I had to keep reminding myself the 2015 Lincoln MKC was, in fact, a Lincoln. Please allow me to explain.
With its Lincoln signature “butterfly” grille design and full-width taillights, there was no mistaking the MKC for anything but a modern Lincoln from the outside. However, once inside, it took a minute to square this littlest Lincoln crossover with memories of Lincolns from my past.
The last Lincoln I drove was my mother’s Lincoln LS. She loved the car enough that she bought two iterations of it, trading the first one with the Jag aluminum V8 for her second one with the Ford V6 — both of them painted that color of burgundy you seem to see on every freaking Lincoln LS on Craigslist nowadays. It was Lincoln’s BMW 5 Series.
Why are you laughing? The car was reasonably quick, handled reasonably well, and was correct-wheel drive. In a lot of ways, Lincoln tried its hand at out-BMWing BMW before Cadillac gave it a shot with the first CTS. Heck, the LS even looked kind of like a BMW at some viewing angles. But more about American luxury brands trying to ape German luxury brands later.
Before those two LSes, my time spent riding behind a Lincoln crosshair as a youngster was in a couple of Panther chassis Town Cars some elderly members of my family had. And somewhere in my memory bank, there was at least one of those front-wheel drive Continentals of the ‘90s that we all wish we could forget — but I for one can’t because I still get to see them, adjustable rear suspension failed in the default ass-in-air stance, with somewhat surprising regularity.
Enter the 2015 Lincoln MKC. My tester was a Black Label edition with all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels, the optional 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and deluxe interior appointments including leather-trimmed cloth seats and enhanced THX audio system. It’s a classy ride among the burgeoning compact crossover set that includes entries as diverse as the now-aging yet still sporty Nissan Juke, who somewhat pioneered the segment here in America, and the super-quiet and not nearly as sporty Buick Encore that is selling like hotcakes in its third year on the U.S. market.
The eagerness of the 285-horsepower, 305 ft-lb EcoBoost 2.3-liter engine cannot be overstated. Coming out of a 2015 Ford F-150 review truck — itself with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 — the MKC felt like it had a small rocket strapped to its back. Power-to-weight ratio FTW. It felt worlds quicker than any Panther chassis to wear the Lincoln badge, and I’m pretty sure even the little aluminum V8 in mom’s first LS wouldn’t keep pace with the EcoBoost in a straight line.
Come to think of it, the LS might not have been able to keep up with the MKC in the curvy stuff, either. My tester was equipped with Lincoln Drive Control featuring Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD). That’s Lincolnese for driver-adjustable suspension that could be set to “sport,” “normal,” or “comfort” values by utilizing a menu within the setting menu found in the left side of the instrument cluster. I spent most of the week driving around in “normal” mode and was pleasantly surprised by the MKC’s willingness to round curves without too much wallow. Switching to “sport” improved that willingness at the expense of more impact harshness, while “comfort” improved impact absorption at the cost of some handling alacrity. It’s a good system, but it’s optional. Make sure you get it if you decide to buy a Lincoln MKC, as fellow autojourno types who have driven the MKC without this option say adding it makes a huge positive transformation in the way the crossover handles.
What gave me pause — moreso than even the pushbuttons for the automatic transmission lining the left side of the center stack — was wondering how the Lincoln MKC fits into the future Lincoln apparently sees for itself. The brand introduced a new Continental Concept at this year’s New York International Auto Show, and that car supposedly sought to shift Lincoln Motor Company’s focus back to solid, American-style luxury. While Cadillac busies itself trying to build American-scented versions of the Roundel and Three-Pointed Star, Lincoln was going to get back to building Lincolns: Big, brash, powerful, but also coddling. Deft handling, while probably important to some degree, did not seem to be the priority when Lincoln released its Continental Concept talking points during NYIAS.
That’s probably smart. Nobody talks about the 1961 Continental today because it was a great handler of curves. People still talk about it because it was a great handler of emotions. It made you take notice. It was unashamedly American. It had style all its own. When you arrived in a 1961 Continental, you freakin’ arrived.
So what, then, to make of the MKC? It comes across so unlike the ethos seemingly touted by this year’s Continental Concept. It’s quick as a hiccup. While full of nice touches — Alcantara-wrapped headliner just because — I certainly didn’t find the interior appointments to be that far above, say, the Buick Encore. The amount of noise trickling into the cabin from the outside world was somewhat surprising, a factor I attribute partially to my tester’s 20-inch wheels. Give me the extra tire sidewall of 17-inch wheels, man. Road noise and fuel economy are areas where the Lincoln MKC definitely does not trump the Buick Encore, even if the MKC is miles more fun to drive.
So would I, 29 years old, buy a Lincoln MKC? Probably not a new one — I’m too much of a tightwad to blow $57,000 on something this small. But when it comes off-lease at 50% of its new MSRP in two years? Maybe.
After all, that’s how mom scored both of her Lincoln LSes back in the day.
2015 Lincoln MKC Black Label AWD
Base price: $48,700
Price as tested: $57,500 (including $895 destination charge)
Options: Chroma Flame Metallic paint – $1,750, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine – $1,140, THX audio system – $995, 20-inch premium painted aluminum wheels – $1,145, Technology Package – $2,295, Climate Package – $580
Ridiculously willing powertrain
Tight interior space, especially for backseat occupants
No full-leather seats on the top-end Black Label package?
So-so fuel economy (measured low to mid-20s MPGs in mostly slow, country-roads driving)