The four-star 2015 Lincoln MKC all-wheel drive is a fine little SUV and a somewhat larger leap of faith.
The crossover is loaded with style, power and features. It comes with everything but a price that acknowledges Lincoln's recent makeover is still in its early stages.
The new MKC uses the same architecture as the Ford Escape, but it looks and feels nothing like the Ford. The MKC is almost exactly the same size as the Escape, 7.6 inches shorter than the Lincoln MKX and 11.1 inches shorter than the Cadillac SRX.
The 179.2-inch long MKC will compete primarily with small luxury crossovers like the shorter BMW X1 xDrive 3.5i and the new, longer Lexus NX.
The small luxury SUV segment is new. It hasn't sorted itself into clear size categories yet. In addition to the NX and X1, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz GLK 7.7 inches and 0.9 inches shorter, respectively are the MKC's most obvious competitors. At just 168.4 inches long, the Buick Encore is clearly a class smaller than the MKC's cadre.
Car companies and buyers haven't settled on names for small crossovers' size classes. For the moment, at least, I'm calling the MKC, GLK, Evoque and NX compact crossovers. By process of elimination, that makes bigger five-seaters like the MKX, SRX, BMW X3, Lexus RX and Mercedes ML midsize.
The size classifications will sort themselves out. What matters more is that the MKC is an appealing luxury vehicle that might struggle because of an ambitious price range.
MKC prices start at $33,100 for a front-drive model with a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive MKCs start at $35,595 with the same engine. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all MKCs. Stepping up to a 285-horsepower turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine adds $1,410. The impressive 2.3L is only available with all-wheel drive.
I tested a well-equipped 2.3L MKC that stickered at $47,875. All prices exclude destination charges.
Suggestions that MKC is an overpriced Ford Escape are baseless. The MKC doesn't share any sheet metal with the Escape. A few interior pieces including its touch screen and steering wheel controls are the same, but the MKC looks and feels very different from the Ford, as Lincolns should.
Its sleek exterior design, with LED accent lights, sharp creases and flowing curves, looks nothing like the Escape. Nor does the interior, which in my test car featured soft leather, low-gloss wood and a control panel with buttons, switches and dials for climate and audio controls.
The front seat had plenty of passenger space and storage bins. Rear legroom is limited, but the cargo compartment is accommodating. Its 25.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat beat the X1, Evoque, NX and GLK.
The terrific 2.3L engine is not available on the Escape. It delivers abundant power its 305 lb-ft of torque tops BMW's bigger straight-six for spirited acceleration, easy passing and carefree highway cruising.
The engine turns the MKC into a pocket rocket, delivering a very competitive EPA rating of 18 m.p.g. in the city, 26 on the highway and 21 in combined driving. The combined figure matches the BMW X1 and X3 and Mercedes GLK 350 4Matic. It trails the less powerful Evoque and the NX.
The MKC looks great, has an impressive drivetrain and loads of features, but a small crossover with prices that can brush $50,000 is ambitious of Lincoln. That's the leap of faith.
It may be justified. I enjoyed the Lincoln immensely driving from Detroit to Traverse City, Mich., about 500 miles round trip.
The MKC is a fast, fun highway cruiser, with comfort and convenience features that included good voice recognition, blind spot and cross traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, a big sunroof, THX audio, automated parking and more.
Despite its price, the MKC just might be the vehicle that begins Lincoln's overdue return to the front ranks of luxury brands.
Behind the Wheel
2015 Lincoln MKC AWD
All-wheel-drive, five-passenger small luxury SUV
Price as tested: $47,875 (excluding destination charge)
Competitive EPA fuel economy ratings:
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive models)
2015 Lincoln MKC AWD 2.3L: 18 m.p.g. city/26 highway/21 combined. Regular gasoline.
BMW X1 xDrive 3.5i: 18/27/21. Premium gasoline.
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure: 21/30/24. Premium gasoline.
Lexus NX AWD: 21/28/24. Premium gasoline.
Mercedes GLK 350 4Matic: 19/24/21. Premium gasoline.
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive models)
2015 Lincoln MKC AWD 2.3L: $36,735
BMW X1 xDrive 3.5i: $38,800
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure: $41,100
Lexus NX AWD: N/A
Mercedes GLK 350 4Matic: $39,900
Specifications as tested
Engine: 2.3L turbocharged 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 285 hp @ 5,500 r.p.m.; 305 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750 r.p.m.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.