2015 Lincoln MKC review: More than an Escape

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

It would be easy to write off the new 2015 Lincoln MKC as a Ford Escape in pearls. It’s what Ford has done before, taking a model for the masses, adding a veneer of luxury touches and then sending it off to Lincoln-Mercury dealers with a kiss and a wave and best wishes. And the car buying public yawned.

Perhaps Ford has finally learned its lesson.

Although the 2015 Lincoln MKC is based on the same platform as the Escape, it’s hardly the same vehicle. The MKC is new, lower, longer and wider than the Escape, and all of the body panels are different. Don’t believe us? Park an MKC alongside an Escape and compare C-pillars. The Escape’s is A-shaped. That of the MKC leans forward. It’s not the same car. It’s not the same stampings.

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD dash

Reconfigurable instruments and pushbutton transmission shifter are distinct elements of the 2015 Lincoln MKC, (click to enlarge)

That said, the base engine for the 2015 Lincoln MKC is a 240-horse 2.0-liter Ecoboost four, the same as the top optional engine in the Escape. The optional engine for the MKC—and not available in the Escape—is a 2.3-liter four, and it’s shared with the Mustang. The basic measurements are the same between the 240 horse and 285 horsepower engine. The Mustang Ecoboost four, however, makes 305 horsepower, the MKC’s only 285 horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque. We suspect the difference is caused of packaging restriction, the 2.3 snug and crosswise in the MKC’s engine bay, wide open in the Mustang’s roomy bay.

Despite the added power, the Lincoln MKC dines on regular gas, a significant cash saver.

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

The center stack of the 2015 Lincoln MKC ends in a surf-like curl. (click to enlarge)

Both engines come with six-speed automatic transmissions with paddle shifter. The gearboxes are identical, with the same ratios for first through sixth gear. The final drive ratio with the 2.3, however, is taller, allowing the bigger engine to cruise at a lower rpm, which saves fuel. With the added power and torque, however, performance and feel around town doesn’t suffer.

More obvious to the general observer however is the distinctive styling of the Lincoln MKC. The grille defines it as a Lincoln, and it’s well integrated into the overall exterior design, a truly artful combination of ridges and curves. The MKC has its own signature taillight design, a flattened “u” shape.

The interior is the wowser, however. Our notes say it knocks the Escape’s interior—which we like—out of the park. It’s almost sensory overload of the luxury kind. It could be a lot of clichés, with wood, bright metal trim, and in our test MKC, a combination of cream and gray surfaces, including oodles of squishably soft leather and soft touch surfaces and a lot of stitching.

But Lincoln’s interior designers came up with an expressive combination of shapes—the door map pockets are a work of art in themselves and neatly illuminated at night, and the instrument pod sitting on the dash top is one of the best of this idea we’ve seen. The interior is sumptuous and elegant at the same time.

The instrument panel has reconfigurable gauges where the numerals are “real” but the speedometer and tachometer needles are virtual/video, allowing information displays in the middle of the dial. We’ll call it one of the best instrument panels we’ve see, clear and crisp so that even smaller lettering is legible.

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD (click to enlarge)

One of the more intriguing elements, however, is how the center stack curves like a breaking wave. The designers came up with something we haven’t seen elsewhere. We’ll put this interior in the same class as Infiniti and Audi. Do we like it? Yes, we do.

Like the Lincoln MKZ, the MKC has pushbutton transmission selector on the left side of the center stack. It takes a little getting used to, and the buttons need a little more…heft. This is shifting a transmission, after all. Compare, for example, the rotary gear selector on, say, a Chrysler 200 or a Jaguar F-Type. The Lincoln’s buttons should have some real meat and a firm click.

On the other hand, there’s a separate switch for the sunroof and the sunshade. Our test Lincoln MKC had one heck of a huge a huge panoramic sunroof—Lincoln calls it “Vista”— as a part of the Equipment Group 102A, otherwise known as Reserve, a $6,935 bundle that also includes navigation with voice recognition, hands-free liftgate, configurable daytime running lights and more (see the window sitcker enclosed).

Quiet is standard on the Lincoln MKC. Active noise cancellation reduces road and other noise by actively countering sound waves. It works, really. We think. You can’t turn it off to see.

A Technology Package adds “active park assist” automated parallel parking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and forward sensing assist, for $2,235. A $580 Climate Package that adds rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and automatic windshield wipers.

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD (click to enlarge)

Performance with the 2.3-liter Ecoboost is impressive. It outpowers the Audi Q5 and BMW X1, both slightly larger than the MKC, and is within shouting distance of double the Buick Encore’s output—although the Lincoln is bigger than the Buick. Ride is smooth, noticeably more so than the Ford Escape and, for example, the BMW X1, although the MKC doesn’t go after corners like the Bimmer.

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is a laudable addition to the Lincoln lineup and currently making up 20 percent of Lincoln’s sales. Considering Lincoln’s lagging sales totals, perhaps that’s faint praise, but it suggests that there is a place in the market for a classic American vehicle for which, at least in terms of size, there is no direct competitor. And those which are similar in size, aren’t in the same. The Lincoln is a step up from Ford, and a genuine player in the entry luxury field.

Sorry, Escape. You’re cousin’s richer than you.

Specifications and window sticker on next page.

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