No-excuses luxury vehicle. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair, which replaces the old MKC, embodies the brand's newfound direction. In recent times, Lincoln has a reputation for not meeting true luxury standards with copy-and-pasted Ford products. The Corsair is doing its best to lead a product renaissance with its distinctive design, elegant interior, and new emphasis on luxury – all done proudly and boldly in the American tradition.
Elegance exemplified. In the quest to stand out, a lot of brands have gotten carried away with extroverted designs – just look the latest Lexus lineup for proof. The Lincoln Corsair dismisses these ugly-sweater contests.
The aesthetic ethos here recalls the brand's seminal 1961 Continental – dapper, refined, and restrained. There are no awkward proportions or forced lines. From nearly any angle, the Corsair's sheet metal just looks right.
It's a theme that carries over into the interior. The horizontally-oriented dashboard offers a sense of width that belies the littlest Lincoln's tidy dimensions. First-rate materials cover nearly all surfaces and wouldn't be out of place in the brand's $80-grand Navigator. Seats are supremely comfortable, and the available 24-way adjustable units will have you wishing your commute was longer.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that there are no pretenses of sport to be found; the luxury here is of a serene sort. Forget about things like carbon fiber and blacked-out trim, performance option packages, or paddle shifters sprouting from the steering wheel. That the interior chimes were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra emphasizes the kind of luxury Lincoln is aspiring to build.
Quiet competence. Like most of its peers in the market, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the Lincoln Corsair's standard powerplant. This particular unit makes 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, which is about in line with the rest of the class. It operates without drama or fanfare and has plenty of power to overtake traffic and take on hills.
If you're hankering for more, there's an available 2.3-liter turbo-four that's good for 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. On paper, it's a sizable power bump that looks as if it would inject some verve into the Corsair. In reality, we found the extra oomph only came into play while passing on the interstate or chugging up a grade. Around town, the bigger engine's reserve of additional power remains largely unnoticed. All-wheel drive is mandatory with this motor.
Both engines hook up to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that's as unobtrusive as a good butler. If you're trying to get a bit more rowdy, the Excite mode, which would be called Sport in nearly any other car or crossover, cuts out the top two gears and will hold the remaining gears longer before shifting.
Perhaps this is a nod to our sport-obsessed era, but such a drive mode seems to fly in the face of what the Corsair is all about and feels gimmicky as a result. It's like seeing your dentist wearing cleats around their office – it just doesn't jive.
Still in the works is a hybrid variant that should return better mileage than the EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon combined for the 2.0-liter and 24 mpg for the 2.3-liter. If it can top the 31 mpg combined of the hybrid Lexus NX 300h, the gas-electric Corsair will steal the title of most efficient in its class.
Over the road, the Lincoln's suspension is composed and competent, You'd never guess the basic underpinnings are shared with the new Ford Escape. Lincoln ensured this would be the case by using a more upmarket suspension compared to that found under the Ford.
They've stuffed a good bit more sound deadening throughout as well. The result is a tomb of a car that lets in little of the outside world. Those seeking an automotive isolation chamber won't be disappointed by the Corsair.
Questionable value. So, the Lincoln Corsair has got decent powertrains, some suave-looking sheet metal, and a ritzy interior. Is there anything not to like? Yes, the value proposition.
Base models start at an entirely appropriate $36,940, but things shoot up fast from there. If you want the bells and whistles, Lincoln has bundled them in such a way that you'll be possibly spending five figures just to get one or two particular options.
Case in point are the available 24-way seats. They appear on the online configurator as a standalone option, but they're in fact only available on Reserve models equipped with the Reserve II Package. That upgrade costs a princely $11,180 by itself; with the seats, it comes to $12,490.
A less egregious example is the Technology Package that's available on the Reserve trim. It's supposedly a $2,000 option that bundles wireless charging, a phone-as-a-key option, jewel LED lights, and a 12.3-inch digital cluster. But Lincoln won't let you have it without the $4,150 Reserve I Package. The total upcharge comes to $6,150.
All this is to say that the flagship features don't come cheap on the Corsair. And Lincoln's strategy with the options and packages means it isn't very difficult to wind up with a fully-loaded $60,000-plus Corsair.
That's a bottom-line price thousands more than that of a comparable Cadillac XT4, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, or BMW X3. A fully-loaded Acura RDX is a downright bargain compared to this Lincoln.
For a brand still digging itself out of a Town Car-sized grave, is such lofty pricing justified? It's up to the consumer to make that call. But in a segment where the badge on the hood matters, a $60 grand compact Lincoln seems like a hard sell against the cheaper and more highly esteemed European competition.
Final thoughts. Some products are merely tasked with carrying the torch from their predecessor. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair faces the challenge of raising up a freshly lit torch and holding it high in amidst some very tough competition.
And yet it manages to do just that. Inside and out, the Corsair is convincingly posh. There are no traces of a Ford product to be seen, touched, or felt. There's silence and indulgence in equally generous measures. It is, in short, a proper luxury crossover for the modern era.
As expensive as it is, the Corsair is proof of Lincoln's successful return to the business of building luxury cars. Look for it to start impressing brand snobs everywhere.
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