1995 - 2002 Lincoln Continental

1996 Lincoln Continental Pricing Overview
1999 $9,900-10,800
2000 $12,700-14,100
2001 $15,600-17,000
2002 $19,300-20,700

near-luxury car
Powertrain Layout
transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Built In


Acceleration, Passenger and cargo room, Instruments/controls, Antilock brakes
Fuel economy, Noise, Electronic steering and suspension, Climate controls


Still front-wheel drive, a redesigned Continental 4-door sedan debuted late in 1994, featuring a new V8 engine with dual-overhead camshafts. Less-conservative, contemporary styling now resembled the Mark VIII coupe. Developing 260 horsepower, the 4.6-liter V8 drove a new electronic 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment included dual airbags, antilock braking, automatic climate control, and an air-filtration system to trap dust and pollen. A redesigned instrument panel displayed virtual-image graphics. The driver could adjust ride quality and steering assist from dashboard buttons.

Year-to-Year Changes

1996 Lincoln Continental: Continental's formerly optional antitheft alarm became standard for 1996, and a Remote Emergency Satellite Cellular Unit (dubbed RESCU) became optional. It consisted of a voice-activated cellular phone, two emergency buttons mounted in the overhead console, plus a global-positioning satellite receiver in the car's trunk. One button summoned roadside assistance; the other, police or medial assistance.

1997 Lincoln Continental: Traction control (formerly optional) became standard. Lincoln abandoned the front air springs in favor of ordinary steel-coil springs.

1998 Lincoln Continental: Continental gets a minor restyling but continues with the same mechanicals. It's almost exactly the same size as the model it replaces, but new proportions give the '98 Continental a shorter nose and longer tail. The restyled cabin has bird's-eye maple trim and one inch less rear leg room.

1999 Lincoln Continental: Changes for '99 included standard front side airbags and a 15-horsepower boost, to 275, for the 4.6-liter engine. Additionally, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, 10-spoke alloy wheels, and a 2-tone leather interior were new options.

2000 Lincoln Continental: Three new safety features went into 2000 models: rear child-seat anchors; a manual emergency release inside the trunk; and Belt Minder, a chime and warning light to encourage buckling up.

2001 Lincoln Continental: All Lincoln's got free regularly scheduled maintenance for the first three years/36,000 miles starting in 2001. Discontinued was RESCU, Lincoln's satellite/cell-phone-based emergency assistance service.

2002 Lincoln Continental: Lincoln announced that 2002 was to be Continental's final model year and did not make public any plans for a direct replacement. Added midyear was a special-trim Collector's Edition option for Driver Select models.

Road Test Evaluation

Helped by its new V8 engine, this Continental is a lot quicker, a bit more agile--and loaded with electronic gadgetry. In acceleration, the newly energetic Continental can match a Cadillac Seville SLS. At 16.3 mpg, gas mileage has not improved and premium fuel is recommended.

Despite its multiple adjustments, Lincoln's high-tech electronic suspension/steering fails to succeed fully. High mode makes the steering stiffer, without increasing feel; Low mode leaves the steering rather light and vague. The suspension also works best in Normal, as the other two modes have little effect on absorption of bumps.

Interior space is great. Occupants have plenty of leg space front and rear, while head room is adequate for 6-footers, even with the optional moonroof. Storage space is fine. The Continental's trunk is wide, deep, and long.

Reflecting off a mirror above the instrument cluster, the dramatic virtual image gauges are strikingly bright at night, but hard to read in bright sunlight. Controls are plentiful, and most are handy, but climate controls and seat heaters are recessed into the dashboard and hard to reach.


Value for the Money

Lincoln evidently attempted to make the Continental both a sports sedan and a traditional luxury car. It's not quite either, but worth a look anyway. Because sales have been tepid, used-car prices may be appealing.

Each vehicle report contains one rating table for a representative model. We rate in seven key areas: Performance, Fuel Economy, Ride Comfort, Interior Noise, Passenger Room, Cargo Capacity, and Insurance Costs. These ratings are given taking into account the "world" of vehicles, not a vehicle's standing in a particular class. In the ratings table, "1" is the lowest rating and "5" is the highest rating.

