- Strong turbo engine
- Excellent steering, handling
- Impressive cabin materials
- Cramped back seat
- Transmission doesn't match engine's urgency
- Turbo fours aren't always misers
The 2015 MKC doesn’t go far in redefining Lincoln as a brand, but badging aside, it presents as exactly the luxury product shoppers want—a lively and lavish, yet super-refined compact crossover.
Can Lincoln reach young, affluent car shoppers in East and West Coast cities with its new 2015 MKC? It's certainly trying with this compact crossover, which is clearly not aimed toward what some might think is the traditional Lincoln shopper.
The MKC also becomes the second of four new Lincolns due to arrive in showrooms by 2016—with a new MKX crossover and a revamped Navigator joining in. The brand is aiming its sights right over years of muddled messages, and blasting past those waves of constant change with a rip tide of product—luxury product that's seriously competitive with high-cachet brands.
While the MKZ sedan that was introduced last year was an interesting, albeit somewhat eccentric, new entry for the luxury market, the MKC is what Lincoln needs: a model that looks sophisticated but fits right into its class, performs with verve, and wows with a luxurious cabin and plenty of technology, all at a few grand less than the equivalent from those luxury brands that are a little more 'defined' today.
To that, the 2015 Lincoln MKC makes a solid statement of purpose against the likes of the Audi Q5, Acura RDX, or Cadillac SRX, as well as somewhat smaller new premium entries like the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA.
A pretty rendition of the standard-issue crossover styling themes, the MKC sports some subtle design cues that show someone's paying attention. The front end's one of the slimmed-down renditions now appearing on all Lincoln faces, except the Navigator's. The MKC's split-wing grille leads into a sideview basically untouched from its concept-car stage, glass carefully framed to avoid any references to the Escape. The most interesting view's the one from the back, where the MKC's full-width taillights and the two-piece tailgate design are smoothly executed in a way we'd expect from Chrysler or Infiniti.
The cockpit adopts the trick cue from the MKZ sedan: it skips the shift lever in favor of pushbuttons to actuate its transmission. The MyLincoln Touch infotainment system's large screen is now complemented by large knobs for tuning and volume, and with an array of climate-control switches on its elevated, kiosk-like center console. Lincoln says it's using more Bridge of Weir leather and real wood trim in the MKC to evoke a richer feel, too.
Though it's directly related to the Ford Escape, and part of the vast family of compact vehicles including the Ford Focus, tthe MKC's premium interior and more powerful drivetrain help insert a lot of distance from those mass-market offerings.
The 2015 Lincoln MKC doesn't at all offer a V-6; but it does better than that, really. With a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine (yes, the same engine that's headed into the 2015 Ford Mustang), making 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque, this is a model that moves very rapidly (think around seven seconds to 60 mph), with plenty of power to spare for quick takeoffs, or no-sweat highway passing. It's one of the highlights that makes the MKC special. With a twin-scroll turbocharger, its power delivery is more immediate—and on par with the V-8s of less than a decade ago, really. Its sound is a bit coarse when accelerating, but a balance-shaft system keeps it vibration-free, and generous noise insulation plus active noise cancellation altogether keep the cabin quiet.
For those who don't need quite as much get up and go, the strong 2.0-liter EcoBoost, with 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft, is the other choice, and it moves nearly as quickly—especially in base front-wheel-drive form. And the MKC has a level of ride-and-handling refinement that's on par with what you'll find in the RDX, the Q5, and the BMW X3. Steering is sharp, precise, and very well-weighted, and thanks in part to a continuous damping suspension and active noise cancellation, you get crisp handling and great body control, without all the coarseness and road noise that such a setup usually brings on.
It's all, by the way, customizable, with a Lincoln Drive Control system that lets you program the 'D' and 'S' modes on the shift panel to call up a customizable combination of modes for powertrain and steering, as well as ride.
Sized like an Escape, the MKC is banking on a spiced-up interior to convince shoppers that less is more. Today's Escape is slightly shorter than a CR-V, longer than a Hyundai Tucson, but has a more snug feel than some of its competition, thanks in part to firm, thin, sporty seats. Bridge of Weir leather in much of the model line gives front occupants good long-distance comfort, and soft-touch surfaces wrap not only the upper portion of the dash and doors, but also down below. Back-seat space is the weak point, with the MKC's tapered-down roofline and hard, upright seating not adding up to a luxurious back seat for adults -- especially if you opt for the twin-panel panoramic roof.
At the base level, the 2015 Lincoln MKC Premiere includes power heated driver’s and passenger’s seats; the MyLincoln Touch system with an eight-inch screen, a media hub with two USB ports, an SD card reader, and RCA input; keyless entry and push-button start; cruise control; active noise control; the programmable MyKey system; speed-sensitive intermittent wipers; remote start; HID headlamps; reverse sensors; heated mirrors; and many more features that solidly place it in the luxury category.
There’s some good value here, provided you’re okay with a brand that might not (at least not yet) have built back a reputation to rival Lexus or Audi. Pricing starts at $33,995 for the Premiere and runs up to $44,565 for the 2.3-liter AWD Reserve. Load up the latter and you can top the $50k mark -- but not by much. That’s at least a few grand less than most rivals with the same equipment.
Over the base Premiere model, you can step up to the Select Package to get the upgraded leather, more adjustable seats, ambient lighting, and plenty more extras; then top Reserve models get the dual-pane panoramic sunroof, navigation, a hands-free tailgate, and heated-and-cooled seats, among other things. You can also opt up to a THX II Certified audio system with 14 speakers plus a distributed bass system, or spring for extras like 20-inch wheels or several special paint hues.
A MyLincoln Mobile app allows a wide range of services from a distance (through the cell network), including remote starting, a fuel-level check, and a vehicle locator. You can also opt into a whole suite of active-safety features, and a new Active Park Assist adds Park Out Assist, which now not only helps you get into tight parallel spots but out of them.