Lincoln Concept C previews a smaller luxury future

  • 19-Jan-2009 12:16 EST
Lincoln Concept C front 3quarter at show.JPG

Lincoln’s Concept C aims to redefine future luxury vehicles.

“People will be happy to buy a smaller car that is better for the environment and more maneuverable in the city, as long as the vehicle has all the attributes they want,” said Peter Horbury, Ford’s Executive Director of Design for The Americas.

His rationale accompanied the NAIAS unveiling of the Lincoln Concept C, an innovative glimpse of what a Lincoln designed for metropolitan life and $5 per gallon fuel prices might be in the not-so-distant future.

Concept C takes its name from Ford’s next-generation C1-3 global small-car platform that underpins the vehicle. The edgy concept is not quite a compact utility vehicle and certainly not a traditional three-box sedan. According to Horbury, the project aims to redefine what a luxury vehicle will be to younger consumers who are already accustomed to smaller, premium quality products.

Freeman Thomas, Director of Ford’s Strategic Concepts Group in California, which led Concept C’s development, added that the vehicle “is about efficiency without compromise.”

Thomas’ design team skillfully used the C1 architecture for maximum packaging efficiency. While Concept C shares the Lincoln MKZ’s 72.2-in (1833-mm) overall width—itself approximately 2 in (50 mm) wider than conventional C-class vehicles. It’s also as long, at 175 in (4445 mm) overall, as a Ford Focus. Inside, the C offers the roominess of a 1961 Lincoln Continental at almost half the length. The airy, spacious cabin with dual bench seats is designed to carry six passengers.

The car features a thoroughly modern all-glass roof, but its lack of B-pillars and “suicide” rear doors are classic Lincoln cues from the Kennedy era. Thomas acknowledges they would be unlikely to reach production. Another visual flight of fancy is the stylish hubless steering wheel with inner and outer rings—the inner ring is fixed and the outer ring controls the steering.

Much closer to reality, however, is Concept C's 1.6-L EcoBoost engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which Ford calls Powershift. The turbocharged inline four is rated at 180 hp (134 kW) and 180 lb·ft (244 N·m); such figures are meant to show that luxury car owners won’t face dramatic performance compromises in the shift to downsized engines. An estimated fuel efficiency of 43 mpg on the highway also proves the overall package is on target.

The chassis hardware boasts wheel-mounted brake rotors as seen recently on some high-performance motorcycles. Their purpose is to reduce mass. Other technology highlights are LED headlights that recognize other cars on the road by “winking” their beams, interior trim made from recycled driftwood, and an advanced version of the Ford/Microsoft Sync system that uses an avatar named “Eva” as its human-machine interface.

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