Road Test Ratings

1996 Lincoln Continental Ratings
Performance 5
Fuel Economy 2
Ride Quality 4
Quietness 4
Interior Room 4
Cargo Capacity 4
Insurance Costs 4
Total 27

Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan
Wheelbase, in. 109.0
Overall Length, in. 206.3
Overall Width, in. 73.3
Overall Height, in. 55.9
Curb Weight, lbs. 3911
Cargo Volume, cu. ft. 18.1
Standard Payload, lbs. --
Fuel Capacity, gals. 18.0
Seating Capacity 6
Front Head Room, in. 39.1
Max. Front Leg Room, in. 41.8
Rear Head Room, in. 39.0
Min. Rear Leg Room, in. 39.2
Specifications Key: NA = not available; "--" = measurement does not exist.

Powertrain Options and Availability

All Continentals had the same powertrain: a 260-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 engine with dual-overhead camshafts, driving a 4-speed automatic transmission. In 1999, engine revisions netted an addition 15 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque.

Size liters/
cu. in.
Horsepower Torque EPA city/hgwy Consumer Guide Observed
dohc V8 4.6 / 281 260-275 265-275 4-speed automatic: 17/25

4-speed automatic: 16.3

Notes: Engine Key: ohv = overhead valve; ohc = overhead camshaft; dohc = dual overhead camshaft; I = inline cylinders; V = cylinders in a V configuration; H = horizontally opposed cylinders; CVT = continuously variable (automatic) transmission; NA = not available; "--" = measurement does not exist.

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner: Air conditioner output may be low or nonexistent because of a problem with the compressor clutch. (1995)

Hard starting: The engine may be hard to start or may stall after hot soak due to the idle-air control valve sticking (1995-96), or a poor connection at the crank position sensor. (1995-97)

Steering noise: The steering grunts or groans after making right hand turns, requiring replacement of the steering gear. (1995-97)

Suspension noise: Clunking from the front end may be due to premature wear of the sway-bar links. (1995-97)

This table lists costs of likely repairs for comparison with other vehicles. The dollar amount includes the cost of the part(s) and labor (based on $50 per hour) for the typical repair without extras or add-ons. Like the pricing information, replacement costs can vary widely depending on region. Expect charges at a new-car dealership to be slightly higher.

Average Replacement Cost

A/C Compressor $435
Alternator $510
Automatic Transmission or Transaxle $870
Brakes $320
Constant Velocity Joints $470
Exhaust System $540
Radiator $290
Shocks and/or Struts $1,165
Timing Chain or Belt $795

Prices Good Average Poor
Continental $4,000-4,800 $3,300-3,900 $1,300-1,500
Continental $4,800-5,600 $4,000-4,700 $1,800-2,100
Continental $6,000-6,900 $5,200-6,000 $2,500-2,900
Continental $8,500-9,500 $7,700-8,600 $4,400-4,900
Continental $11,000-12,000 $9,900-10,800 $5,900-6,500
Continental $14,000-15,500 $12,700-14,100 $8,500-9,500
Continental $17,000-18,500 $15,600-17,000 $10,900-11,800
Continental $21,000-22,500 $19,300-20,700 $13,700-14,600

This chart details a range of average prices in year-by-year listings for vehicles in three condition levels: Good-a clean low-mileage, solid-running vehicle that needs little or no repair. Average-a car with normal miles on the odometer, perhaps a few scrapes or dings; engine might need a minor repair or two, but runs acceptably well. Poor-might have potentially dangerous problems with the engine and/or body, or abnormally high mileage; definitely in need of mechanical attention. Valuations reflect wholesale prices paid by dealers at auction, and retail prices on used-car lots. Each range covers all trim levels and engine types for a vehicle with a typical amount of equipment-usually an automatic transmission, air conditioning, stereo, etc. Fully-loaded vehicles may cost more. Keep in mind that these are guidelines only. Actual selling prices vary-especially from region to region.

