Lincoln’s best hope for the future is to go contemporary—and it has the right idea with the new 2015 MKC, a model that seems designed to reach California car shoppers in a way that the brand hasn’t in decades.
The MKC isn’t particularly innovative; it isn’t any design breakthrough; and it isn’t by all interpretations an all-new vehicle. But it's a quiet, capable, and quite sporty rival finally outfitted to take on Lexus. That’s partly why it does so well in every area of our TCC Rating, summing to one of our top-rated models that are new or redesigned for 2015—and a nominee for Best Car To Buy.
Built on the underpinnings of the Ford Escape, the MKC gets entirely different, more expressive sheetmetal, a somewhat higher beltline, and a unique roofline, as well as its own ‘clamshell’ (wrap-around) rear tailgate design. Altogether, the stance is sportier, and the profile lives up to the ‘graceful athleticism’ keyword that its designers followed. Inside the Escape influences are a little more obvious, although we like the materials choices (think porous wood with bright trims, or glossy wood with matte complements) that bring a high-contrast, almost Scandinavian look.
The packaging is, compared to most other models in this class, a little tight, especially if you plan to use the back seat, where the contouring and cushioning don’t feel all that luxurious. But those seats flip forward and there’s great versatility for weekend errands.
The MKC is quiet and docile, yet especially when you have the top powertrain choice: the new 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine—making 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet—there’s a lot of power to spare for quick takeoffs or effortless passing. Steering is also a bright spot; it’s far more communicative than what you’ll find in most other crossovers its size—even premium ones.
Where the MKC’s driving sophistication falls apart, a bit, is in ride and handling, and how it does on those tight California canyon roads that the target demographic might actually traverse. Standard-suspension MKC models—like the one that we had this past month for Best Car To Buy testing—ended up feeling far too soft and bouncy. Pick the base 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four, and we’re afraid some of the same applies—and you might be better off just sticking to an Escape. But get the MKC with the continuously controlled damping (CCD) suspension, and you’re golden (it's our only recommended build for this vehicle, actually); through its multiple modes you’ll have a different experience entirely, as that system manages to filter out road harshness while also reeling in body motion.
One area of concern is that in our First Drive of the MKC, and in our Best Car To Buy testing of this luxury crossover, we haven’t managed to see mileage numbers anywhere close to the (already unimpressive) EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 highway with the 2.3-liter. Even a more relaxed freeway-and-boulevard driving loop earned us just 19 mpg—a number we would have likely beaten in a V-6 Lexus RX 350 or Acura RDX.
In features, with things like Active Park Assist with Park Out Assist, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, a hands-free tailgate, heated-and-cooled seats, and top-notch THX II premium audio, there’s no shortage of high-end features for the dollar.
Some years back, Lincoln operations were moved out to Orange County, California. Ironically, now that Lincoln is back in Michigan, and even putting some focus toward China, it's made the most appealing Lincoln ever for the West Coast.
Is that enough to be our Best Car To Buy? Check back for the big announcement on November 10; and in the meantime read our full review of the 2015 Lincoln MKC—and be sure to vote for your favorite below.This year there are 11 nominees ranging from family sedans, crossovers, a pickup truck, and even ... in The Car Connection Polls on LockerDome