Lincoln-Mercury chose to bring out the 1994 Continental in June, several months ahead of the normal fall introduction date.The reason, some folks at Lincoln-Mercury say, is that when selected media representatives were given a sneak peek at the car at the New York Auto Show in April, they did cartwheels and somersaults over the machine. To hear the Ford folks describe the enthusiasm for the car, you had to suspect the '94 Continental almost had to be wrapped up and hidden from reporters to keep them from drooling all over the base coat/clear coat before paying customers had a chance to view it. If any of you have seen the news media perform cartwheels and somersaults and then drool, you know it isn't a pretty sight. Usually, however, it's not anew car that prompts such reaction-typically, it is some guy at the bar hollering, "The drinks are on me." Because the folks from Ford have been known on occasion to get a bit carried away in trying to describe reaction to one of their new cars, we optedto test-drive a '94 Continental on our own-but not before putting on a bib. To be honest, the spirit may be willing, but the bones have prohibited us from performing a somersault or cartwheel for a few decades. Drool we can do, but that other rigorous physical activity is a no-no. The Continental is a nice car, but the differences between the 1993 and '94models fall into the "very modest" category-a new grille and taillamps and bodyside moldings. That's about it. Yet the base price went up $505. You see, the real reason Lincoln-Mercury brought out the car early and why some are trying to promote the car as a crowd pleaser is that an all-new Cadillac DeVille comes out this fall for the 1994 model year. To beat Cadillacto market with its luxury sedan, Lincoln-Mercury threw a new grille and headlamp treatment on the '93 Continental and passed it off as an extensive redesign. You have to wonder what Lincoln-Mercury will do in 1995, when a real, honest-to-goodness sheet-metal remake of the Continental will appear, along with a version of Ford's 32-valve, 4.6-liter V-8 under the hood. Ford wasted the cartwheel and somersault routine on a different grille. What can it possibly come up with when the entire car changes? And if consumers have to pay $505 more for a new grille and taillamps, whatwill Ford charge when the entire car is redone? Anyway, the '94 Continental is a roomy, comfortable, luxurious machine withabout every feature imaginable as standard, starting with the important ones-dual air bags and anti-lock brakes-and moving down to the novel ones-a mini pull-down sun visor directly above the rearview mirror to guard against glare the regular visors might let through. There are a couple other new features, too, such as rebound springs that improve ride by eliminating lift during acceleration and dive during hard braking. There's also a new remote seat feature t hat's standard in the Signature Series and optional on the Executive Series. With it, when you pressthe button on the key fob to unlock the doors, the memory seat adjusts to the driver's preferred setting. The adjustment can be programmed for each driver'skey fob. The 3.8-liter V-6 engine is quiet and provides adequate performance. The EPA rating is 18 m.p.g. city/26 highway. A digital fuel gauge informs you how many gallons are left in the tank. Ride leans toward soft and cushy but not sloppy. Computer-controlled air suspension with adaptive ride control keeps the car body level when the road surface isn't or when you load the trunk with two weeks' worth of vacation luggage. There also are front and rear stabilizer bars. Handling is good, thanks in large part to speed-sensitive power steering, which eliminates any weighty feel in the wheel. But we expect Ford will have had sufficient time by 1995 to analyze the suspension on the Cadillac Seville STS to co me up with an even more aggressive, road-hugging sports suspension for the Continental. The base price of the Executive Series Continental we drove is $33,850; theSignature Series' base price is $35,750. Standard equipment includes power, four-wheel disc brakes; tinted glass; power, heated mirrors; rear-window defroster; intermittent windshield wipers; tilt steering; cruise control; power windows and door locks; inside deck-lid and fuel-filler door releases; AM/FM stereo with cassette and automatic power antenna; leather-wrapped steering wheel; power driver's seat; and front floor mats. Our test car added a compact-disc player at $617, upgraded JBL audio systemat $576, power moonroof at a very hefty $1,550, alarm at $295 and leather seats at $914. There also was a preferred-equipment package at $1,023 that included keyless, illuminated entry system as well as a comfort and convenience group consisting of power, tilt passenger's seat; dual, illuminated, visor vanity mirrors; automatic headlamp on/off; power deck-lid pull-down; and rear floor mats. The sticker swelled to $38,825, and a $625 freight charge brought it to $39,450. An option-package savings discount of $1,023 erased the preferred-equipment package cost and brought the total to $38,427.
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