The whole point of an auto show is that all of a competitor’s cars are all in the same place, so I sat my ass in every rival to the Lincoln Continental to see if the big new not-a-Ford is as comfortable and quiet as Lincoln claims.
Lincoln was quite bullish about their term “quiet luxury” to describe its design ethos. That sounds to me like the kind of thing you say when you can’t compete on technology, or power, or prestige. Hey! At least it’s... uh... quiet.
But rather than hang on my assumptions, I figured I could actually do all of the testing myself, back to back. Technically, it would be butt to butt.
Actually, I couldn’t really do it myself. Everyone’s butt is different, and two different people could say that the same seats in the same car are either the best they’ve sat in, or complete trash. So I needed a second butt for a second opinion, and I grabbed my coworker Mike Ballaban.
We sat in a new Mercedes E-Class as a benchmark and a Mercedes S-Class Maybach as a top-of-the-market/best-of-the-best point. Then we tried the Continental, then the new Volvo S90, the new Genesis G90, then the Cadillac CT6 for a crosstown comparison.
Here’s how they stacked up, in summary:
The Genesis G90, of all the other cars, was as close to the Maybach as anything else, almost perfectly mirroring even the little seat adjustment controls. There are the same kinds of pillows fixed into the back headrests that cushion your neck. There is the same sense of space and wealth and distance from the outside world.
The knobs for back seat futzing with the climate control, for instance, felt indistinguishable from the ones you get in a Bentley. That said, the G90 is a fair bit more expensive than the Lincoln and its rivals.
The more competitively priced Mercedes E-Class was, unsurprisingly, very high up in the ranks when it came to materials, and it was very good when it came to quiet. The loud chatter of the show floor quickly turned into a low hum when Ballaban and I closed all the doors around us and the executives of [REDACTED] rival carmaker who were busy talking shit about Mercedes’ fit and finish.
Seriously, these dudes went off about the new E-Class. They hated the way the doors sounded (too tinny), they hated the way that the dash panels didn’t precisely line up with the door panels, and they loathed the hard panels on the center stack. I couldn’t entirely disagree with them. It felt like a nice car, just not like a Mercedes. That goes to the Mercedes S-Class Maybach, which was the very best, in materials, in ambiance, in adjustability, and in quietude. It should. It’s impossibly expensive.
The Cadillac CT6 was different. The moment we got in it, Ballaban went nuts. His butt was having an experience none of the other cars gave him. He loved even the ordinary spec, super cushioning and very well trimmed. My butt wasn’t as exuberant, and I figured what you really needed was the optional rear seat comfort whatever they call it package. That gets you got rear seat adjustments (not as much as you get in a Mercedes, but enough) and a massage feature.
Much as all luxury car seats should have pillows, they should be able to massage you. And it wasn’t like a weird prodding like you’d get in some older systems (the one in the Bentley Flying Spur springs to mind), but a strong and reassuring pressure. This is starting to sound weird talking about my butt like this, but it was a long day at the Detroit Auto Show and I really needed that massage.
Seats aside, we could both agree on the sound. The CT6 was crazy quiet. Maybach kind of quiet. Again, the CT6 was real good, but it costs you.
The Volvo wasn’t quiet as quiet as the rest and its seats were a little firm, but the atmosphere and the quality and choice of the materials was fantastic. It felt a little utilitarian, but in a good way. That’s Volvo’s strength. It didn’t feel like a luxury car in the back; it just felt like a regular car done right. And it really exposed little points where other carmakers cheaped out on certain components in favor of others. Everything in the Volvo was well-done.
The cubby hole in the flip-down back center armrest didn’t have that cheapo fake mouse fur in it. It was just a nicely textured, thick, quality plastic. It was like stuff you’d find in your grandparents’ kitchen. And the door pulls on the Volvo were better than anything else for the price. I don’t imagine that Volvo is going to be making any sales advertising its well-designed door pulls, but again, it’s the little things that make an experience.
And after all of that, the big Lincoln was indeed as comfortable and as quiet as Lincoln claims.
The Lincoln PR dude who hopped into the car with us talked a lot about an “articulation index” that Lincoln engineers used to measure the ability to carry a conversation in the vehicle. Indeed, Ballaban and I could really hold a full conversation in whispers back there, while we have to speak at a normal volume in the Volvo. But after a while, we stopped caring about quiet, or the number of adjustments available with the seats, or the soft open/soft close doors. We just started sinking into those deep, white seats. We may have groaned.
When it came to pure comfort in the seat, the Lincoln really held its own.
I would not say that the new continental Lincoln is the absolute pinnacle of world class luxury. It doesn’t quite have the modern ambiance or materials of the Volvo, nor does it have the almost aggressive luxury of the higher-priced Genesis or Cadillac. But the Continental is definitely as good as Lincoln would have you believe. And if comfort is what you want, the Continental is the car to check out.
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