Review update: The 2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve flies under the radar

June 30, 2020

Lincoln's SUVs get more subdued as they inch down the price ladder. The Navigator's fabulous—as it had better be, with a six-digit sticker price all too easy to reach. The Aviator's blessed with the same finesse but less bulk. (It's also ever so slightly more environmentally conscious; it has a plug-in version, you know.)

The 2020 Lincoln Corsair? It flies under the radar, compared to its bigger, brassier brethren. It's physically unimposing especially next to a Navigator or any full-size SUV for that matter. It's compact, curt and unassuming even compared with the mid-size Aviator.  

That said, it's still another beacon for the Lincoln brand, which can't shed its Continental and MKZ sedans quickly enough. SUVs run the roost at Lincoln, and even the smallest Lincoln SUV bristles with verve that's all but absent from Cadillac and Infiniti rivals.

We give the 2020 Corsair a 7.2 on our TCC Rating scale, a solidly above-average score that's reflected in the solidly above-average impressions it delivered as I aimed it south from Charlotte toward rural South Carolina in search of the intersection of barbecue and drive-thru service. Here's where the Corsair hit—and where it missed.

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

Hit: Business-suit style. The Corsair's downsized Aviator duds are a low-key knockout. Ford has reworked the Escape's proportions into a more lovely elongated shape to form the Corsair, and it's endowed it with a brightly trimmed interior with ribbed faux aluminum and blue leather, if ordered correctly. In Flight Blue, the $695 paint applied to my test car, the Corsair's business suit is pure business class.

Miss: Over-the-top panache. Where's the Black Label? Lincoln lets you choose a "Beyond Blue" leather that shares the hue of one of the Navigator's Black Label themes, but the wine-and-horse country stuff applied to other versions is absent here.

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

Hit: A stone-quiet interior. Compared with the Escape (or, say, an Acura RDX), the Corsair's like a rolling recording booth, complete with Revel audio, extra-thick glass, and plenty of sound deadening.

Miss: The touchscreen deficit. Though it's 8.0 inches on the diagonal, the Corsair's infotainment touchscreen is small by Korean standards. Where's the 12.3-inch landscape love?

Hit: It's full of energy. There's turbo-4 gusto in the 2020 Corsair. The base engine musters a solid 250 horsepower, but in my tester a 295-hp 2.3-liter turbo-4 surged down South Carolina side roads with Audi briskness. Flick the console-mounted transmission toggles into Drive, paddle-shift into a lower gear, and spin the drive-mode selector to "Excite" ("Sport" in every other car so equipped) and the Corsair squirts through traffic and updrafts along those country roads with strong urges that were probably illegal in the vicinity until recent Supreme Court rulings.

Miss: Thunk in the trunk. Even with available adaptive dampers, the Corsair's ride over potholes could be better. It's better at smothering ruts than the average small car but the Lincoln Corsair's not completely immune to deep potholes. Those adaptive dampers (standard on the Reserve II package, $700 otherwise) don't hone down harsh impacts entirely entirely—likely because of the accompanying 20-inch wheels.

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

2020 Lincoln Corsair first drive

Hit: Cooled 24-way front seats. If only the related Escape had half this support in its thin, poorly padded seats. The Corsair's back bench slides to and fro too, so it's worth a nod—but in front, with cooling and 24-way adjustment, the Corsair really has your back.

Miss: A wicked $60,110 sticker price. The base $36,940 Corsair gets a power tailgate, heated front seats, and synthetic leather trim; it's a fair deal. My test car sticker at $60,110 with Reserve II trim, 2.3-liter turbo-4 and all-wheel drive, plus Flight Blue paint, wireless smartphone charging, cooled front seats, a surround-view camera system, and a head-up display. That doesn't grok as value in a Corsair-sized package—and a $60,110 entry-level Lincoln misses the point. At about $40,000, the 2020 Corsair delivers a nicer driving experience that steps up to the Aviator and Navigator without looking out of step. 

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2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve AWD

Base price: $43,625, including destination

Price as tested: $60,110

Drivetrain: 295-hp, 2.3-liter turbo-4; 8-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 21/28/24 mpg

The hits: Sharp looks, powerful engine, comfortable seats

The misses: No Black Label, expensive top trims, stiff ride.

2020
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2020
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