NEW YORK CITY—The New York International Auto Show kicks off with press events later this week, but already the announcements are coming fast and furious. I just came back from the debut of the new McLaren Sports Series, and Lincoln has already unveiled the new Continental — the return of a car with a celebrated history.

As shown the Lincoln is a concept car, but it’s definitely going into production with minor tweaks.

If I’m not mistaken, there’s a Lincoln Continental in "The Maltese Falcon." The first Continental debuted in 1939, the same year as the New York World’s Fair and two years before Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor heated up the screen. It was an understated car, skimpy on the chrome, and it bookended the war years.

1956 Lincoln Continental was an exercise in good taste

The 1956 Lincoln Continental was an exercise in good taste. It was also really expensive and didn't sell. (Photo: Lincoln)

The very first Continental was built as a personal car for Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, based on the existing Lincoln Zephyr. An ultra-smooth V-12 lived under the hood. The second generation of the Continental, the Mark II of 1956 and 1957, continues the tasteful theme. Incredibly expensive at the time, and virtually hand-built, it wasn’t a success but is nonetheless a masterpiece of American design.

The garish third-gen should be remembered only as the basis for Neil Young’s LincVolt. But who can forget the four-door sedan and four-door convertible that followed, from 1961 to 1969? JFK was killed in one. ‘Nuff said.

Who else besides Lincoln offered a four-door convertible in the 1960s?

Who else offered a four-door convertible in the 1960s? Or now, for that matter. I doubt that hat would have stayed on, though. (Photo: Lincoln)

The '90s car wasn’t bad, but let’s skip forward to now, and the all-new Continental, which as the New York Times points out was designed for Chinese as well as American customers. It’s not lost on Ford that GM now sells more Buicks in China than in the U.S., and is now a prestigious luxury brand there. Lincoln, the only surviving alternative brand in the Ford stable, has been lagging on the American market. It’s Chinese network is small but growing, with 11 dealerships and many more planned.

Chinese big-wigs like to be chauffeured, so the new car has a huge rear compartment with fully reclining seats that boast footrests. A refrigerator? But of course. There’s even a folding table so deals can be made.

But wait, there’s more. This is from the press release:

From a panel mounted on the through-center console, rear passengers also can control climate settings and the Revel Ultima audio system, which allows passengers to select from three surround-sound modes: Stereo, Audience and On-Stage.
The new Continental looks good, in an imposing, Maybach kind of way. It gets a new three-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that won’t be offered in any other Ford product. Loaded with luxury and power, it’s not going to be a mileage champ.

Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Autotrader, describes the new Lincoln as “substantive, elegant and worthy of the famous Continental name without being retro.” She also thinks Ford will sell more Continentals in China than in the U.S. Lincoln wants to be selling 300,000 cars in 2020, up from just 82,000 in 2014.

Krebs believes New York is going to be “the U.S. luxury car show of the year.” Cadillac is debuting the CT6 flagship, and there are also new cars from Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Jaguar.

A supercar debut

And then there’s this McLaren 570S Sports Series. I saw it unveiled at a fancy West Side party where aspiring actors in black circulated with trays holding tiny appetizers. Euro-style cool music played.

The McLaren 570S under the lights in New York.

The McLaren 570S under the lights in New York. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)

The rather stunning car was revealed, in orange. It’s handsomeness aside, its rather remarkable how supercars all look rather alike. Encountered in South Beach or on the main drag in Dubai, they have a rather sinister presence. But who wouldn’t want to drive one?

A ride wasn’t being offered in New York. Instead, Jolyon Nash, executive director of global sales and marketing, told us that North America is McLaren’s biggest market, and that the 570S is perhaps “the most important car in our short history.” Why? Price, for one thing. The 570S is said to be around $180,000, which makes it something of a bargain in these circles. A far less exotic Porsche 911 Turbo, for instance, starts at $151,000.

Inside the McLaren 570S. Journalists weren't allowed to sit in it, however.

Inside the McLaren 570S. Journalists weren't allowed to sit in it, however. (Photo: McLaren)

And they didn’t forget about China, because we hear a lower-priced 540C is forthcoming for that market. The 540C could cost $20,000 less than the 570S, says Car and Driver. A Lincoln Continental and a McLaren 540c parked next to each other at a swanky club in Beijing? It will almost certainly happen.

For the record, the 570S sports a carbon fiber chassis, a mid-mounted engine and rear drive. Its twin turbo V8 produces 562 horsepower, and the combination of low weight (just 2,895 pounds) and gobs of power means that the McLaren reaches 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph.

They were showing off the gullwing doors when, after grabbing a passing glass of champagne, I headed into the elevator and the New York night. Here's a video snippet from that evening:

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Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.