Let me introduce you to the 2015 Black Label Lincoln MKC, the ultimate expression of what many might mistakenly believe is simply a gussied-up Ford Escape.
Heck, the $57,500 price tag alone should be enough to tell you that Lincoln Motor Company is so serious about re-establishing its luxury credentials that it has created a vehicle that is not only a whole world above above the more plebeian offering of the parent Ford Motor Co, it is even a full luxury step above the standard MKC’s Premier, Select and Reserve editions.
And just what does Black Label do? It takes the best-equipped MKC and adds a host of amenities to enhance its exclusivity.
In addition to the standard premium materials, a buyer will get a 4-year, 50,000-mile maintenance plan that covers all recommended services and worn items, complimentary pickup and delivery, complimentary anytime car washes, annual detailing, a single point of contact at the dealership, remote delivery within 30 miles of a participating dealership, a choice of four specifically designed luxury interiors, and more.
That’s for the car. The buyer will also have access to the Culinary Collection, a list of restaurants from coast to coast with chefs who will provide a special dining experience.
Before we move on, let’s not forget one big caveat. Black Label cars are available only at dealers who complete an extensive certification process and are located in target markets that produce more than half of luxury sales. If your house has a Podunk postmark, Black Label vehicles will not be in the local showroom.
There’s one more thing you need to know. The 2016 Lincoln MKC is starting to appear in showrooms, but there is little new in the newest model.The significant ones are an increase in towing capacity to 3,000 pounds and an update to the Sync 3 touchscreen interface.
Okay, so what about the car?
The all-wheel-drive luxury crossover, second of four models introduced for Lincoln’s march upward, does share its basic structure with the Ford Escape, but in all fairness that really is where the comparison ends. In fact, even the styling is different.
It is also where one major complaint may begin. Billed as a five-passenger vehicle, the MKC is comfortable only for four adults. If the two front-seat passengers are tall, back-seat passengers may feel pinched. Over 6-footers in the back seat will feel cramped.
Also, luggage room behind the second-row seatback is only 25.2 cubic feet. However, fold that setback forward and the cargo capacity expands to 53.1 cubic feet.
The Lincoln MKC provided for my examination came with the optional ($1,140) turbocharged, 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 285-horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque.
Teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the nearly two-ton MKC is adequately powerful in all situations and, considering its weight, is reasonably economical.
In several hundred miles behind the wheel in a variety of traffic conditions, I averaged about 22 mpg of regular gasoline. That put me mid-point between the EPA’s projection of 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway.
Paddle shifters are on board for those who want to take manual control of gear selection but, to be honest, they added little to drivability. I could see them coming in handy for holding a specific gear while towing a boat or trailer up to the 2,000-pound limit, or on steep descents in bad weather.
The electric power steering did not offer much in the way of feedback from the road but, in all fairness, neither does the steering in other similarly configured vehicles with a relatively high center of gravity.
However, the four-wheel antilock disc brakes with roll stability control did a good job of keeping the relatively heavy MKC under control.
An adaptive suspension system allows drivers to select among comfort, normal and sport driving modes. I found the normal and comfort modes too soft for my tastes, but was satisfied with the sport setting, which made the Lincoln feel a bit more responsive to my inputs.
But, let’s face it, sport always takes a back seat to utility in these vehicles. What is of more importance to the passenger in any upscale vehicle is comfort. Here is where the MKC shines.
If you like quiet, the MKC is certain to please. There is plenty of sound-deadening insulation, plus special, noise-reducing glass and active noise cancellation. Combine that with a ride quality that was smooth and quiet, even in sports mode and even when the road was not, and the passengers can cover long distances in stress-free comfort.
The littlest Lincoln also features a long list of safety features, including a full complement of seat belts and airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Technology Package, a $2,295 option, adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning system and lane-departure intervention, which can help keep drivers from drifting out of their lane. It can also alert them with a chime and message if it determines that drivers appear to be getting drowsy.
The package also has active park assist, which can guide drivers into tight parallel-parking spaces.
Among the many standard features on the tested Black Label Lincoln MKC are 20-inch wheels, 14-speaker sound system, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, 8-inch touch screen with the Sync 3 voice-activated infotainment system, navigation, hands-free power liftgate, high-intensity discharge headlights, panoramic sunroof and power heated and ventilated fronts seats, For an extra $580, a buyer can get a heated steering wheel.
In addition, an owner can download the My Lincoln mobile app, which lets you use a smart phone to start, lock, unlock and locate the MKC.
The base Lincoln MKC starts at the relatively reasonable price of $33,995, But if you want everything but the kitchen sink —- at least, I didn’t see a kitchen sink —- you may be asked to shell out the full $57,500.
The fully loaded Black Label MKC may be more than most people need or want, but it proves that Lincoln is serious about allowing its buyers to reach the top of the luxury ladder.
For John Matras report on the Lincoln MKC, click here.
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