Republished: 11/03/2014 (Original Date: 06/09/2014)
James Riswick, Edmunds Contributor
The 2015 Lincoln MKC is a new compact luxury crossover with an excellent ride, distinctive styling and an abundance of equipment at a price that undercuts most competitors by thousands of dollars. However, its interior space, cabin materials and build quality trail most competitors.
What Is It?
The 2015 Lincoln MKC is a five-passenger compact luxury SUV. Though it shares its basic structure (and its wheelbase) with the Ford Escape, the MKC is 1 inch wider and 1.1 inches longer than the Ford, and unlike past Lincoln efforts, it feels more like a distant cousin to the more plebian Ford than a full-fledged sibling.
Although it's bigger than the Escape, the MKC is still smaller than some of its main competitors. For instance, the Audi Q5and BMW X3 both have a wheelbase that's almost 5 inches longer. That difference translates into reduced front- and rear-seat passenger legroom. The cargo area is also on the small side for the segment, limiting its appeal as a family hauler.
Two engines are available: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder good for 240 horsepower and a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 285 hp. Both are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift paddle controls.
All-wheel drive is standard with the larger engine and optional on the base 2.0-liter. Pricing is tied to these powertrain combinations, with the base 2.0 EcoBoost hitting the register at $33,100 ($33,995 with destination). Adding all-wheel drive bumps it up to $35,595; opting for the 2.3 EcoBoost AWD costs $39,965. All those pricing levels undercut most competitors.
How Does It Drive? Lincoln engineers benchmarked Audi's Q5, BMW's X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK throughout the MKC's development. The result is a well-controlled chassis with more capability than most drivers will ever use. Throw it into a corner and there are quick responses and meaningful feedback. Its overall balance is quite good, and placing the small SUV on the road is easy.
To get the best responses, you need to opt for the optional three-mode Continuously Control Damping Suspension. In its most aggressive "Sport" mode it not only firms up the suspension but also adds extra weight to the steering, sharpens throttle response, alters transmission programming and even tweaks the active noise-cancellation system to make things sound sporty.
It is ultimately the other two settings that are more impressive, however, and make the CCD suspension a must-have on the MKC (a $650 option with front-wheel drive, standard on both all-wheel-drive models). In the "Normal" setting, the MKC strikes as close to an ideal balance of comfort and control as you'll find in the compact luxury crossover segment. Whereas many competitors have stiff rides in an effort to be sporty, the MKC is quite happy to offer comfort as the norm.
The "Comfort" suspension setting is even softer, offering an old-school Lincoln float and a genuine pillowlike suppleness that you really don't feel these days in any type of car, let alone compact SUVs. Indeed, if you place ride comfort high atop your list of priorities, the MKC is one of the best in the segment.
What Kind of Performance Does It Deliver?
Around town or when passing on the highway, the base MKC 2.0 EcoBoost provides an ample kick of low-end power. It actually feels quite quick, but our track test results tell a different story. Sprinting from zero to 60 mph took 8.0 seconds, making this MKC one of the slowest members of the compact luxury crossover segment. It's about a second slower than average, and it's a difference you're bound to notice most when merging onto a highway.
The 2.3 EcoBoost is the way to go if you want more competitive acceleration. Its 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds more closely aligns with the base engines found in the Audi Q5 and Lexus NX 200t, but is still a bit off the pace. You may ultimately not notice as it, too, feels plenty powerful around town.
The 2.0 EcoBoost returns an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined (20 city/29 highway) with front-wheel drive, and 22 mpg combined (19/26) with all-wheel drive. Despite its power advantage, the 2.3 EcoBoost still manages to deliver 21 mpg combined (18/26).
In our testing, both engines delivered similar fuel economy on the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation route, with a front-drive 2.0 returning 25.8 mpg and the all-wheel-drive 2.3 returning 25.5. Both the EPA and Edmunds fuel economy results are essentially identical to primary competitors like the Audi Q5, Lexus NX 200tand Volvo XC60.
How Luxurious Is the Cabin?
Stitched leather and open pore wood inlays give the MKC character and quality in places where recent Lincolns had neither, yet the overall quality of the center stack plastics, switchgear and various interior panels trails that of most competitors. It's certainly much better than any Ford products, but it still feels a step behind the class leaders. One standout feature is the optional seat leather, which is as good as you'll find in anything from Audi and BMW.