Lincoln Continental, 1998 - 2002
by Jeremy Cato

1998 Lincoln Continental
1998 Lincoln Continental.

It would be fair to call 1998 the year of chrome for the since-discontinued Lincoln Continental luxury sedan. Chrome, said Lincoln officials at the time, is like jewellery to Lincoln buyers. Perhaps. What we can be certain of is that the added chrome to the updated 1998 Continental did not spell this model’s demise. No, the problem was that the Continental, completely remade in 1995, competed in a fantastically crowded field of excellent cars.

Its front-wheel drive chassis, soft handling and lack of “ooh, and ahh” features just weren’t enough - not against the Audi A6 (new also for '98), BMW 540i, Volvo S90, Buick Park Avenue Ultra, Cadillac Seville, Infiniti Q45, Lexus GS300/400 (also new for '98) and even the Mercedes-Benz E420.

So with the start of the 2003 model year, the Continental was cancelled. Still, the Continental name has a long and powerful history at Ford Motor Co. and it seems reasonable to assume a new luxury Lincoln model will someday wear the Continental badge. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want a Continental, you’ve got to find a used one. The good news is that these cars have not held their value particularly well, so there are deals to be had. Quality has been okay (few serious documented service issues and only a small handful of safety recalls), so if you’re looking for an older but not old luxury sedan, the Continental has something to offer.

Still, I’d recommend a 1998-2002 version, rather than a 1995-97. Lincoln did enough to update the Continental to make this a reasonably sound buy.

For 1998, aside form the added chrome, Lincoln gave the Continental a much more tidy, elegant look. The front was given much less overhang and high-tech reflector-style headlamps were made to deliver better illumination. The bottom of the windshield was moved forward almost 13 cm for a dramatic slant, also. And there were new taillamps and a re-styled rear deck.

The new front fenders, hood and rear decklid were created from Saturn-like plastic, which means fewer minor dings and dents and no rust at all in places often whipped in winter by road salt, salt air and sand. Take note, used car buyers.

Inside, the '98 Continental was given a look and feel more fitting for what was a $50,000 new car. The cabin rolled off the assembly line with bird's eye maple trim and sumptuous leather upholstery, along with a material that appeared to be a textured suede covering for the dashboard. Very dressy. Overall, the '98 Continental's cabin is a noteworthy improvement over the ‘97. The roomy seats should remain comfortable in an older car and the three-dimensional luminescent gauges should continue to sparkle.

Funny enough, with the ’98 changes, the Continental was given slightly less back seat room. Moreover, the ’98 Continental has about five per cent less interior room than its main domestic competitor, the Seville.

Standard safety features include anti-lock braking and traction control, as well as a pair of front airbags and a theft deterrent system. Some Continentals were sold with the optional SecuriTire system and run-flat tires.

If you take a used Continental out for a test drive, look for what was the optional Driver Select system. It employs computer electronics to adjust the power steering and suspension to any one of nine combinations. There were other electronic features in this version of the Continental (e.g., a Memory Profile system) that should be checked carefully in a used car.

Power? For ’98 the Lincoln engineers tuned the already very good 4.6-litre V8. Unfortunately, power goes to the front wheels, which is not what many luxury sedan buyers want and expect.

Lincoln polished up the ’98 Continental and then did very little to update it until the car went away. Look for bargains if you’re shopping.

Current Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) March 2004:
Year Model Price today Price new
2002 Lincoln Continental $31,175 $52,900
2001 Lincoln Continental Executive $24,625 $51,920
2000 Lincoln Continental Executive $19,525 $52,895
1999 Lincoln Continental Executive $14,250 $52,795
1998 Lincoln Continental Executive $10,825 $51,995

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

The verdict

A big, front-drive luxury car that is extremely affordable on the used market

* Pleasant ride quality
* Comfortable and dressy
* Solid powertrain

* Not a huge back seat
* Sound system and climate controls packaged in plastic look out of place in elegant interior

Overall score
7.5 (out of 10)

Be informed
1998 Lincoln Continental

Buyer's alerts



Report Cards

Road Test
Access: B+
Driving position: B
Instruments/Controls: B-
Visibility: B-
Climate Control: B-
Steering: B-
Brakes: B
Handling: C-
Acceleration: B
Engine: B
Transmission: B
Interior space: C+
Trunk/Cargo: C+
Noise/Vibration/Harshness: B-

