FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Lincoln MKC
Lincoln's comeback attempt continues.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: June 4th, 2014
Lincoln's in the middle of a much-needed revitalization effort, and the 2015 MKC crossover, which shares its platform with Ford's Escape, is a big part of that effort. It's the second in a line of redesigned vehicles -- the first being the 2013 MKZ, and the next being upcoming redesigns of the MKX crossover and MKS sedan -- that are meant to help revive the struggling luxury brand. With five seats, two engines, two drivetrain layouts, lots of available tech features, and some personalization aspects, the MKC is gunning for the likes of the upcoming Lexus NX, the Audi Q5, and the BMW X3.
On the Road
Almost all of our drive time came in the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder, which is available only with all-wheel-drive. This engine is basically the same as the mill that will be available in the upcoming 2015 Ford Mustang, and in this application it puts out 283 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, while mating to a six-speed automatic transmission.
We found it to be plenty torquey for passing and merging, but the transmission is slow to kick down and the MKC's curb weight (nearly two-tons with the 2.3) also seemed to hold it back. It won't win any stoplight challenges, but we had no issues getting around slow-moving trucks on Southern California's Interstate 5. Even back-road passes weren't nerve racking. Dropping the transmission into Sport mode did increase responsiveness noticeably.
On the ride and handling side, the MKC feels less nimble than the Escape on which it's built, mainly because it's heavier. That lends it a nice, solid ride that isn't harsh on most surfaces (interestingly, the second tester we drove felt rougher on certain surfaces than the first, despite being nearly identical. Chalk it up to pre-production vehicle builds.). There's more body roll than we'd like when the MKC is pushed really hard, but it's not surprising for this class. It does feel firm and planted in most corners, with nicely weighted steering that offers direct feedback. In more sedate driving, it feels like a premium crossover should -- isolating and comfortable but not soft.
The brakes offer aggressive bite, which helps in the urban jungle.
Lincoln concentrated on keeping outside noise out, and did so fairly well here. Some tire noise can intrude on certain surfaces, but that's easily drowned out by turning the radio up.
We also had a few minutes in the 2.0-liter (240 horsepower, 270 lb-ft of torque) EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder that comprises the base engine (available with front- or all-wheel-drive) and found it to be reasonably peppy, but unsurprisingly not nearly as strong as its bigger brother. Our tester did have the extra weight of all-wheel-drive.
We got a chance to sample Lincoln's Park Out Assist system, which allows for hands-free (but not foot-free, the driver must still apply the brakes) parallel parking entry and exit. We found it to work well, but it was a controlled demo, so we'll see how it works in the real world at a later date.
If you like LEDs, this might be the ride for you, as they're everywhere. Speaking of lights, the taillamps extend across the rear hatch, for a nice and cohesive look.
We also dug the split grille and the overall shape of the MKC. The front fascia is understated, and the dual exhaust pipes lend a sporty air. Overall, you get pleasantly elegant look that seems to befit a Lincoln.
In the past, Lincoln has liberally pillaged the Ford parts bin, but here the cabin looks far more unique and suited to Lincoln. We like the look of the push-button transmission selector (mounted on the left of the nav screen) but we wonder if it's functionality will grate on buyers after a while, since it is sort of a novelty.
MyLincolnTouch and Sync infotainment is back, but Lincoln toned down the haptic-touch frenzy, likely after a lot of negative feedback. Volume and tuner knobs are on the center stack, and rocker switches are used for most everything else. Two USB ports reside below the floating center stack in a cubby that's useful for hiding cell phones, and there's a multi-level center console. Like other Ford products, there are five-way steering wheel controls for the phone, infotainment system, and trip computer.
Gauges look artfully done, but the small font will be an issue for some drivers. Most materials are class appropriate, but a too-hard dashboard struck us as a letdown.
Legroom and headroom up front are more than adequate, and the seats were all-day comfortable even on long hauls. Rear cargo space swallowed two backpacks with ease.
Overall, the interior is well-thought out, with steps taken to address the previous problems with Sync and MyLincolnTouch.
The good news is that Lincoln delivered a well-executed product that offers little to complain about. The flaws are few: the AWD models deliver so-so fuel economy, the transmission selector will befuddle some, the price jumps from a base of $33,995 to close to $50K quickly with options, and MyLincolnTouch/Sync still exist. Benefits include passing punch from the 2.3, a quiet cabin, and a ride that perfectly matches the expected use of the MKC in the suburban outback.
The problem is the message -- Lincoln has become an afterthought, and the competition in the class ranges from good to great. Even if the MKC is class-competitive, and it is (we'd still take the Q5, though), will enough buyers become aware of its existence? Those who do will find a lot to like, which is a step in the right direction for Lincoln -- a brand that still needs a few leaps to catch up.
Specs, Features, & Prices
Engines: 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder; 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive (2.0); front-engine, all-wheel-drive (2.0, 2.3)
Power Output: 240 hp /270 lb-ft (2.0); 283 hp / 305 lb-ft (2.3)
Fuel Economy (mpg): 20 city / 29 highway (2.0 FWD); 19 city / 26 highway (2.0 AWD); 18 city / 26 highway (2.3 AWD)
Base Price (incl. destination): $33,995 (2.0 FWD); $36,490 (2.0 AWD); $37,630 (2.3 AWD)
Available Features: Bluetooth, USB port, infotainment system, panoramic sunroof, Approach Detection, satellite radio, remote start, hands-free power liftgate, navigation system, blind-spot warning system, Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Park Assist, Lane-Keeping system, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, Forward Sensing System
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Lincoln MKC, click here: 2015 Lincoln MKC.