Danny Chang's review of car designs

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First Impressions: 2015 Lincoln MKC AWD 2.3L

Sophisticated styling that sets it far apart from its twin, the Ford Escape
Full set of luxury and safety features including a premium ride
Easy to park and drive around the city
Noticeable turbo lag
Bland interior styling
Push button transmission controls

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is undeniably Lincoln’s best effort at making a premium vehicle from the Ford part bin. The MKC shares much of its innards with the Ford Escape, which is not a bad thing in itself considering the latest version of the Escape is a confident example of a compact SUV. Whereas in the past one could easily tell the Lincolns were rebadged Fords with a bigger grille, with the MKC one would have to try really hard to notice the similarities with its more pedestrian brother. And it looks better than its Ford counterpart, unlike the MKZ. The MKC’s exterior is elegant and handsome, with a hands-free rear lift gate that’s reminiscent of the Audi Q7. The abundance of nicely arranged LED lights lends it a premium feel along with the touches of chrome. It is one of the most handsome Lincolns in recent memory. But is this enough to make it a showroom success in the ultra crowded segment of compact luxury crossovers and SUVs? Lincoln certainly hopes it will actually drive foot traffic to its showrooms for a change. But with a price range that overlaps with the likes of Mercedes-Benz GLK, BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, the MKC is facing an uphill challenge.

Driving Impressions
The tester MKC is an AWD model with the optional 2.3L Ecoboost turbo inline 4 engine, rated at 285 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 RPM. It’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode. The low revving torque output is great for pick-up and go, with some noticeable turbo lag. There’s plenty of power at highway speeds for passing as well. The 6-speed shifts smoothly and I hardly touched the manual shifting mode. The MKC’s ride was silk smooth and we did not experience much body roll on the windy small roads of suburban Maryland. Steering feel was solid at both low and highway speeds and is a great improvement over Lincolns of yore. The cabin was quiet and the optional THX sound system was superb, consistent with the premium sticker price of the MKC. Safety features such as collision warning and cross traffic alert are great driver’s helpers, and one of the coolest features on the MKC is Ford’s self parallel parking that makes city parking a cinch.

Exterior Impressions
As mentioned, we are not a big fan of the Lincoln MKZ styling. While they achieved the goal of distinguishing it from its Ford Fusion twin, the design itself something to be desired. The MKC, however, is a winner. The new Lincoln signature grille with horizontal slats works well on the compact crossover, unlike the one on the old MKT. The rear end is nicely executed with a lift gate that covers the entire width much like the Audi Q7. The taillight is also tasteful and not overwhelming as on other Lincolns. We are also fans of the sharp creases in the belt line above the wheel arches. The only ask we have is for the front wheels to be pushed to the corners more for a more sporty stance. Otherwise we find the MKC exterior to be [dare we say!] more handsome than the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
We wish the same could be said of the MKC’s interior. While the materials, fit and finish are a huge improvement over Lincolns a model generation ago, some areas feel overlooked when compared to the interiors of European makes. The center stack is dominated by textureless black plastic that feels cheap to the eye and to the touch, which also covers the transmission control buttons. These sit on the dashboard and is how the driver shifts gears on the MKC. You push a button to put it in reverse, another to put it in drive, and another to put it in park. Same for neutral and sport. It is strange to say the least, and takes a while to get used to. Other than freeing up space in the center console and for novelty, we are not convinced that this way of controlling gears is an improvement over the traditional shifter, mounted on the steering column or in the center console. Interesting to note, the engine start/stop button sits on the same stack, and used to be located at the bottom, near where the occupants would reach to use the touch screen. Lincoln issued a recall to relocate this button to the top of the transmission button stack because people were inadvertently turning off the car while driving because they were trying to use the touch screen. Oops.


The Lincoln MKC is a competent entry in the compact luxury crossover/SUV segment. Not only is it a breakout model in the Lincoln line-up, its stylish design and smooth driving dynamics make it a compelling model to consider among the mostly European entries in this busy segment. The MKC is about to face even more competition as the Japanese luxury makes are also entering the segment. MKC’s price point certainly is premium, but it faces strong entries from BMW, Mercedes and Audi with overlapping price ranges. If you have strong feelings about buying American, or if you want to stand out in the sea of X3s, Q5s, GLKs, and (Acura) RDXes, give the MKC a spin.

[Original review 2015. Edited version on http://www.ebay.com/motors/blog/author/dhchang/]

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