Lincoln is working to rebuild itself; to rejoin the first rank of luxury brands and compete directly – on equal terms – with Cadillac, Lexus, BMW, Acura, et al.
First, it will need to shed some pounds.
And some price.
I just spent a week in the 2016 MKC, which is Lincoln’s entry-level (and compact-sized) crossover SUV. It is based on – built off of – the same platform as the Ford Escape and in base trim, is powered by the Escape’s optional 2.0 liter turbocharged engine, producing the same 240 hp.
But the Lincoln is about a second slower to 60 (roughly, eight seconds vs. about seven seconds for the same-engined Escape) … because it is about 500 pounds heavier than the Escape. No doubt due to the extra padding necessary to make the cut as a luxury crossover as opposed to just a crossover.
This may not matter in terms of real-world/everyday driving – as most people shopping for a vehicle of this type are not looking for dragsters and one second (either way) is hard to notice without a stopwatch and when you’re not actually trying to outrace someone else.
If the Ford – which is much less expensive – is quicker than the Lincoln – that looks bad.
Even if no one’s actually racing.
The good news is there’s an optional MKC engine that closes the performance gap. The bad news is that specifying this engine opens up a canyon-sized price gap between the MKC and rivals like the MDX and others in this class like the Lexus NX200t.
And that is probably something Lincoln can’t afford right now.
WHAT IT IS
The MKC is Lincoln’s pitch for your business in the compact luxury crossover class. It’s a two-row/five-seater based on the Ford Escape, that’s available with either of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines and with or without AWD – depending on which engine you buy.
Base price is $35,270 for a FWD Premier trim with the 2.0 turbo engine is $33,260; adding AWD bumps the MSRP to $35,755.
From there, you can move up to Select, Reserve and top-of-the-line Black Label trims, all of which can ordered with a much stronger 2.3 liter turbo engine and with or without AWD.
A top-of-the-line Black Label with AWD and the 2.3 liter engine stickers for $50,090.
Which puts it almost in another orbit vs. the RDX – which tops out at $43,420 for an Advance trim with AWD (and standard V6) as well as the Lexus NX200t, which tops out at a comparatively bargain-basement-seeming $37,980 for an F-Sport trim with AWD.
The ’16 MKC – like other 2016 Ford and Lincoln vehicles – gets an updated version of the Sync3 multimedia interface, which features smartphone-style pinch/zoom operation – as well as a higher maximum tow rating (3,500 lbs. with the optional 2.3 liter engine) and a standard power rear liftgate with Select trims.
A beautifully finished cabin – especially at night.
Optional 2.3 liter engine is strongest in class.
Base trim can be ordered with AWD – and with the standard 2.0 engine.
MKC can tow 1,000 pounds more than RDX (2,000 lbs. max) and twice as much as NX200t (just 1,500 lbs.).
Priced about $2k lower – to start – than RDX and NX200t.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Weight gimps performance; even with its optional 2.3 liter engine, the MKC is not quicker than the RDX and NX200t with their standard engines. And only just barely quicker than an Escape with the 2.0 engine.
Optional engine is expensive: you have to first buy the $39,585 Select trim. Then you can buy the 2.3 Ecobost engine for another $1,140.
Much less cargo capacity than RDX.
Some may be offput by the kinship with the merely Ford Escape (even though it’s not obvious).
The MKC starts out with the Escape’s optional 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine as its standard engine.
Output – in both vehicles – is pegged at 240 hp.
A six-speed automatic is standard – and you can pair this engine with FWD or (Optionally) AWD, including the base Premier trim.
In the Escape, the 2.0 turbo four is capable of getting you to 60 in just under 7 seconds, a quick time for the class. But in the MKC, the same run takes about 8 seconds, which is a slow time for its class.
The Acura RDX – which comes standard with a 279 hp V6 – can do 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.The Lexus NX200t is only about a half second behind the Acura… and a solid second ahead of the Lincoln.
The problem here is not lack of horsepower; it is too much weight. A front-wheel-drive MKC weighs 3,791 lbs. (3,963 lbs. w/AWD) vs. 3,515 for the same thing (FWD) in a Ford wrapper… less a few hundred pounds of padding and insulation.
