Considering the dramatic rebirth Ford has undergone in the last decade, Lincoln’s comparative lack of direction is pretty surprising. Maybe, though, this new Lincoln Continental Concept represents the re-discovery of something Lincoln’s so desperately needed: an identity.

Technically, this will be the tenth generation of Continental (hey, Mark X looks and sounds pretty good as a name), and the second time the nameplate has come back from the dead. After the first generation came to a halt in 1948, it wasn’t until 1956 that the name was brought back. The last time a car has worn the Continental name was back in 2002.

Of course, 2002 was also the year that Lincoln tested the waters with a very handsome and striking Continental concept car, one that I suspect Lincoln has been regretting not turning into a production vehicle back then. This new Continental may be their chance to pick up again.

And, from what we can see so far, it doesn’t look bad. The design has a strong, chrome-trimmed shoulder line that runs from the fender leading edge back that echo’s the Continental’s high mark, the 1961-1969 fourth generation. The grille has a very interesting mid-century inspired mesh pattern, one that auto show attendees may recognize from the large screens Lincoln decorates their booths with, and which has often been the most interesting design element in those booths.

The Continental concept includes some interesting details like Tesla-style pop-out door handles (good luck getting in if the battery dies, buddy) and a novel dynamically-tinting clear roof that’s visually designed as an unbroken element from the windshield. Also, the interior of the concept seems well-considered and very unafraid of blue and wood, not bad things.

Still no suicide doors at the rear. Dammit.

It’s also possible to move the empty front passenger seat from the rear, a nice touch, and the rear seats fully recline. Also:

Rear-seat passengers also enjoy the convenience of a tablet lap tray that deploys from the Through-center console, a champagne storage compartment, and Venetian leather first-class travel cases.

Whew. Poor champagne storage is my number one deal breaker when I’m shopping for cars. Also, chili storage.

The lighting design is interesting as well, with the long-desired full-length taillight unit and headlights that feature five smaller light units per headlight, designed to look like the Lincoln star badge. We’ll see how much of this makes it to production, but it’s at least novel.

Technically, it doesn’t look like FoMoCo is planning to get too crazy, with the 3L EcoBoost V6 as the powerplant. The overall drivetrain isn’t yet specified, and since Ford doesn’t really have all that many RWD platforms (F150 and Mustang are the biggies) it’s safe to guess this will be AWD. They also specify:

... Lincoln Drive Control that offers clients a choice of three driving modes – normal, sport and comfort – to suit their individual preferences.

... but I can’t think of any car with any kind of selectable driving mode that doesn’t offer those three basic preferences. A Lincoln should have some setting like HyperSmoothClass mode, where the suspension is softened to such a degree that you could play Jenga in the back while driving over railroad tracks.

According to Lincoln’s press release,

“Luxury at its best is about simplifying and quietly exceeding expectations, rather than being the loudest statement on the road,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company president and CEO. “The Continental Concept showcases the promise of quiet luxury from Lincoln going forward. It also is a strong indication of what’s to come next year as we introduce our new Lincoln Continental full-size luxury sedan.”

So, this ‘quiet luxury’ thing — what is that, PR code for ‘old and rich?’ Maybe. I mean, it’s not a bad market to target, really.

I think Lincoln actually has managed to make a handsome, elegant car here that doesn’t totally feel like everything else on the market, and that’s a very good thing — provided they can keep that feeling from getting watered down as this makes its (probable) way from concept to production. For example, I actually really like those pinwheel wheels, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them tamed into anonymity by the time this gets to market.

Lincoln’s PR also had this quote:

“Some brands talk about the machine. Lincoln is different. For us, it is about more than the machine. It is about what our vehicles do for our clients.” - Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln president

I think that’s a dig at BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and the other German car makers? Maybe? It’s all sort of PR horseshit, though. “What the vehicles do for our clients” — they ferry their asses to and from restaurants, primarily. Happy now, Kumar?

Despite my cynicism to press releases, I’m hopeful about this new Lincoln. It’s the first thing we’ve seen from Lincoln in quite a while that gets close to what the brand’s original spirit and appeal was all about — elegance, refinement, and a distinctively American take on luxury and comfort. We don’t need another copycat BMW or Audi, and it looks like Lincoln is finally out of that trap and on its way to rediscovering itself.

Good luck!