Lincoln MKC is a new model, very likely the first Lincoln less than 15 feet long. It joins the ever-expanding spectrum of compact crossovers taking over the luxury market.
The new Lincoln MKC is derived from the same basis as the Ford Escape. However, it is more than just new lights and adornment, with major chassis changes and an engine the Escape doesn’t offer. That MKC shares some components with other Ford and Lincoln products means only they have been proven, and is no different than what Audi and Volkswagen or Toyota and Lexus do.
Distinctive looks inside and out help distinguish the MKC, and it welcomes at night more invitingly than most. We found build quality at least as good as that of its competitors, with real wood and aluminum trim, and leather often better than any challenger.
Technically, the new MKC seats five, but we think it is better suited for couples and families of four or fewer. Grown-up space in front is countered by a cozy rear seat, and cargo space is compromised by the styling, situations not unique to Lincoln in this class. By most dimensions inside and out, the Lincoln MKC splits the Audi Q3 and Q5 and the BMW X1 and X3. MKC is larger than the Range Rover Evoque. It’s similar in size to the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Lexus NX, and a bit smaller than the Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX, and Volvo XC60.
Both four-cylinder engines available in the MKC are turbocharged; a 2.0-liter engine is offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, a 2.3-liter comes only with all-wheel drive. A V6 is not offered nor is it needed, the 2.3-liter is more powerful than an Audi Q5 V6, and offers more torque than any challenger’s V6. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard; there is no diesel or hybrid version.
Lincoln did not try to make a sports sedan of the MKC and that’s a good thing, though it will hustle along a winding road if needed and it has a solid feel. MKC is quiet, comfortable and a great way to cast external stressors aside without being as numb as a couch.
Modern amenities are catered to with various device connections and work with the infotainment system. A THX II-certified 14-speaker sound system easily fills the cavern, a panoramic moonroof lessens claustrophobia in back, and safety systems include collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control. An MKC will steer itself into a parking spot, and unlike many, help you get out of it as well.
Besides slotting in size between its German competitors, Lincoln MKC aims to play the value card. Even at the base price it includes things like pushbutton start/keyless entry, HID headlamps, driver memory and park sensors that are often optional on challengers. Only an Acura RDX comes close in this regard, and while a loaded MKC can top $50,000 similar features elsewhere will cost at least as much.
MKC’s compact size adopts styling elements from Lincoln’s bigger utilities quite well. It doesn’t look a scaled-down MKT but rather a separate, smaller model clearly a Lincoln. It’s well proportioned and handsome as any compact crossover.
Family resemblance is most notable at the bow where the grille wings sweep to the headlights, ending in line with LED running-light tubes. Front fenders carry well forward to the headlights, yielding a strong shoulder crease beneath the inset windshield pillars and inward sweeping hood. On the lower half, smaller outer grille sections maintain the width without looking industrial.
Styling touches include the silver lower trim that mimics skid-plates of four-wheel drives. However, MKC is not an off-road vehicle and this adornment won’t fend off anything more than tall weeds or light snow. Also typical, the lower bodywork edge around the entire periphery is dark plastic for the cosmetic machismo aspect and to minimize paint chipping and scuffing.
Rear fenders have a crease similar to the front that fairs into the taillights, with yet another crease on the hatch for the dipped center lights beneath the nameplate. Another skid plate-style trim frames dual exhaust outlets and virtually all the lights back here are LED. The big hatch wraps the entire tail light assembly in sheetmetal, rather than take the lights right to the edge of the hatch as Audi’s Q5 and Q7 do, and like those cars that big aperture gap running from roof to bumper disappears better on dark-paint cars than light ones. On top-trim cars the hatch will open or close by waving your foot under the bumper.
MKC appears substantial, with lots of painted surfaces on the side, none-too-tall windows and 245/45-19 tires barely seem big enough for it. The driver’s door has touch-points where you can enter a code to unlock it, so you can lock your keys in the car or open it without grabbing a key or front door handle. As the key gets closer to MKC at night the car lights up with lights inside each door handle, at the front and rear ends, and an illuminated door mat with Lincoln logo projected from the rearview mirrors.
Lincoln MKC’s cabin combines materials like real wood, aluminum and leather with a unique design madder possible by omitting the shifter, and a quiet environment for Lincoln’s definition of luxury.
While the base model comes with features many pricier competitors make options, MKC feels most Lincoln-like in Select or Reserve trim. Upholstery is upgraded to cushy Bridge of Weir hide from Scotland, while the steering wheel leather comes from Austria’s Wollsdorf. Soft-touch panels run the full depth of the console and armrests-and-up on the doors; only the lower door panels and perhaps the stalks not as upscale.