An RDX (3,737- 3,946 lbs.) weighs about the same as the Lincoln but it has 39 more horses to handle the freight. The 2.0 turbo Ford (whoops, Lincoln) actually makes more peak torque (270 ft.-lbs.) than the larger Acura’s V6 (252 ft.-lbs.) and it’s made sooner (at just 3,000 RPM vs 4,900 RPM for the Acura) but that potential advantage is kiboshed by the MKC’s curb weight. If it were say 200 pounds lighter (or had another 50 hp) it would be significantly quicker – which is to say, more responsive (and that is a big deal in this price class, much more so than the actual 0-60 number).
The good news is that – unlike the RDX and the NX200t, which don’t have optional engines – you can one-up both of them, horsepower-wise, by ordering the MKC’s available 2.3 liter, 285 hp turbocharged four. This engine also makes a (by far) class-best 305 ft.-lbs. of torque.
The bad news is that this engine is only available if you buy the more expensive trims (Select, Reserve and Black Label) and comes only with AWD. The former will cost you green – $40,725 to start for the Select so equipped – and (because of the mandatory AWD) also speed. Because the AWD adds weight, several hundred pounds’ worth.
It’s quicker than the 2.0 version of the MKC, but still not as quick as the 2.0 version of the Ford Escape. You are looking at about 7.2 seconds. That’s not only a tenth or two behind the Escape 2.0. It is nowhere near as speedy – as responsive – as the RDX. And it is also still a few steps behind the NX200t.
Both of which – and this is the killer – list for about $5k less to start than the least expensive version of the MCK with the 2.3 engine.
EPA says the 2.0/FWD MKC will give you (or can give you) 20 city, 29 highway; this dips to 19 city, 26 highway with the optional AWD.
Models with the 2.3 engine and AWD rate 18 city, 26 highway – virtually the same mileage as you’d get with the smaller, less powerful engine. So at least you won’t have to pay more for gas.
During my weeklong test drive of an MKC Black Label with the 2.3 engine and AWD, I averaged 21.6 MPG, according to the car’s computer.
An MKC strong suit is its maximum tow rating – 3,000 pounds with the 2.3 engine. Neither the RDX (2,000 pounds) nor the NX200t (just 1,500 pounds) can touch the Lincoln on this point.
Another MKC plus is that both engines are regular unleaded engines. The Acura’s V6 prefers premium unleaded.
The NX200t’s turbo four requires it.
In addition to being a little bit overweight and under-engined (relative to the price-equivalent competition and its price-less-than-equivalent kin) the MKC suffers from lag.
It’s not turbo lag, though.
There is something not-quite-right about the way the throttle linkage is hooked up. Well, it’s not actually hooked up. It’s wired up. There is no cable connecting your right foot and the accelerator pedal to the engine. It is all “drive by wire.” When you press down on the accelerator, sensors read the amount of depression and – in theory – relay that to the computer which (should) almost immediately translate that into let’s-get-going.
But in the MKC, there is often a short interval in between these events. Especially when you really want to get going and push the pedal to the floor.
You do so – and for a moment, there is no response. Then, you get going. But that brief pause can be disconcerting when you’re wanting to get going in a hurry. It’s most noticeable when you’re working the MKC hard, as when testing the high-speed handling characteristics. It’s hard to transition smoothly from deceleration/braking to acceleration; to modulate the power flow. It’s like a water tap that’s either on – or off. With a slight delay before the “water” actually flows when you turn the tap on.
This is the MKC’s greatest driving deficiency and I am not alone in noticing it. And it’s not because drive-by-wire is newfangled and not sorted out. Pretty much every new car uses drive-by-wire. Physical throttle cables have been gone for several years. The problem here is that the MKC’s programming – or its sensors, or something electronic – just isn’t 100 percent sorted out yet.
The ride quality, on the other hand, is excellent – more luxurious than the RDXs, which inclines much more noticeably to the firm and sporty side of the aisle. There’s nothing wrong with that. People revere Acuras for that. But if you prefer something more plush and quiet and don’t mind that it won’t quite keep up with an RDX in a drag race (or a road course) you may revere the Lincoln more.
