Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test Arrival: 2015 Lincoln MKC

You've got to hand it to the folks at Lincoln: they don't give up. All new for 2015, the Lincoln MKC represents yet another salvo from Ford's luxury brand to establish presence among its more aspirational competitors. We've got one for a month to see what it's all about.

The basics are as follows: the MKC is a luxury compact SUV based on the Ford Escape platform. Its starting price of $39,440 gets you a 2.0L Ecoboost (turbocharged, direct injected, variable camshaft timing) four-cylinder (I-4) engine making 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, an “intelligent” all-wheel drive system, keyless access with push-button start, HID headlights, rearview camera, Approach Detection (whereby the interior and exterior lights activate as you approach the vehicle), push-button gearshift, automatic climate control and the SYNC driver interface with “MyLincoln Touch.”

The Lincoln tagline, “politely progressive” seems somewhat timid to me.

There is another engine option: the 285 hp and 305 lb-ft torque 2.3L Ecoboost I-4 that can also be found in the 2015 Ford Mustang. Along with 19-inch wheels, a panorama sunroof and a range of additional features, it increases the starting price to $49,150. This is what we're driving, although our as-tested price of $55,920 includes the kitchen sink.

By that I mean it has the THX premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, folding mirrors, power steering column, heated steering wheel, a trailer hitch, park assist, adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping system, 19-inch alloy wheels, hands-free liftgate and much more.

First impressions are that the MKC is a good looking vehicle. The lines are taut and chiselled and the profile is modern and clean in the Audi Q5 vein. The signature grille that Lincoln's been taming for a few years has evolved into a tasteful and easily recognizable “face” of the brand, and from the side and rear the vehicle looks appealing and athletic. But the Lincoln tagline, “politely progressive” seems somewhat timid to me, and like the description of the MKC by Lincoln as “blending traits of a sport crossover with a luxury sedan,” it suggests something of a vehicle (or indeed, a brand...) with an identity crisis.

That said, there is definitely a sporty exterior and an obvious level of interior refinement that is perhaps what the Lincoln marketers are getting at. There's no crass plastering of chrome at every opportunity in the MKC.

Our exterior colour is Smoked Quartz Metallic (a type of grey, I think, which costs $600) and the interior features black leather upholstery with brushed aluminum trim. It's a very tidy interior; minimal, even, in the European style.

Standard on the MKC is Continuously Controlled Damping, whereby a suite of sensors continuously monitors and adjusts the suspension based on road conditions. These sensors also detect body motion, steering and braking forces and attempt to tailor the MKC's suspension response to them. This all takes place within one of three ride preferences – Comfort, Normal or Sport – selected by the driver. The emphasis on ride comfort is ever-present in the literature and marketing of the MKC and the Lincoln brand in general, suggesting that for the demographic who would be interested in a Lincoln, this is a key concern.

Similarly, Lincoln's Drive Control is also standard. Utilizing the Electric Power Assist System (EPAS), the system detects speed and body motion and modifies the steering response and behaviour accordingly. Drivers will find quicker responsiveness at low speeds, and firmer response on the highway. “Pull-drift” technology (what used to be described generally as active steering) detects road irregularities and crosswinds and also compensates accordingly.

The transmission, by the way, is a six-speed “SelectShift” automatic with paddle shifters. Much of the competition has moved to seven, eight and even nine-speed transmissions, suggesting that this one may be due for replacement in the future.

The interior of the MKC is designed to be a quiet place. Active Noise Cancellation technology is used to reduce “unwanted engine noise.” The idea is that microphones monitor the sounds in the cabin which are then replicated and “inverted” by a processor that sends an opposing acoustic wave through the speakers (can this be done for tinnitus? Lincoln could make a fortune...). This technology isn't unique to Lincoln (Acura has been using a similar system for years), but it presumably augments the insulation that isolates occupants from the outside environment.

The upcoming third generation SYNC with MyLincoln Touch (SYNC 3)  combines the operation of all the vehicle controls into a single, simpler, system. These HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) are a work in progress for all manufacturers as they strive to create intuitive, easy-to-use equipment that minimizes driver distraction. The newest version will be built on new hardware (Sony) and new software (Blackberry QNX and Apple Siri are in; Microsoft is out) and a completely new way of displaying options on the touchscreen. However, sorry to let you down, but this system is not available until the 2016 model year and the SYNC 2 system in our vehicle is not upgradeable to the new one. Too bad, but so far I'm finding the current version manageable for common adjustments and settings.

However, this year many more actual knobs and buttons are evident in the centre stack, including blast-from-the-past rotary volume and tuning knobs for the radio and hard buttons for climate. Some technologies you just can't improve upon! Nonetheless, voice activation is a big part of making today's complex automotive systems work effectively, so owners had better get comfortable talking to their vehicle. I will make every effort to establish a cordial relationship with our MKC.

Another way to communicate with your MKC is via the MyLincoln Mobile app, downloadable from the usual sources. The available embedded modem in the MKC connects with the smartphone app allowing you to start, lock, unlock and locate your vehicle. You can actually do this from anywhere in the world (a scheduled remote start, for instance) but likely most will simply use this to find their vehicle in a local parking lot.

Like other Ford-based products, the Lincoln MKC features an array of safety and driver assist technologies, some of which I mentioned above. Cross-traffic alert and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), hands-free rear liftgate which activates (usually, I'm finding) by putting your foot under the rear bumper, lane keeping system (vibration in the steering wheel if you wander out of your lane; gently nudges you back if set to do so) and adaptive cruise control (keeps you a set distance from the vehicle in front of you) are all available and present in this MKC. And yes, the MKC will parallel park itself for you with it's Park Assist technology which goes one step further by helping to get you out of a tight parking spot via Park Out Assist. We'll give all these technologies a go.

Fuel consumption for the 2.3L MKC is 12.9/9.2 L/100 km, city/highway using the new five-cycle system (which means it's more likely to reflect real-world driving). Checking on a couple of features, I went to the website only to find that Lincoln doesn't own that domain! is the brand's Canadian URL; I guess the Town of Lincoln, Ontario wasn't cooperative.

For the time being, having just taken delivery of the MKC I can reiterate that it's a smart-looking vehicle that apparently bears little to no resemblance to its Ford Escape sibling. As well it shouldn't!

We've just experienced some heavy snow, and so far, the MKC has responded with poise and composure. Backing out of a parking space, our Cross Traffic Alert didn't work, though, so that will have to be monitored. And it's taking a little while to get used to the signature push-button gear selector. Gimmicky? Maybe, maybe not, we'll see.

But overall first impressions are that this is one of the best efforts from Lincoln that we've seen in a long time. If it's going up against the likes of the consumer-darling Audi Q5, it had better be.

Pricing: 2015 Lincoln MKC
Base price: $39,940
Options: $14,230
Destination and delivery: $1,750
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $56,020

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance