It’s now clear that Lincoln is redefining the brand by building vehicles that people need, but with the flare, fashion and luxury that Lincoln of yesteryear is known for. This means that the brand is shifting their focus towards crossovers with the MKC, the new Nautilus, Aviator, and lastly the big Navigator. We spent a week with the smallest of the set, a 2019 Lincoln MKC Reserve 2.3T to see how much luxury Lincoln has been able to squeeze into the compact platform.
The MKC shares styling cues closely with the larger Nautilus, but on a smaller scale. It’s more conservative looking than the recently released Cadillac XT4 but still features distinctive Lincoln features such as the corporate grille, and prominent full-width LED taillights. The bodywork is fluid and curvy without a hard line to be found and it manages to look modern without conforming to the slab-sided swooping roofline profile that the majority of compact CUVs on the road are sporting.
Our tester, a top-trim Reserve with the bigger 2.3T engine, gets two polished exhaust tips protruding below the rear bumper and wears 20” wheels with a machined face. It all comes together to make for a very agreeable and premium crossover. Our tester came finished in an interesting “Iced Mocha” paint, a $700 option. It looks more like dirty white, which means it did a great job hiding the inevitable January filth, but if it’s not your taste the MKC does come in a surprisingly wide range of colors including a couple different reds, blue and green.
The interesting color scheme actually extends inside the MKC as our tester came with seats and door panels finished in a dark green/blue that can only be described as a darker version of “1990s Mercury”. Looking at the Lincoln website it’s actually called “Rialto Green”. The seats, regardless of their color, are finished in extremely soft “Bridge of Weir” perforated leather and are heated and cooled. I found them very comfortable after spending some time getting the right seating position, although I suspect larger drivers might find the seats a bit narrow.
The dashboard itself is a bit underwhelming; it’s finished in a leather-like rubberized plastic that looks and feels decent, but the center stack is a cheaper matte plastic that looks out of place in an otherwise well styled interior. The center console is also a weak point in the MKC; it’s very narrow, made of hard plastics and while it does have two cupholders, a tray at the front and storage under the arm rest, it’s just not as well laid out as others in the segment.
Controls such as the wiper stalk and buttons on the center stack feel flimsy and low-rent for a Lincoln as well. Like other Lincolns, the transmission is controlled by a series of buttons on the dash to the left of the center stack. I give the MKC credit for a nice black headliner and a full-length panoramic glass roof. The MKC is a compact CUV, so space is at a premium, especially in the rear seat that’s better suited for children than adults, but it works in a pinch. The cargo area is fairly generous, and the rear seats do fold relative flat opening up much more versatile cargo space.
The infotainment in the MKC is the generally well-regarded Ford SYNC 3 with AppLink that now has a dedicated interface for Waze users – very handy. Android Auto is also available on the system, and the system itself is intuitive, responsive and still looks pretty slick. Frequently used climate controls have real buttons in the center stack in addition to the touchscreen controls, but unfortunately the heated steering wheel is only accessible through the touchscreen – frustrating with frozen fingers. Our tester also came with the best stereo offered, a THX II system that sounds.
Under the hood, the MKC comes with one of two engines; the base engine is the 2.0L turbo making 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. The optional engine is the 2.3L twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder making a healthy 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to a traditional six-speed automatic. The 2.3L has plenty of power for this compact and it has no trouble getting out of its own way. Access to gobs of torque at low RPMs means that the MKC feels downright quick in the city, and still has plenty of power left for higher speed passing on the highway.
Power delivery is surprisingly smooth for a boosted four-cylinder, and my only gripe is that the automatic is a bit reluctant to downshift which can cause some annoying delays in getting power to the wheels on rare occasions. The 2.3L really is well suited to the application, and it also unlocks the MKC’s ability to tow up to 3,000 pounds, making it a good option for families with small camper trailers.
On the road the MKC takes a bit of getting used to. The light steering’s total lack of feel, yet twitchy nature is a little bit unnerving, especially on snow covered roads. We were able to put the Intelligent AWD system through it’s paces and the MKC never missed a beat; it always kept us pointing in the right direction with absolutely minimal slip, and when some tire spinning was warranted the traction control system remained relaxed enough to allow the AWD to do its thing.
When not battling mother nature’s worst, the MKC provides a very relaxed and comfortable driving experience. It’s downright silent inside while cruising on the highway thanks to acoustic glass, active noise control and some aerodynamic trickery to keep wind noise to an absolute minimum. The ride is soft and supple like a luxury crossover should be, yet well controlled thanks to adaptive suspension technology that is constantly adjusting to conditions and driving inputs. This is the best riding compact crossover around, with the caveat that it’s skewed towards the softer side of the spectrum.
Fuel economy is typically not an area that the boosted Ford EcoBoost engines excel in, and the version in this Lincoln is no exception. After a week’s worth of rush hour commuting, the average sat right at 12.0L/100km. That’s well within the rated range for the MKC, but it is thirstier than many options in the segment. Of course, most competitors don’t boast the power numbers that the 2.3L does. A bit surprising, but the current literature suggests that the 2.3T is happy on regular fuel.
Pricing for the MKC is also a little on the rich side, but perspective is everything with these luxury crossovers. The MKC with a 2.0L starts at $43,550 for the Select trim; and that’s still a well equipped Lincoln with heated leather, AWD, powerlift gate, LED lighting, etc. If you want the more powerful 2.3L engine, your only choice is the 2.3T Reserve at $50,950. The Reserve comes with upgraded leather heated and cooled seats, panoramic roof, navigation, heated steering wheel, blind spot monitor, lane-keep assist and more.
In addition to that list our tester got a $2,420 Technology Package adding the full gamut of electronic driving aids including park assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, etc. The tester also got the towing package ($500) and the THX II sound system ($1,100). These and some other options push the as tested price to $56,420 – a tough number to swallow for what is still a compact CUV.
Thanks to its ample power, brutish AWD system, refined ride quality and outstanding interior noise management, this little MKC actually feels like a larger luxury SUV, which is right on target. The only real let down is the interior which still comes off feeling a bit cramped and not quite as polished as the rest of the vehicle, especially when you factor in the as tested price on our tester. If you can forego some pricier options to keep the MKC Reserve 2.3T closer to the $50,000 mark, it’s a much more compelling buy, offering compact dimensions with a full-sized luxury CUV feel.