The steering is also luxurious – meaning, it is light; easy to turn the wheel with just one hand (or finger). This, too, is a point of departure vs. what’s typical in the class and generally – which is (again) sporty. Which means, heavier and (often) much more sensitive to minor inputs. Models like the RDX are like that and just the ticket if you’re out doing the Wild Thing in the curves.
But that’s not what this one is for. The MKC is classically Lincoln.
A cruiser rather than a bruiser.
Which is by no means a bad thing. It is simply a different thing.
And that – as I see it – is a good thing.
Because this trend toward relentlessly “sporty” sameness in everything on wheels is – as I see it – a very bad thing. We’re not running Le Mans.
Most of us are just trying to get home from work after a long day. A soft, quiet ride, seats that are easy on your back, light steering… it’s not bad stuff.
I can’t find fault with the looks – and love the ambiance.
Again, it is different.
This Lincoln – its cabin – reminds me of the one time I got to fly first class across the ocean, on the upper deck, where the proletariat is not allowed and neither seen nor heard. Those of you who have experienced this will know what I mean. You get your own little soft-backlit cocoon, an oasis away from the uncouth masses.
That’s how the MKC feels inside.
There is no gear shifter. There are shift buttons to the right of the steering wheel, built into the dashboard. Touch the first (top) to start the engine. Touch D for Drive. S for Sport. P for Park.
This “drive by wire” works perfectly – and also makes perfect sense. Why have a physical gear shifter wasting space on the floor console when there is no longer a cable and thus, no need for such an archaic apparatus? The floor console now houses something useful – like a pair of large beverage holders, which will no longer threaten to spill stuff on the gear shifter (which isn’t there). Forward of the cupholders – and not obscured by a gear shifter lever – there is a tray in which you’ll find a couple of USB ports and a power point. Which you can see, courtesy of that soft backlit LED mood lighting, which bathes the entire cabin in a soothing aura of whatever color you prefer – ice blue, red, purple or yellow.
The dash is most un-Escape, with LCD needles that glow to life upon engine start. The center stack cascades down and forward; it appears to hang in the air – like the cantilevered design of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.
It’s gorgeous, especially the top-of-the-line Black Label, with creamy vanilla leather and the striking gray/black exotic wood trim inserts that come with. At night, with the warm glow radiating softly from hidden crevices throughout the car, starlight twinkling above you through the almost full-length panorama glass, it is like floating along at 40,000 feet in the first class cabin.
Where’s the champagne and tasty little appetizers?
It is frankly almost better to be a passenger in the MKC than to drive it. I could spend hours peacefully napping in the right seat.
But it’s an excpetionally nice space to be in, regardless.
The first row has plenty – as befits a first-class cocoon. 42.8 inches of legroom there. This is legroom comparable to what you’d find in a full-size luxury sedan (a current BMW 7 Series, as a for-instance, has 41.3 inches of front seat legroom). The second row is also very leg-friendly (36.8 inches) for what is, after all, still a compact-sized vehicle.
The Acura RDX is even more generous (38.3) but the Lexus NX200t is a bit less so (36.1 inches).
It’s a similar story as far as cargo space.
The Lincoln has 25.2 cubic feet behind its second row and a total of 53.1 with the second row folded. This is by no means small (the MKC’s “trunk” is about twice the size of the typical compact sedan’s and still much more generous than any mid-sized sedan’s trunk) but the RDX has even more capacity: 26.1 behind the second row for the Acura, with a very impressive 76.9 cubic feet of total capacity with the second row folded. Acuras – being fancy Hondas – excel at making use of the space available. It is one of their strongest appeals.
However, the Lexus has less space behind its second row than either the Lincoln or the Acura (just 17.7 cubic feet) and its total capacity (54.6 cubic feet) is only nominally greater than the Lincoln’s – and much less real-world useful, since you need to lower the second row to make use of it.
An interesting aside here is that the NX is a physically larger vehicle on the outside than the Lincoln. It measures 182.3 inches bumper to bumper vs. 179.2 for the Lincoln. The MKC may not be as space efficient as the RDX, but it is more space-efficient than the Lexus – and that’s a pat on the back for Lincoln.
A neat feature that’s unique to this brand – not just the MKC – is a keypad entry system. It’s a nice back-up, in case you misplace your key fobs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sort out the drive-by-wire throttle, add a little more hp (or lower the curb weight ) … maybe make the price a bit more competitive. These are all relatively minor things, fairly easy remedied.