The overall design is distinctive, as the center control stack juts out toward the driver, with a media player bin and cupholders below it. There's no traditional transmission shifter; instead, shifting gears is accomplished by pressing buttons aligned vertically on the center stack. It's gimmicky to be sure, but we got used to it quickly and it doesn't negatively affect drivability.
The frustrating touchpad climate and audio buttons used in Lincoln's sedans have been replaced in the MKC with easily deciphered physical buttons. The MyLincoln Touch screen is also much closer to the driver than in other Lincolns and is placed at an angle that better reduces glare. The system can still be prone to some glitches, however, and many of the on-screen icons and buttons are too small. Using the Sync voice controls can alleviate these issues at times, but it's still not intuitive enough to use easily.
How Much Passenger and Cargo Space Is There?
This is an area that shoppers should consider closely, especially those with children, because they expect their sport-utility vehicle to offer more practicality than a sedan. The front seat did not adjust far enough back for our tallest drivers to be comfortable. And even if it did offer more adjustment, there would be virtually no legroom left in the backseat.
The area behind the second row offers 25.2 cubic feet of space, making it one of the smallest cargo areas in the segment. Even a set of golf clubs struggles to fit diagonally.
When it comes to its maximum cargo capacity, the MKC is more competitive but still tight. With 53.1 cubic feet of available space, it's similar in size to the Lexus NX 200t, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Range Rover Evoque.
What Kind of Features Do You Get for the Price?
Even the most basic, $33,995 MKC includes HID headlamps, heated seats, driver memory function, push-button start, parking sensors and the MyLincoln Touch driver interface. Equipment like this usually costs extra, even in this luxury segment.
Our 2.0 EcoBoost test car included the adaptive suspension, a navigation system, a blind-spot warning system and optional leather seating, which boosted the as-tested price to $38,975. This represents exceptional value for the segment that's only matched by the Acura RDX. By comparison, a similarly equipped Audi Q5 or Cadillac SRX would be about $5,000 more; a Volvo XC60 is about $4,000 more.
Our 2.3 EcoBoost test car was so loaded with features that it topped the $50,000 mark. It included automated parallel parking, 20-inch wheels, heated and cooled seats, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and a 14-speaker THX sound system.
How Safe Is It?
In government crash testing, the MKC received four out of five stars for overall crash testing, along with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side protection.
Seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag) are standard, as is a rearview camera. Available features include a lane-keeping system and blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert as well as a collision warning system that alerts the driver of a potential accident ahead. A driver alert system monitors driver attentiveness and issues an audible warning if it senses reduced alertness.
In Edmunds brake testing, the MKC 2.0 came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, which is several feet longer than average. The MKC 2.3, on the other hand, stopped in a more acceptable 122 feet. The more aggressive tires that come standard on the 2.3-liter model likely account for the shorter stops. Both models use all-season tires, while some of the MKC's competitors use higher-performance summer tires that help to produce even shorter distances.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
If the MKC's value is appealing, it would be smart to check out the Acura RDX. It doesn't offer the sheer volume of features, but lines up with the Lincoln when similarly equipped. The Acura is a bit bigger, though, and its single engine choice, a 3.5-liter V6, matches the MKC's fuel economy and betters its acceleration.
Lincoln benchmarked the Audi Q5 when designing the MKC, and it shows. The two cars are similar in size and their general look, while putting an emphasis on stylish design. The Q5's interior is of a higher quality and its backseat legroom is more generous, but the Lincoln offers a better ride.
The Lexus NX 200t is another new kid on the block that puts an emphasis on design, refinement, comfort and feature content rather than maximum utility. It, too, comes standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder, but stands apart with its available hybrid model.
Why Should You Consider this Car?
It offers an exceptional ride, quiet cabin, strong value, copious features and a distinctive American take on luxury. Its fuel economy, warranty and two years of free scheduled maintenance are additional features worth considering.
Why Should You Think Twice About this Car?
It's slower than most competitors, regardless of engine, so if you value strong acceleration the MKC may disappoint. Its interior isn't as nice as some others in the segment either, and there's limited cargo and rear passenger space. We also noted some instances of poor build quality on our early production test vehicles.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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