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Budget Buy: $30,000 for a Lincoln Continental vs Cadillac CT6

Large and luxurious, the Cadillac CT6 and Lincoln Continental offer great value on the used market at $30,000. But which is the better buy?

Affordable Luxury Barges

netcarshow.com
netcarshow.com

While the heyday of American land yachts might be behind us, the last of the large luxury sedans have also been among some of the most impressive. The final generation of the Lincoln Continental wasn’t enough to save the nameplate from extinction. But don’t let that fool you, the Continental is as smooth and cosseted as anything Lincoln has ever built. Cadillac’s CT6 seeks to balance that kind of luxury with a good old dose of American muscle to deliver a greater performance edge.

On the used market, both of these cars represent a significant value. With their naturally steep depreciation curves, even at just a few years old, the Continental and CT6 can be had for around half their original MSRPs. For this comparison we chose a ceiling of $30,000 for our budget, allowing for even the higher trim levels to be considered.

Specs

2017 Lincoln Continental 3.0L V6 - carsforsale.com
2017 Lincoln Continental 3.0L V6 - carsforsale.com

The 2017 Lincoln Continental has three engine options. The base engine is a 3.7L V6 making 305 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. For added umph, there’s a 2.7L twin-turbo V6 with up to 335 horsepower and a big jump to 380 lb.-ft. of torque. The top-of-the-line option is a 3.0L twin-turbo putting up 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. All engines come with the same six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on the first two engines, with all-wheel drive as an option while AWD comes standard on the 3.0L. Fuel economy comes in at 18 city and 27 highway mpg for the 3.7L, 17/26 for the smaller twin-turbo, and 16/24 for the 3.0L.

2017 Cadillac CT6 3.6L V6 - carsforsale.com
2017 Cadillac CT6 3.6L V6 - carsforsale.com

The 2017 Cadillac CT6 offers a similar selection of three engines. First up is the base 2.0L four-cylinder making 265 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes in rear-wheel drive. Next is a 3.6L naturally-aspirated V6 with 335 horsepower and 284 lb.-ft. of torque. Both it and the four-cylinder come with an eight-speed automatic. The range topping option is a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 producing 404 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes with a more robust eight-speed automatic specific to the engine. Fuel economy breaks down as follows: the four-cylinder nets 22 city and 30 highway mpg, the 3.6L gets 18/27 mpg, and the 3.0L 18/26 mpg.

Driving & Performance

2017 Lincoln Continental - netcarshow.com
2017 Lincoln Continental - netcarshow.com

The Lincoln Continental delivers a plush ride worthy of the Continental’s legacy while also providing good pull from its turbocharged engines. The top 3.0L twin-turbo offers the most kick, capable of motivating the heavy Continental from 0 to 60 mph in around 5.5 seconds. The six-speed holds the powertrain back a bit, as it can hesitate before shifting. Adaptive steering and suspension aid in refining the large sedan’s handling, which is decent while never letting you forget it’s true dimensions. Overall, the Continental provides a serene driving experience topped off with more than ample power from the muscular 3.0L.

2017 Cadillac CT6 - media.cadillac.com
2017 Cadillac CT6 - media.cadillac.com

The Cadillac CT6 puts in the work to be one of the sportier options in the segment and notable more athletic than the statelier Continental. In part, the CT6 is able to achieve this thanks to its shortened length, allowing it to drive like a smaller car. Both the naturally-aspirated and twin-turbo V6s provide good power, the latter is especially responsive thanks to the tandem work with the upgraded eight-speed transmission. Steering and suspension are also tuned for performance and get even tighter with the optional Active Chassis package equipped. While the stiffness is nice for agility, it does come at a price to ride comfort. The CT6 lacks the magic-carpet quality of other large luxury sedans, the Continental included. If speed is a priority, however, the twin-turbo-3.0L equipped CT6 will deliver a 0-60 run right around five seconds flat.

Comfort & Interior

The cabin of the Lincoln Continental is predicably palatial replete with soft touchpoints and impressive, high-quality materials scattered across the interior. The rear seats are particularly spacious with a full 41.3 inches of legroom to stretch out in. Design is pleasant without taking many risks. The dash mounted push-button gear selector is an odd design that takes getting used to. The Continental’s infotainment system, the SYNC 3, is straightforward to navigate and comes housed in a responsive 8-inch touchscreen. The digital gauge cluster, while nice, is a step behind both the German competition and the CT6. The 16.7 cu.-ft. of trunk space is among the segment’s more generous.

Similarly, the Cadillac CT6 is laden with lots of soft-touch materials and a great fit and finish to its interior. Unlike the more conservative Continental, the design of the CT6 is a bit more eye-catching. The seats aren’t quite as adjustable as those in the Lincoln, but they are still quite comfortable, nonetheless. The massage function, while a nice party trick, isn’t nearly on the level of what you’ll find in say the Mercedes-Benz E– or S-Class. The CT6 features a fully configurable digital gauge cluster with impressively crips graphics. The large infotainment screen (10.2 inches) features the intuitive Cadillac Q software. It that’s not to your liking, they system also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, neither of which are available on the Continental. Though behind the Lincoln’s, the trunk, at 15.3 cu.-ft., is still among the largest in the segment.

Trims & Features

2017 Lincoln Continental Premier - carsforsale.com
2017 Lincoln Continental Premier - carsforsale.com

The 2017 Lincoln Continental comes in four trim levels: Premier, Select, Reserve, and Black Label. The base Premier trim starts with items like keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker stereo, synthetic leather seats, power and heated front seats, heated side mirrors, 18-inch wheels, and a rearview camera. The Select trim adds real leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, active noise cancellation, power door closers, and adaptive steering and suspension. The Reserve trim gets ventilated 24-way power adjustable front seats, navigation, tri-zone climate control, as well as blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts. The top Black Label trim features a 19-speaker Revel Ultima stereo, a CD player, Alcantara headliner, rear seat HVAC controls, and 20-inch wheels.

2017 Cadillac CT6 Luxury - carsforsale.com
2017 Cadillac CT6 Luxury - carsforsale.com

The 2017 Cadillac CT6 also comes in four trims: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum. The base CT6 starts with leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an 8-speaker stereo, and optional navigation. The Luxury trim adds a power trunk lid, automatic parking assist, 10-speaker Bose stereo, and a 360° camera. The Premium Luxury trim adds a heads-up display, and options for a 34-speaker Bose stereo upgrade and the Active Chassis package with adaptive suspension and rear-wheel steering. The Platinum trim rounds things out with all of the above plus premium leather upholstery and 8-way power rear seats.

Tangibles and Intangibles

2017 Lincoln Continental - media.lincoln.com
2017 Lincoln Continental - media.lincoln.com

For $30,000, neither the Lincoln Continental nor the Cadillac CT6 would disappoint those looking for a classically American take on the large luxury sedan. The Lincoln comes out slightly ahead, however, with a smooth and becalming ride and a marginally superior cabin, thanks in part to that capacious back seat. The CT6 does get points for a longer list of standard features and livelier handling. But then, if it’s corner carving you’re looking for this is probably not the segment for you.

Less tangibly, there’s the design of each car. The Continental’s is the more conservative of the two and is all the better for it, both inside and out. Cadillac’s current take on “cutting-edge” is heavy on bold angles but light on actual elegance. In a segment where the understatement is often the loudest thing you can do, eschewing simplicity is a design sin in my book and the real tie-breaker in an otherwise close contest between two great used luxury cars.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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