Lincoln isn’t quite there yet… but things are headed in the right direction again.
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Current Snoozefest Lincoln Names
MKZ MKX MKC MKS MKT MKZ-Hybrid Navigator Navigator-L
“Sexiest” Man Alive Spokes Model Names
Lincoln Insterstellar (Lincoln Coop)
Lincoln Magic (Lincoln Mike or Lincoln Dallas)
Lincoln Woodroof (Dallas, Lincoln Club)
Lincoln Wolf (Lincoln Wall Lincoln Street, Lincoln Hanna)
Lincoln Ghost (Lincoln Girlfriends, Lincoln Past)
Lincoln Launch (Lincoln Failure)
Lincoln Benjamin (Lincoln Barry, Lincoln Lose, Lincoln Guy, Lincoln Ten Lincoln Days)
Lincoln Kill (Lincoln Time, to, Lincoln Jake, Lincoln Brigance, Lincoln Grisham)
Lincoln Detective (Lincoln True, Lincoln Rustin, Lincoln Cohle)
Lincoln needs their own sheetmetal and engines. The latter, they’re starting to get with the 3.0 turbo in the 2017 MKZ. And lose the cryptic letters. Bring back names for the models. And lose the “EcoBoost” badge – that’s a Ford name.
I agree that the interiors on the new Lincolns are gorgeous. Nay, *Fabulous*. They’ve put some real thought into them.
Excellent point in re the naming. Especially of the engines. That had not occurred to me. I hope someone at Lincoln is reading this!
They had a Continental show-car last year and it looked good. It seems that everyone has been telling them to build another early 60’s Continental (like from “Animal House”), but Lincoln has been held back by a number of things:
1. Failure to commit to a design language and producing mediocre results.
2. Federal safety standards (specifically, the “suicide” doors).
3. Edicts from Ford to control costs by reusing existing platforms.
4. Federal economy standards.
#3 is especially bad, as all the Lincolns end up with Ford proportions.
So far as #4, I think Ford messed up by making Lincoln their own company, as I think that doesn’t let the CAFE numbers work for them (Lincoln does not, and should not, have vehicles the size of the Fiesta to balance out each large car sold)
Maybe Lincoln should just accept the gas-guzzler penalty, and say to prospective buyers “Yes, but it wouldn’t be a *Lincoln* without a V-8” (or V-12!)
The American luxury car offerings are swine draped in satin and rhinestones. Marketing focuses on the wannabe-rich urban lifestylists who need a 30 month lease to swing the payment. Image and reality can’t stretch much farther before the facade crumbles.
State of emergency.
Audis (and Porsches) are kin to VWs. They’re all nice cars – and all seem to sell well.
I think the key to it not being an outright con is that it must not be an obvious case of badge-engineering. The MKC is different enough from the Escape to justify a higher price, as I see it. It has a different exterior, a much nicer interior – and it offers features (such as the 2.3 liter engine) that are not available in the Ford.
An analogy here would be the VW Passat… and the Audi A6. Or the Touareg… and the Cayenne.
Just can’t see that “Lincoln Lawyer” dude, Matthew Mcconaughey, driving this little tub. I’m sure it’s the bigger Lincoln CUV he’s driving in the TV spots. And that’s where Lincoln’s true buyer demographic will be found.
Let’s do word associations….when you say “2016 Lincoln MKC,” I think “Cadillac Cimarron.”
I have a 2015 MKC with the 2.3. It is wonderful. But I do not have this experience with mine that you had with the throttle. I press the pedal and mine does immediately respond. I especially love the “lift off” sensation in sport mode. I would be curious to have you drive another and see if the sensation is the same.
Once upon a time, there were few items exchanged between the luxury parts bins and the rest of the corporate fleet. Packard’s decline accelerated when they down-marketed the brand to the middle class to survive the depression, luxury buyers did not like an image of status shared with the common rabble. For the Mr. Drysdales of the world, Joe Sixpack was not Jed Clampett. When Lincolns and Cadillacs are obviously cloned off the Ford and Chevy assembly lines, no one is fooled.
