The Lincoln Zephyr is blunt rationality wrapped up in beguiling design

Lincoln has revealed its latest luxury sedan, the Lincoln Zephyr, delivering on the promise of the concept car of the same name, but with a sting in the tail for anyone in the US. The production Zephyr follows the Zephyr Reflection concept unveiled back in April, when Lincoln demonstrated that there was absolutely still a place for "American Luxury" in the four-door sedan space.

Skip forward to today, and the irony is that the place it has in mind isn't the US, but China. In fact, the Zephyr will be Lincoln's first locally-produced sedan in China, for the Chinese market.

Outside, it's the newest iteration of Lincoln's "Quiet Flight DNA" design language. There are clear parallels to previous Lincoln sedans, like the Continental, but with a more flowing aesthetic overall. The oversized grille is bisected by a full-width horizontal stripe, which links the LED headlamps together. That – and the Lincoln badge – glow with their own illumination.

At the rear, there's a new floating 3D taillamp design, and a glowing "LINCOLN" badge. The sharp crease-line running the length of the Zephyr picks up where the discontinued Continental left off, trading some of that car's slab-sided proportions for something more swooping and angular. A bold vent and badge combination starts in the front fenders and then extends through the doors to the front handles.

For scale, the sedan is "nearly close," Lincoln says, to the mid-large-sized category which is still so popular in China. It has a 114+ inch wheelbase to prioritize rear cabin space, and a new Embrace and Farewell signature lighting feature which makes a show of the exterior illumination waking up as you approach the car. It also includes what Lincoln claims is its "largest ever Welcome Mat" that's projected onto the ground.

Inside, the dashboard is dominated by a 27-inch touchscreen that spans across its width. The driver gets a dedicated 12.3-inch digital cluster. The former can be customized to accommodate different layouts, with a new iteration of Lincoln's Constellation HMI with its Dashcard UI, and Solo, Co-pilot, and Individual intelligent operation modes. SYNC+ phase-4 has been customized especially for the Chinese market, and there's 128-color ambient lighting and even a "digital scent" system.

Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 2.0 and Lincoln ActiveGlide are available, for driver assistance, though despite China's aggressive embrace of electrification the Zephyr will stick with a 2.0-liter gas engine paired with an 8-speed transmission.

The reality is, of course, that while Lincoln can probably find plenty of people in the US who'll admire the Zephyr's sweeping lines, actually getting them to part with their money for a new sedan is a much tougher challenge. The automaker's American line-up currently consists of nothing but SUVs, with the Corsair as the smallest and the Navigator as the largest. Blunt market realities shaped that strategy, the general trend toward utility models like SUVs and crossovers forcing the Ford-owned company's hand as it pared back on the body style US drivers simply aren't drawn to any longer.

Arguably the biggest surprise, then, is Lincoln's choice of drivetrain. China has been eager to oust combustion engines from new vehicles, pushing automakers to switch to all-electric platforms instead. Lincoln still lacks a pure EV – though has said it aims to go all-electric by 2030 – though opted not to even use one of its plug-in hybrid drivetrains for the Zephyr. That could well prove to be a cost consideration, mind.

Sales of the Zephyr will begin in China in Q1 2022. Lincoln hasn't confirmed local pricing yet, but we do know enough to be sure that those of us in the US will just have to look on, enviously, from the sidelines.