Test Drive: 2017 Lincoln Continental Black Label

Courtesy Lincoln

The car that defined luxury vehicles for post Depression America is back on the road—and it’s as roomy and luxurious as ever before.

There is no indicator on the GPS telling me I’ve transitioned from the Northeast to the Midwest, but the very long Allegheny Mountain Tunnel I’m traveling through seems like a natural divide between the regions. I’m driving the 2017 Lincoln Continental Black Label from New York to Pittsburgh. Both the car and the road I’m on—the Pennsylvania Turnpike—share a storied past.

The east-west roadway traces its inception back to the Great Depression. Considered the grandfather of the Interstate Highway system that crisscrosses the United States today, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, opened in 1940 as the first road with no cross streets, railroad crossings, or traffic lights. The Lincoln Continental nameplate is also a product of the era, making its first appearance in 1939 for Edsel Ford’s personal use. For decades, the Continental defined the American luxury car—and one that might be found traversing that very turnpike—until the moniker disappeared from the Lincoln line-up in 2002.

Now, the Continental is back, and it’s as roomy and luxurious as ever. The comfort-oriented, four-door sedan is equipped with all-wheel-drive and features a six-speed transmission and a turbocharged V-6 engine with 400-horsepower. And while there is a sport mode, it’s really best at smoothing out the ride on a rough road—it’s a vehicle for cruising, after all. There is also an array of safety features, but the adaptive cruise control—which automatically reduces speed when traffic slows—was a welcome attribute for highway driving.

Courtesy Lincoln

The car’s Black Label designation means it’s been fitted with one of three upscale sumptuous interiors. The version I drove is called Chalet, a beautiful blend of white cashmere and espresso brown colors meant to emulate the interior of a ski lodge. (The other two options are a horse-country look called Thoroughbred, and Rhapsody, which has a bluesy urban appeal.) The seats are exceptionally comfortable and can be configured 30 different ways. The electronics suite was easy to use, especially the navigation system, which is among the easiest I’ve used. The Revel audio system is a sweet-sounding plus, too. Add in a very quiet cabin and a long drive turns into a serene experience.

From an exterior standpoint, the Continental is sleek and handsome. One nice styling touch is the door handles, which have been incorporated into the car’s belt line. A small button on the inside of the handle makes opening the doors an easy task.

I pull up to my destination in Pittsburgh, the design-centric Monaco Hotel (433 Chestnut St.; 215-925-2111; monaco-pittsburgh.com).

“Nice ride,” said the doorman.

He’s right.

$78,510 as driven; lincoln.com.