Lincoln MKC a small but major step forward for automaker
By Jim Bray
If you've been wondering where Lincoln has gone, you may not be alone.
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The company is still around, of course - it has never gone away - but in recent years it seems to have developed a low profile that's only now being raised thanks to new products such as this little SUV, the MKC. And if my week in the version that sports the larger of the two engines offered is any indication, they've come up with a real winner in the "cute ute" market niche.
The MKC shares a lot of its underwear with the current Ford Escape, which isn't a bad place to start. I have two neighbours who drive Escapes and they both like them very much. I do, too - not that a writer's opinion is worth a whit compared to those of actual owners - but Ford has been on a relative roll lately, a roll that had, in my never humble opinion, somewhat missed its upmarket brand until the debut of the MKC.
While you can tell from its exterior that the MKC is an Escape "on steroids," but despite that, the MKC definitely displays its Lincoln roots via a dual sectioned front grille and "Lincoln-like" rear end that somehow looks better here than on other Lincolns, let alone on the Escape itself.
Lincoln Canada's sample MKC was of the 2.3 litre EcoBoost persuasion - as opposed to the standard two litre version - and the company rates its output at a healthy 285 horses and 305 "torques" (the smaller engine puts out 240/270), which in my experience was more than adequate to motivate the vehicle forward. Of course there's some turbo lag, and a bit of buzziness under acceleration, but it isn't bad.
The larger EcoBoost is apparently related closely to the new Mustang's entry level engine, and though it's merely okay in the Mustang (based upon my experience during a very short drive in one last fall), it's fine here and you really don't need more (other than the arguable fact that you can never have too much oomph!). The smaller engine is basically the same as the one available in the Escape, and there's nothing wrong with that, either.
Unlike the Escape, however, there's no front wheel drive version of the MKC available - but that's okay; all-wheel drive is better than FWD anyway, especially if you're going to be driving in inclement weather on roads that are less than optimal.
MKC's are slung via an independent MacPherson strut-type suspension (with a stabilizer bar) up front; the rear gets a fully independent multi-link suspension (with a stabilizer bar and progressive rate springs). This is pretty standard stuff these days and the Lincoln uses them well, with a nice suspension feel that Goldilocks would be sure to love - not too soft and not too jarring, though of course it tips the luxury/sport ledger on the luxury side (this is a Lincoln, after all). The result is that this is definitely not a Lincoln that, as I read someone claim about the brand somewhere once, "nods agreeably" over frost heaves and bumps.
The crossover also features a nice six speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted closely at hand behind the steering wheel. Shifts are smooth and, though the manual mode can't compete with more sporty ones, it's undoubtedly just fine for the purpose at hand - luxury driving with a bit of sporting pretension.
Naturally, you get power-assisted disc brakes all around, with ABS and the like, and the pedal feel is very good. There's also a sophisticated "AdvanceTrac" system with Roll Stability Control to help you keep the roof up top when the roads get slippery or curvy. The steering is electrically-assisted and the feel is fine.
Inside there's room for four comfortably, five in a pinch, and plenty of soft touch surfaces that up the hedonism ante over the Escape's. And besides stuff like Lincoln's dash-mounted shift selector, you can add stuff like the $995 premium THX-certified audio system Lincoln's test unit had, which is a very nice system. The sample had a total of $14,230 worth of options, all told, and most of them are things I'd want were I configuring an MKC.
For example, the sample came with "equipment group 102A," which included dual power folding heated outside mirrors, a lovely panoramic sunroof, voice-activated navigation system and Ford's (er, Lincoln's) nifty hands free lift gate, which will open for you when you wave your tootsie under the rear bumper - which is great when your hands are full of groceries or whatever. The package also includes heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel and a "climate package".
Other options included a Class II trailer towing package and the Technology Package that consists of such things as active park assist (the vehicle will parallel park itself), adaptive cruise control with collision warning (as opposed to cars' old-style normal collision warnings that consisted of a big banging noise and a shower of shattered glass and metal), blind spot sensors with cross traffic alert (which warns you if you're about to back over pedestrians or other vehicles) and a lane keeping assist system. It also had bigger wheels - 19 inch instead of the standard 18 (you can order 20's as well).
Add up all this stuff and the price rises from the basic $39,940 to a grand total, sans extra pounds of flesh, $54,270. A lot of cash, perhaps, but you've got a very nice crossover for that amount of lucre.
Lincoln includes some other nifty features you may or may not care about, including the way the MKC senses your approach (undoubtedly via the key fob in your pocket), at which time the exterior lights fire themselves up, as do the door handle pockets and ambient lighting inside, to make you feel welcome as you climb in. Isn't that sweet and inclusive?
Despite the mild buzziness of the engine that seeps into the cabin, the Lincoln also comes with active noise control, which the company says reduces "unwanted engine noises while enhancing desired sound to help provide a more pleasant driving experience." It does this by having microphones monitor the cabin's sound profile, then inverting it in a manner similar to that of noise cancelling headphones. It seems to work.
Direct competitors to the MKC include Lexus' new NX 200t, as well as the small SUV/crossovers from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. I'm not sure the interior materials are quite up to those other vehicles' standards, but it's definitely a nice and welcome step ahead for Ford/Lincoln and I have a feeling we'll all be seeing quite a few MKC's on the road in the coming years.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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