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With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|Lincoln C Concept: Big Car Luxury in a Small-Car Package|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Tuesday, 13 January 2009 10:36|
Ask any automotive designer to list the most difficult challenges they encounter, and more often than not they will tell you that getting proper proportions in a small package is always near the top of their list. Yet some small cars have managed to surmount this obstacle; three come immediately to mind: the Volkswagen New Beetle, the New Mini, and the new Fiat 500. What they share in common is obvious; they are modern interpretations of classic, iconic designs that give the driver an undeniable good vibe mixed with a healthy dose of cool. And each of the three became what I like to call the "car de jour" or "it" car when production versions were introduced to the public, with the hype allowing dealers to gouge the early adopters.
But what can happen when you start with a virtually-clean sheet of paper?
Monday morning at the Lincoln reveal at the 2009 North American Inetrnational Automobile Show we got an answer, and it will knock your socks off. The Lincoln C concept is a wide-body luxury car built off of Ford's world C-car platform, the same starting point as the popular Focus. But this is no badge-engineered Focus, it's an entirely new interpretation of what can define a premium small car, even more so than the New Mini. For starters, unlike all the examples listed above, it offers the practicality of four doors, in this case center-opening doors that harken back to the iconic 1961 Lincoln Continental , a design that still looks as fresh today as it did when it was first introduced almost 50 years ago.
On the Lincoln stand with its designer Freeman Thomas, who was instrumental in the design of the VW Concept One that served as the precursor of the New Beetle, we had the chance to closely examine what is sure to shake up people's idea of what a Lincoln can be. For starters, it's small, fitting into the worldwide C-classification of cars like Ford's own Focus. But on the inside it's bigger, bigger than even the 1961 Lincoln Continental that was almost twice as long. With a roof made partly of glass and with ergonomically-contoured seats front and rear, there's a sense of openness and spaciousness absent in any other compact car we can think of.
"Lincoln C is about efficiency without compromise," said Freeman Thomas, director of Ford's Strategic Concepts Group, who led the Lincoln C design team--David Woodhouse, Jeremy Leng, Andrei Markevich and Matt Edwards. When pressed for what inspired the design of the C concept, Ford's Freeman Thomas had this to say. "Beyond what you mentioned--the 1961 to 1963 Lincoln Continentals--other influences were the 1939 to 1941 Lincoln Continental, and the 1956 Mark II, which I was told was a Continental, not a Lincoln Continental as Continental was a separate division at the time." While Freeman would comment for the record about its potential for production he smiled when I mentioned that the suicide doors would be a non-starter. "Think about what we do with the doors on our pickup trucks," was his reply.
Under the hood, providing efficient propulsion, you'll find Ford's 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine and Ford's all-new dry, dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission. This allows the Lincoln C concept to achieve an estimated 43 mpg on the highway, while offering up an impressive 178 horsepower and 177 ft.-lbs. of torque, numbers typical of traditional and larger V-6 engines. PowerShift and outstanding driving dynamics should make the Lincoln C concept fun for the driver.
With all the major reveals for the 2009 NAIAS now completed, it's time to take stock and pick a favorite. Up until the unveiling of the Lincoln C Concept I would have voted for the Audi Sportback, clearly a distinctive take on the idea of a four-door coupe. But after seeing the Lincoln C concept up close, and sitting in it--it didn't hurt that I was surrounded by two of the prettiest models from the Lincoln product team--I have to switch my vote. It now goes to the C concept. If there is one concept here at Detroit that breaks new ground in terms of styling and design, combined with practicality often absent in C concept cars, it's the Lincoln c Concept. As the industry continues to move toward more fuel efficient cars in all categories, this is one concept that should get an immediate green light for production. We'd love to see the basic package (short as a Focus, wide as an MKS) in Lincoln showrooms in 2011, if not sooner and even if badged a Mercury rather than a Lincoln.
(For a different view on the impact of the Lincoln C concept, I suggest that you check out this blog, produced by one of the social media-focused journalists I met this week in Detroit.)