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2015 Lincoln MKC First Test

Lincoln’s Arrow to the Heart of SUV Sales

Oct 6, 2014
Photographers: Motor Trend Staff
The prototypical SUVs in the minds of most Americans would probably include the names Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Ford Explorer. Yet of those names, only two of them, the Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer, are consistent Top 10 sellers. If you look at the Top Four, all of them are compact or compact/midsize models, with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape battling it out month to month for first place. So, in the midst of declining sales and interest in the brand, Lincoln made the pragmatic (and wise) decision to launch a new model based on the Escape. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2015 Lincoln MKC.
Badge Re-Engineering
Although based on Ford’s global C platform, variations of which also underpin the C-Max and Focus, the MKC is more than just a cynical rebadge of an Escape. The front and rear tracks are 0.9 inches wider than the Escape, width is an inch wider, as well as the overall length. Almost no exterior sheetmetal is shared with the Escape, with Lincoln’s signature split-wing grille giving it a cleaner, more elegant visage than its Blue Oval cousin. There is also wraparound rear tailgate that makes for an unbroken horizontal rear light cluster and an element that Lincoln designers identified as imparting a premium image.
On the inside, the MKC also goes for a clean, elegant, upscale look. The conventional console-mounted shifter is eliminated in favor of a pushbutton shifter, with the PRND buttons in a vertical row along the left side of the center stack. The starter button (all trims get keyless start) is at the bottom of the shifter button row, which takes a few seconds to find for the uninitiated. The MKC also employs genuine open-pore wood trim on the interior, and top-trim models get cooled seats, power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, and the hands-free tailgate made famous with its debut on the 2013 Ford Escape.
As expected from a premium-branded and premium-priced model, the MKC does have a noticeably quieter ride than the Escape. The sound deadening and other refinement measures add more than 150 pounds over an equivalent Escape.
Athlete in a Tuxedo
The base MKC employs Ford’s familiar 2.0L I-4 EcoBoost used in the Escape Titanium, making the same 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. However, those that crave more power can spec out Ford’s new 2.3L EcoBoost, which will also be offered in the 2015 Ford Mustang. In the Lincoln, it produces 285 hp and 305 lb-ft. Both engines provide ample motivation for the small Lincoln, but the added power and torque of the 2.3L is evident in its midrange response. Our test numbers bear out the seat-of-the-pants difference, with the 2.3L doing the 0-60 spring in 6.5 seconds, 1.1 seconds faster than the 2.0L front-drive model we had on hand.
Although not substantially worse than its class peers, the 2.3L’s EPA figures of 18 city and 26 highway are somewhat low for a four-cylinder. The front-drive 2.0L EcoBoost is rated at 20 city, 29 highway. Both figures are slightly lower than the Escape. The 2.0L AWD model gets the same 26 mpg highway rating as the 2.3L engine, with 1 mpg better city economy. The larger engine is only available with all-wheel-drive and is a stand-alone $1,140 option on all AWD MKC models. In contrast to its conservative, restrained exterior appearance, we found the MKC to be quite playful during spirited driving, especially the AWD model with the 2.3L engine. Standard paddle shifters, a feature not offered on the Escape, help to encourage enthusiastic driving. The 2.3L AWD model surprised us with its 0.84g skidpad performance, slightly better than even the indisputably athletic Porsche Macan S.
Like the Porsche Macan, we’re slightly ambivalent about the MKC’s value equation, especially when fully equipped, but a case can be made for the MKC being a good value, with the front drive 2.0L starting at $33,995 and the 2.3L AWD starting at $36,490. However, once the goody wagon was backed up to our testers, the price tags inflated significantly to $45,785 and $49,265, respectively. Almost $50k for an Escape in a tuxedo seems a bit much. Aside from the larger engine and a few options, almost all of the features offered on the MKC can also be had on a fully equipped Escape Titanium, which can nudge the $40,000 barrier itself.
Shaking the Brand Baggage
The MKC has the potential to become Lincoln’s best-selling model but is currently running third behind the MKZ sedan and slightly larger MKX crossover, with monthly sales running between 1,500 and 1,700 units a month. Will Lincoln’s recent campaign featuring silver-screen heartthrob Matthew McConaughey help push the MKC over the top? It’s anyone’s guess. We’ve seen other models take several years to finally hit their sales stride. Content wise, the MKC has the goods to play in the same sandbox with the Audi Q5, the new Lexus NX, and other small premium crossovers. Lincoln’s biggest issue is probably its image, which, in the minds of many potential buyers, is still associated with limousines, hearses, and grandpa’s car. It may not have the brand cachet of Audi, BMW, Lexus or even Cadillac, but we give Lincoln credit for producing a compelling entry in a cutthroat segment. Now it’s just a matter of getting potential buyers to consider it.

  2015 Lincoln MKC 2.0 EcoBoost 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 AWD EcoBoost
BASE PRICE $33,995 $36,490
PRICE AS TESTED $45,785 $49,265
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/240-hp/270-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.3L/285-hp/305-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3866 lb (58/42%) 4045 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 105.9 in 105.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 179.2 x 73.4 x 65.2 in 179.2 x 73.4 x 65.2 in
0-60 MPH 7.6 sec 6.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.9 sec @ 87.4 mph 15.0 sec @ 91.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 123 ft 118 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.80 g (avg) 0.84 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 20/29/23 mpg 18/26/21 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 169/116 kW-hrs/100 miles 187/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.83 lb/mile 0.93 lb/mile