Posted By Lawrence Ulrich @
Ford’s once-presidential luxury brand has struggled for sales and relevance. For decades, Ford has played the cold-and-withholding parent:
It has failed to grant Lincoln its rightful inheritance, including stand-alone vehicle platforms that could help Lincoln compete against healthier luxury brands.
This compact luxury SUV is one of the best-looking vehicles in its class, and that’s a good start. The MKC is reasonably powerful, fuel-efficient and quiet, and offers all the features you’d expect in a group that includes the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLK and Acura RDX. Compared with the Ford Fusion-based MKZ sedan, the MKC does a better job at hiding its common roots in the Escape.
Ford’s latest Ecoboost, a 2.3-liter, makes its debut in the MKC. All eyes are on this engine, but not for reasons Lincoln might prefer: The 2015 Ford Mustang will offer a pumped-up version of this Ecoboost with roughly 305 hp.
Available only with AWD, Lincoln’s version still gets a solid 285 horses and 305 lb.-ft. of torque, with an EPA fuel-economy rating of 18/26 mpg. Lincoln’s pushbutton automatic transmission frees up console space for storage, with a row of wafer-sized dashboard buttons replacing a conventional shift lever.
That automatic remains a mere six-speed, versus the seven- and eight-speed units adopted by many rivals. With or without the available steering-wheel paddle shifters, the transmission’s often-vague, slow gear changes can’t match the crispness or the accelerative talents of near-magical eight-speeds in the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The wheels, including optional 19-inch five-spoke alloy (18’s are standard) provide handsome counterpoint to the body. The MKC’s back end is especially appealing, including slender C-shaped taillamps and a silvery, contrasting lower bumper.
But pop that gate, via an optional feature that opens it with a waggle of a foot below the bumper, and the Audi illusion vanishes: The interior hatch area is a sea of unsightly, knock-knock plastic. Hello, Ford.
Oh, and that leather: Lincoln says the front-bucket hides on uplevel models are sourced from Scotland’s renowned Bridge of Weir, but you’d never know it from the vinyl-esque gloss and feel.
Here, the Lincoln give up an inch or two of rear legroom to the class leaders. There’s 25.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row, opening to 53.1 cubes when you fold the split 60/40 seats.
Pointed along snaking canyon roads, the Lincoln comports itself with professionalism, if not the sporty connectedness of the BMW or Audi. Wind noise is virtually nonexistent, and the MKC feels serene and well-planted. An optional driver-adjustable suspension ($650) adjusts firmness over three modes.
But the Comfort setting makes the Lincoln wallow like a hippo in a water hole, so forget that one. Normal and Sport settings establish stronger control without sacrificing ride quality.
During a lunch break, we also tested the Lincoln’s well-designed, optional self-parking feature, which now adds a “park out” function: The MKC can swivel itself both into and out of a tight parallel parking space. All the driver has to do is shift gears and work the brake.
That self-parking feature, however, is one of many gizmos that are either part of pricey option bundles, or only offered on high-end editions that push the Lincoln toward uncomfortable pricing terrain.
The names of those Select and Reserve models (“Premiere” is the starter version) recall special wines. And like suspiciously priced Napa Cabernets, a shopper may start asking why Lincoln’s domestic vintage can cost as much as European offerings.
Optioned up to $40,000, the Lincoln costs only about $3,000 more than a loaded Escape, and that seems eminently fair. But closer to $50,000, comparisons with the Audi, BMW and Benz aren’t entirely favorable.
With front-wheel-drive, that MKC boasts class-best fuel economy of 20/29 mpg in city and highway. Though with AWD, its 19/26 mpg rating tops the 2.3-liter model by just 1 mpg in the city.
The more-powerful 2.3L AWD Premiere starts at $37,630. That rises to $40,860 for a Select or $44,565 for the Reserve — the latter’s features including voice-activated navigation, blind-spot monitor and an enormous panoramic sunroof. Stuffed to its SUV gills with 19-inch wheels and technology and climate packages, our 2.3L AWD Reserve reached $50,405.