car's Revel Ultima audio system, from a console-mounted panel that lets them select from three surround-sound modes: Stereo, Audience and On-Stage.
Rear-seat comfort is further enhanced by an SPD SmartGlass tinting sunroof, which allows passengers to control heat from direct sunlight. With the touch of a button, the glass can cool the vehicle interior by as much as 10 degrees Celsius, while blocking 99% of UV rays.
There's plenty of technology to aid the driver in the Continental Concept as well. It is powered by a Lincoln-exclusive, twin-turbo 3.0-litre V-6 EcoBoost with as yet unannounced power and torque output. It also features Lincoln Drive Control ride-enhancing technologies and Adaptive Steering.
Other driver aids include Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Enhanced Park Assist and a 360-degree camera that displays on the MyLincoln Touch screen.
Unlike many concepts, the Continental Concept is a real car with features that might realistically make it into production.