Lincoln needs the MKC to be a hit. The company desperately wants to shake its image as a manufacturer of stodgy sedans and mammoth SUVs. The MKZ sedan was supposed to be the first step in a brand reinvention targeting younger, more diverse customers (i.e. import buyers), but things aren’t going according to plan.
Engines: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder with 240 hp, 270 lb-ft of torque. 2.3L turbo four-cylinder with 285 hp, 305 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy: 2.0L FWD rated at 20/29 MPG city/highway. 2.3L AWD rated at 18/26 MPG city/highway.
Price: Premiere 2.0 L FWD starts at $33,995 after destination charges. Reserve 2.3L AWD costs $44,565.
With the compact crossover market red-hot right now, it makes sense that Lincoln chose this segment for its next premium import fighter. Keeping with current Lincoln tradition, the MKC is based on a Ford platform, the Escape in this case. Lincoln’s engineers wanted to differentiate the MKC from its Ford sibling and gave it a wider stance thanks to an increase of almost an inch in both the front and rear tracks. This not only gives the vehicle a more aggressive, well-proportioned stance, it also helps with driving dynamics.
Escaping the Badge Engineering Reputation
Style-wise the MKC couldn’t be any more Lincoln and aside from a large front overhang, looks nothing like the Escape. Up front is a split-wing grille that leads into a pair of Germanesque headlights. The rear of the MKC features a wraparound liftgate that uses Ford’s foot waving, hands-free accessibility technology. As is all the rage these days, the MKC has LED mirror mounted projectors that project the Lincoln logo onto the ground when you approach the vehicle.
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Inside, the MKC continues the same Lincoln design theme found in the MKZ. The dashboard is swathed in a soft, rubbery plastic housing a slanted MyLincoln Touch screen in the center console. However, unlike many touchscreen-based infotainment units, this one is accompanied by a full complement of tactile buttons including the endangered radio-tuning dial.
Taking up its usual residence on the left hand side of the center console is Lincoln’s signature push-button gear shifter, which may be gimmicky, but is a nice touch to separate Lincoln from the other premium manufacturers.
New Wheel and Soft Seats
Debuting in the 2015 MKC is an all-new Lincoln steering wheel that will eventually find its way into the rest of the brand’s future models. The wheel isn’t exactly ground breaking or memorable, but is pleasant and functional. Leaving a much larger and positive impression on us are the soft, comfortable leather seats. Lincoln has been partnered up with British firm Bridge of Weir for some time now and it’s paying off. Even compared to the leather used in the MKZ, the new seats are far superior.
Proving that Lincoln does indeed want to attract younger customers, the MKC offers built-in smartphone connectivity that allows owners to do things like lock, unlock and locate the vehicle through the MyLincoln Mobile app. For audiophiles, the MKC can also be equipped with THX II surround sound.
Unlike a lot of compact crossovers, the second row seats are designed for adult passengers with higher mounted seat cushions and arm rests. Unfortunately, legroom is tight and feels smaller than the official 36.8-inch measurement suggests. The rear hatch offers 25.2 cubic feet of cargo space that can grow to 53.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Two Turbo Choices
Standard in the MKC is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in top-trim Ford Escapes. It makes 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque and is paired to a six-speed automatic with either front- or all-wheel drive. The MKC can also be had with Ford’s new a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates a healthy 285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. It too is paired with a six-speed automatic, but is only available with all-wheel drive.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Lincoln MKC Video, First Look
Both engines run on regular fuel, with the base MKC 2.0-liter FWD rated at 20 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway. Opting for an AWD MKC will raise fuel consumption as the 2.0-liter is rated at 19 MPG city and 26 MPG highway, while the 2.3-liter is expected to return 18 in the city and 26 on the highway.
These engines are tasked with moving a lot of weight; nearly 4,000 lbs worth in the top of the-line MKC 2.3-liter AWD. The larger four-pot turbo we sampled though is up to the challenge. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent in the 2.3-liter and power can be called upon throughout the rpm range. The new engine pulls with authority and we can’t wait to see how it will perform in the new Mustang.
All MKCs equipped with all-wheel drive come equipped with continuously controlled damping. This system is designed to give the MKC a smooth ride while helping minimize body roll when cornering. Three separate modes – comfort, normal and sport – are available and can be manually selected by the driver.
During our drive, we didn’t notice a difference in ride quality or cornering ability between the three modes. However, sport mode does more than just adjust the dampers. Press the “S” button on the center console and steering feel, throttle response and transmission mapping are all altered to make the MKC a surprisingly nimble vehicle. It isn’t until a corner is taken with too much enthusiasm that the chassis reminds you this is indeed a crossover and not a sports car.
Of course all the latest safety features are included with the MKC such as collision warning with brake support, blind spot detection, lane-keep and cross-traffic alert. Being part of the Ford family, the MKC also features the self-parking assist that will steer the vehicle into and out of parallel parking spaces on its own.
On sale now, the MKC will be available in three trims levels: Premiere, Select and Reserve. The entry level Premiere 2.0 front-wheel drive starts at $33,995 after destination charges, while the 2.3-liter all-wheel drive model starts at $37,630 while the top-trim “Reserve” model starts at $44,565.
That pricing puts the MKC right in line with the Audi Q5, which is what Lincoln benchmarked it against. That’s a bit ambitious because the MKC lacks some of the Q5’s refinement and doesn’t offer the same brand cachet. Lower your expectations a smidgen to stack it up beside the Acura RDX or Infiniti QX50 and it is wholly competitive.
Having a modern, class competitive vehicle shows that the mighty ship Lincoln may not be lost at sea after all. The MKC won’t single-handily stamp out the lumbering old man sedan reputation, but it is a step in the right direction.