It is two-thirds the length of a limousine. The ground is a digital screen. And instead of doors, the entire rear of the vehicle opens like a flower when you get in.
This is the Lincoln Model L100 concept, Ford’s big bid to reinvigorate its dormant luxury brand 100 years after acquiring Lincoln. As the first concept created with input from Anthony Lo, Ford’s new design director, who was hired in 2021, the vehicle will almost certainly never launch. However, it demonstrates Lincoln’s evolutionary point of view and how the dusty brand is strategizing to compete in a luxury vehicle market soon to be defined by electrification and autonomous vehicles.
“If you think of private jets or luxury trains in the past, you really enjoy the ride. And the journey becomes rewarding,” says Kemal Curic, director of global design for Lincoln. “We thought, what is the space that is needed? . . to create this personal sanctuary?
While Lincoln was the best-selling luxury car brand in the US in the late ’90s, the decades have been tougher since, as Lincoln slowly lost market share to foreign competitors and crossovers; Great cars like Lincolns feel like a dusty artifact from an era of ultra-cheap gas. Today, the U.S. luxury car market, once defined by bulky, ornate gas-guzzling vehicles, is dominated by Tesla’s line of streamlined electric cars.
These changes prompted Lincoln to enter China in 2014, where it has since gained a notable foothold, thanks to its Corsair crossover. As of last year, Lincoln sold more cars in China than in the US, while Ford has opted to go all out on trucks and crossovers in the US. But with Lincoln promising a full fleet of electric vehicles for 2030, the elimination of combustion engines allows designers the opportunity to rethink almost every element of the vehicle, and who may want to buy one.
“With a solid-state battery pack, we can really reinvent luxury travel,” says Curic.
The interior of the Lincoln Model L100: “personal sanctuary”
To reimagine the feeling of luxury travel, designers began thinking about the experience inside the vehicle rather than outside. As Curic explains, they wanted to build a suitably opulent “personal sanctuary” cabin, and its proportions are what brought the L100 to its gigantic proportions.
The whole vision of the L100 hinges on us achieving a fully autonomous future. Since last year, even Tesla has admitted that he could never deliver on that promise. But it’s worth noting that a Ford spokesman referred to the L100 as a “moonshot,” meaning he doesn’t intend to look just 5 or even 10 years into future technology, but potentially decades.
As such, the L100 celebrates the promise of fully functional autonomous driving, much like other forward-thinking car concepts, with seats that can swivel inward to face each other when the car is driving itself (which, according to Curic, it would be a big difference). most of the time). However, when two people are traveling alone, he imagines that they would choose to sit in the rear “king and queen seats”, as if driven by a chauffeur.
These seats float above the floor in a dramatic effect arising from the fact that the entire background is a screen, creating effects similar to those seen at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games opening ceremony at the National Stadium. But the experience is not all screens. Much of the L100’s walls and ceiling are actually glass with adjustable opacity, offering generous views when you want them and privacy when you don’t.
To control the vehicle, there is no wheel or tablet inserted into the console. Instead, a digital map sits between passengers like a board game, and you place a glass “chess piece” from the vehicle where you want to go. It is an intentionally embellished point of contact to bring a superior tactile quality to a digital user interface. (For times when you would like to drive, you would grab this piece and place it in the driver’s seat area, where you could steer the car forward, backward, left, and right with the help of your driving sensors automatic).
“Compared to autopilot on an airplane, the part the pilot enjoys the most is taking off and landing,” says Curic. “It’s the same idea here.”
The exterior of the Lincoln Model L100: dramatic silhouette informed by aerodynamics
Meanwhile, the exterior of the L100 stretches over 20 feet in length. It is long, but paradoxically not as long as its proportions might make it seem. While it’s the longest Lincoln ever, its front end (which doesn’t need a combustion engine inside) is actually the shortest in the brand’s history. 85% of the vehicle is dedicated to passenger space compared to 60% of current vehicles.
Its dramatic silhouette is fully informed by aerodynamics, Curic says, right down to its covered wheels that prevent air from getting trapped in the wheel wells. Just like big cars burn more fuel than small ones, big electric vehicles still burn more electricity than small ones. This size impacts range, cost of ownership and environmental impact, so Lincoln designers are working to get every bit of aerodynamics out of the design.
Within these restrictions, the body of the L100 still manages to express itself. Instead of the typical doors, its back opens with an opulent mechanical adornment, a touch you might see on a high-end, car-scale watch. For those worried about how I might get out in a tight parking spot, I was told the sensors would monitor how wide the doors might open. But the vehicle is clearly designed more for making a dramatic arrival at a mansion rather than unpacking the family in a crowded parking lot at Chili’s.
The seamless front end ditches any grille and instead features Lincoln’s new signature, a gloss black front end featuring piano string lines. (Vehicle nerds may recognize this front end from Lincoln’s Star EV concept, which debuted earlier this year. Ironically, even though Lincoln released the Star to the public first, Lo tells me its design was actually based on the L100.) ).
While the gloss black touch has a striking effect, I can’t help but wonder why the car has a traditional front end. Autonomous electric vehicles, especially those destined to spark decades of advancement like the L100, fundamentally don’t require a long hood, since there’s no motor and no driver. So I ask Curic if Ford and Lincoln really believe that the cars of the future will continue to be designed this way, or if the L100’s design is some kind of fictitious concession to our collective imagination, to be found intriguing by the public rather than strange. or unpleasant.
Curic insists that, despite what may be possible with future technology, cars will always be defined by their front end.
“There’s something with personality that we don’t want to give up,” he says. “It’s like being human. We all have individual faces and different personalities, and that’s not going to go away.”