Overall: B
Mechanical: B
Hardware/Body/Paint/Trim: B-

Anti-lock braking: yes
Airbags (driver/passenger): yes/yes
Traction control: yes
Driver/Passenger Front Crash Protection: NA

2002 Lincoln Continental
2002 Lincoln Continental

2001 Lincoln Continental
2001 Lincoln Continental

2001 Lincoln Continental
2001 Lincoln Continental

Car Review

by Mike Knepper

1999 Lincoln Continental

1999 Lincoln Continental

A contemporary rendition of American luxury.

The Lincoln Continental has accomplished its mission for 1999: That mission, according to Lincoln-Mercury, is to provide "exemplary comfort and ride quality in a highly maneuverable sedan with distinctive styling." The Continental does all that and does it with its own interpretation of what a luxury car should be.

That interpretation includes the latest in electronic technology: Suspension damping and steering effort are controlled electronically by the driver. A high-tech instrument panel provides improved legibility, while computer controls allows owners to tailor their Continentals to their driving style and environment. These whiz-bang electronics are not intrusive, however, as owners can choose to use them or ignore them, relax and enjoy the cruise. Either way, driving the Continental is a satisfying experience.

1999 Lincoln Continental Walkaround

The Continental is available in just one model. Last year, it received a minor redesign that reduced the amount of front overhang-the distance between the front bumper and the front wheels. Headlamps and turn signals were redesigned with a single, thinner lens and the grille was enlarged.

Massive Lincoln taillamps sweep around into the rear quarter panels. Front fenders, hood and decklid are made of a sheet molding compound that is more resistant to dents and dings. This material will also allow Lincoln to revise the styling more often to keep the Continental in step with evolving aesthetic trends. Overall, the Continental looks rounder than before and makes a distinctive design statement.

The trunk lid raises high enough to not be a head-bumper for all but the tallest. The trunk boasts nearly 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity and a low lift-over height makes loading and unloading a lot easier.

Raising the hood reveals an attractive engine compartment filled by a 4.6-liter V8. Washer fluid, oil filler and other necessaries are out in the open and the cooling system is maintenance free. The 32-valve double overhead-cam engine produces a healthy 275 horsepower at 5750 rpm--up from 260 last year--and 270 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm. The ignition system has a coil for each plug for reduced maintenance and a cleaner appearance. New knock sensors mean premium fuel is no longer required, though it is still recommended for maximum performance.

The engine drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic linked electronically and mechanically to the engine. A constant dialogue between engine and transmission means shifts are remarkably smooth.

Traction control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are all standard.

The front suspension is independent with MacPherson struts. Ford's short- and long-arm independent rear suspension is designed to maximize control of wheel movements for better ride and handling. The rear shocks have soft, normal and firm settings that can be controlled by the driver. Speed-sensitive power steering offers driver-selectable settings for low, normal and high effort.

Flat tires are less of a concern with optional "run flat" tires that can go 100 miles after losing all of their air pressure. The Michelin MX4ZP tires are part of a system called SecuriTire that includes an overhead console lamp that lights when the pressure in any tire drops below 18 psi; it starts flashing at 10 psi in case the driver didn't notice the light.

A passive anti-theft system uses an encoded radio frequency between the key and the ignition capable of generating 72 quadrillion codes, making it virtually impossible to be beaten by even the most persistent bad guy.

Another type of security comes in the form of Continental's four-year or 50,000-mile warranty, which is longer than the standard 3 years or 36,000 miles.

A new option this year includes 16-inch, six-spoke chrome wheels, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, two-tone seat trim and special floor mats.

1999 Lincoln Continental Inside Story

There is much to see and do inside a Continental. The luxurious interior covered in leather, wood and premium carpeting features a plethora of electronic doo-dads and high-tech instrumentation.

Even everyday instruments offer surprises. Switch on the ignition and a blank area where the instruments should be lights up with instruments. But with a difference! The numbers are lighted from behind, while red pointers for the tachometer, speedometer, and fuel and temperature gauges seem to float above the instrument faces. It sounds gimmicky on paper, but we applaud the technology because it makes the gauges very easy to read.