Front seats are well bolstered and comfortable, cradling yet easy to get out of. Our taller correspondents would prefer longer seat cushions but did find more than adequate room. The alignment between seat, wheel and instruments felt mildly unconventional.
Rear seats get the same soft-touch leather, though they are not as amply cushioned as the front, especially on the dividing panel between cushion and backrest. Like many crossovers this size, rear-seat knee space and outboard headroom with the moonroof will be the pinch points. It’s great for four of average size, not ideal for a tall family.
Rear seatbacks fold easily, one lever, one headrest release button, to elongate the cargo floor. A compact spare is underfloor, handy small bins to each side, bag hooks and tie-downs, and on most a cargo cover that fits behind reclined rear seats.
Interior storage is average or better. Door bins are smaller, the glovebox better than most, and the bins in the console usefully shaped and appointed. Interior lighting is all LED, recessed above the assist handles in back, yielding plenty of light without dazzling you at night. Upper trims also have ambient lighting in the door and dash panels, cupholders and footwells.
Instruments cover the basics, with screens inside the speedometer, tach and center to pull up various data via steering wheel thumb switches. The wheel also offers plenty of other redundant switching and shift paddles.
The shifter’s replaced by a column of pushbuttons left of the main screen, with engine start/stop bottom. They work like any lever or dial’s PRNDS, though it can be a reach to P. On the stack’s far side, facing the passenger and furthest from the driver, are the hazard light switch and self-parking button; if you’re not fast enough and your passenger loses patience, they may take it upon themselves.
Rocker bars for temperature and fan, and round knobs for volume and tuning have replaced touchy slider controls of some Lincolns, the end result easier, quicker operation of climate and stereo basics. Since these controls are on an abutment off the dash they and the screen are closer and more convenient than usual.
The central screen MyLincolnTouch is better than previous iterations, and Sync voice control is also an option. Some screen buttons are small for large hands or bumpy roads but on the whole it is very functional, if not class-leading.
If you expect a Lincoln to be a softer, gentler version of a Ford, it’s time to reset your thinking.
The Lincoln MKC is well controlled and delivers ride comfort without suggesting any request from the helm will be answered only eventually. Turn the wheel and MKC responds quickly (it’s only 2.5 wheel rotations from lock to lock), doesn’t heel over and feels stable and balanced. We’d not say it has athletic agility or exudes sporty-ness, more that it will comfortably get you there at a surprisingly brisk pace.
The CCD (continuously controlled damping) system’s default Normal mode gives an excellent blend of comfort and control. Many sport-utility crossovers take the sport too far and insist a stiff ride is requisite where the MKC favors a reasonable ride; only on rough roads did we find it less than planted, like the small-sidewall tires were skittering about on the sharp bumps. At the Sport setting the suspension firms up, steering effort increases, engine and transmission become more reactive to throttle input and it changes the engine sound through the noise-cancellation system.
In the Comfort mode the ride goes softest, almost like it’s just lounging, ideal perhaps for miserable infrastructure or gravel byways at moderate speeds. It’s almost contradictory to the sporty 19-inch tires. We found by 45-50 mph the Comfort mode was too soft and we switched back to Normal. That we didn’t touch it again for a few days shows how well that mode works. And perhaps Lincoln’s well aware the best-handling, most agile vehicles don’t come from two-ton boxes five feet high.
The MKC is quiet inside, with little-to-no wind and road noise intrusiveness. Generous torque curves mean engines never need to work hard and only once or twice could our backside feel the idle from the big four-cylinder.
Brakes performed well and have good pedal feel, though spirited drives with repeated maximum braking effort shows they’re designed for driving, not motorsports. The parking brake held a grade better than many electrically engaged units.
MKC 2.0 is rated to tow 3,000 pounds with the Class II tow package, 2,000 without it. Curiously the more powerful 2.3 tow ratings are each 1,000 pounds lower.
Outward visibility is about par for the class, with moderate windshield pillars and a small rear window. On the plus side the low windshield base helps near-quarter vision and shorter drivers, the rear camera display is very good and HID headlights are standard. Spatially challenged drivers will appreciate the self-parking function that will also extricate the car from its spot for departure.
The Lincoln MKC is a very attractive entry in the compact premium crossover segment. By size it fits conveniently among its competitors, and optioned sensibly it offers a good value proposition.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from California.