GM has been doing a better job of it lately. See, for instance, the Impala-based Caddy XTS. And the CTS and other Caddy models share the Camaro’s V6, which is shared with a lot of other GM models!
The end is near when a corporate giant converts their upscale brand into thinly veiled versions of the lesser. Cadillac borrows extensively from Chevy and Lincoln from Ford, all without shame or apology. Extinction of the grand marques of Imperial and Packard resulted from that same mindset and they fizzled during boom years. The painful lessons learned from Cimarron and Versailles were forgotten, hard times are looming on the horizon.
Does anyone really want a Scoda-based Bentley?
I wonder whether enough people care, though? I mean, Cadillac is apparently not having any trouble selling models like the XTS (Impala) or the Escalade (Tahoe) and the engines powering all current Cadillacs are “corporate” engines (2.0 turbo; the 3.6 V6; the LS/Corvette V8, etc.)
I’m with you – but I think you and I are in the minority.
I think it’s the badge – and the price tag that goes with it – that matters most to most people.
“A fool and his money are soon parted” — comes to mind.
I do not have the money to spend for just vain appearance or to keep up with the Jones (or Smiths) especially on something that will lose value like an auto.
If a auto maker can find enough people to buy their products, then good for them.
After 5.5 decades of being a “motorhead”, starting at 10 years old helping my then “old” 15 year old future BIL sleek out a ’46 Ford pickup and help it get down the road a bit better with a big Lincoln V-8(and yes, it did have to be rebuilt), I began to be aware of what brands of cars really had power and would last.
Caddy’s always had big engines, bigger than mostly anything and were fairly powerful, moreso than other things but not always for sure.
GM and everyone else would have done well to follow their “balanced on the assembly line” SBC in their other engines and their lost foam casting techniques as well.
I’ve seen countless Caddy’s and other luxury brands have a major engine problem in 40K miles. It seemed Ford would never be able to design a hydraulic valve lifter that was good for more than a couple years….clack clack clack and that included the Mercury and Lincoln lines too.
For everything wrong with Mopars like the Conestoga handling inherent in nearly all of them, at least their engines seemed to hang in there.
But back to Caddy and Lincoln, it was a sight to behold back in the 60’s when just about every low-ball car either company made would toast the luxury marks in just about every aspect. A 390 Galaxy would run off and hide from a Lincoln and a 402(396)GM anything would toast the fastest Cad out there and do it for decades longer.
Seems as though there were luxury marques with good engines that were fast, just none made in this country. I’m sure I’ve missed a good one here and there I just can’t remember what it was. Get in an Olds 98 and it would outrun a Caddy of the same year pulling a 14′ Uhaul trailer but the Olds was deigned a gussied up Chevy which it wasn’t. And the Chevy 454 would scream by a 502 Caddy. Some of this had to do with weight but not all of it and the Olds and Chevy engines would run a couple decades longer than the Caddy. I shied away from makes with “mufflers” on the intake side of the engine. Seemed like this was code for “this sucker doesn’t last long”.
There are not enough of them to support car manufacturing of that nature in today’s automobile business climate. Every single one of the exclusive makes is owned by or partnered to or was owned by and has access to the parts bins of companies like Ford, GM, Fiat, and so on. Sometimes even Chinese or Indian automakers. Talk about making cheap cars for the masses. Maybe Morgan is an exception. But even the ultra wealthy have to wait in line for an exclusive but primitive car.
It’s the economies of scale that make even the 0.01%’s lifestyles possible. Without dipping into it their lifestyles won’t just get more expensive they’ll become impossible. Many basic components only exist because they can sell in the millions of units. The investment is too high for anything less than that and there’s no way a low volume can make it work because the prices would bust even Bill Gates in a few short years.
I’d add that, once you get to say the six figure mark, there’s no longer that much meaningful (objective) difference between one car and another in terms of quality/features/workmanship. It’s mostly just horsepower (and not even that so much, these days) or (beyond a certain point) gratuitous things (such as a wheel built specifically for the car; viz the Bugatti) that, functionally, aren’t much if any better than a mass-produced item.
Example: A new Corvette Z06 vs. pretty much any “exotic” performance car. Many are more expensive; not many have better paint jobs or nicer leather, etc. Not to mention performance.