Mounted on the dash just to the right is a set of electronic controls. This is the fun center. Variables for ride quality and power-steering assist can be dialed in to the owner's preferences. It also calculates trip information, such as miles to empty, average mpg and instant mpg. Push the check button and the status of various systems is displayed.

Owners can program a myriad of functions such as whether to have the doors lock when the car moves forward, or to have the horn chirp when the remote locks the doors, or to have the rear-view mirrors dip when the transmission goes into reverse. And all of that can be stored in a pair of memory buttons so that different drivers can have the car tailored to their preferences, eliminating potential trouble spots between spouses. Simply push the driver ID button, select 1 or 2 and all your preferences will be selected.

Our test car came with comfortable bucket seats covered in handsome leather. Both seats offer power adjustments and the driver's seat has a two-position memory. We liked the seating position and visibility was good in all directions. With lots of rear seat leg room, three adults can sit in back with reasonable comfort. The interior can hold six when a front bench is selected. Either way, the leather is standard.

The Continental comes standard with dual front airbags and side airbags. An optional Remote Satellite Cellular Unit, called RESCU, is automatically activated if the airbags are deployed. The cellular unit uses satellite tracking along with a voice-operated system to reduce the amount of time it takes for assistance to arrive. The options package also includes the run-flat tires, an upgraded sound system and a garage door opener.

1999 Lincoln Continental Ride & Drive

The Continental delivers on the promise of comfort, ride quality, handling-and performance. The 32-valve V8 provides plenty of power to move this 3,868-pound sedan with authority. Merging on to the freeway is easy. Passing on two-lane roads is never an issue. The Cadillac Seville still has an edge in the acceleration department, however, with 300 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque at 4400 rpm.

In spite of its size, the Continental does not feel heavy, unwieldy or sloppy when going down the road. And while it is roomy inside, the design of the instrument panel, the real wood accents, and the leather work together to provide an intimate interior that we found most pleasant.

The semi-active suspension with adjustable ride should appeal to owners who want more control and driving excitement. On the highway we preferred the firm setting for a more controlled feel. On rough roads we liked the plush setting for absorbing bumps, potholes and vibration. Adjusting the steering effort between high and low effort is most noticeable in tight maneuvering, such as turning into a driveway. On the highway, the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering automatically increases steering effort for improved road feel.

Overall, the Continental is tuned toward traditional American tastes. It does not feel as taut as a BMW or Mercedes, but the adjustable steering and suspension allow an owner to dial in some of that European feel.

Final Word

The Lincoln Continental is a luxury car in every sense of the word. It offers a distinctive exterior design and a cozy, integrated interior. There is plenty of power available and its over-the-road manners are impeccable.

1999 Lincoln Continental Specifications:

Standard safety features Dual front and side airbags
Seating capacity 5/6
Standard equipment Anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, air filtration system, anti-theft alarm, memory seat and mirrors, message center, keyless remote locking, power windows, power brakes, AM/FM/cassette stereo, cruise control, traction control
As tested Power moonroof, garage door opener, heated front seats, aluminum wheels, Driver Select System, JBL sound system with compact disc player
Layout Front-wheel drive
Engine 4.6-liter DOHC V-8
Horsepower @ rpm 260 @5750
Torque, lb.-ft. @ rpm 270 @ 3000
EPA fuel economy, mpg city/hwy 17/25
Optional engines NA
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Optional transmissions NA
Wheelbase 109 in.
Length/width/height 207/73.6/56.0 in.
Track f/r 63.0/61.5 in.
Turning circle 41.1 ft.
Head/hip/leg room, f 39.2/55.7/41.9 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r 38.0/56.5/38.0 in
Max cargo volume 18.9 cu. ft.
Suspension, f/r independent/independent
Min. curb weight 3868 lbs.
Towing capacity 1000 lbs.
Tires P225/60R16
Brakes, f/r disc/disc
Fuel capacity 20.0 gals.
Basic warranty 4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in Wixom, Michigan

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