Lincoln MKC: Freedom of choice in luxury

The Lincoln Motor Co. has delivered some decent vehicles lately. Most notably, the 2015 MKC marks a substantial difference from other vehicles in Lincoln’s recent history.

Lincoln seems to be relegated to doing makeovers of existing Ford products, and they’ve been well done. The new Lincoln Navigator is exemplary but has its roots in the Ford Expedition. The MKZ starts out as a Ford Fusion, and the MKT, though you’d hardly recognize it, starts as a Ford Flex.

This is hardly an unusual practice. Every manufacturer with multiple vehicle lines spins different products from the same platform. So it is with the new MKC, which is based on the same platform as the Ford Escape compact crossover.

The MKC stands out because it arrives just in time to take advantage of the soaring popularity of compact CUVs, especially those in the lavish end of the spectrum. Luxury manufacturers everywhere are scrambling to stake a claim.

There’s substantial competition in this segment, including the Acura RDX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Lexus NX, BMW X1, Audi Q3, Infiniti QX50 and, less likely, the Porsche Macan, which is a sports car masquerading as a CUV. Also, there are any number of others that can be equipped nearly as well without the luxury tag line. The 2015 Honda CR-V Touring is one, as is the 2015 Ford Escape Titanium.

The attraction of the CUVs is that they usually provide the passenger space of a midsize sedan along with the better cargo capacity of an SUV, as well as an up-high driving position. They usually offer all-wheel-drive, as well as front or rear drive, providing customers in varied climates with vehicles tailored to their environments.

Lincoln’s MKC has all of that, including a choice of FWD or AWD. It leans toward the soft side of the spectrum, unlike more sporting machines like the BMW X1 or the Audi Q3.

Buyers will find the MKC’s handling and ride to be middling and inoffensive. But don’t figure on keeping up with either the Audi or BMW on a twisting mountain road.

The MKC’s interior is sinfully luxurious, with real wood trim, soft leather, and fine craftsmanship. Its closest competitor is the Acura RDX, which is about 5 inches longer. They offer similar power, although the RDX uses a V-6 engine where the MKC comes with a choice of either the 240-horsepowr, 2.0-liter or the 285-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine.

The MKC we tested with AWD and the 2.3-liter engine is rated at 18/26/21 city/hwy/combined mpg and has a bottom-line sticker price of $48,700.

The biggest option chunk is its $6,395 “reserve equipment group,” which includes power folding, heated outside mirrors; an all-glass panoramic roof that incorporates a power opening sunroof; navigation with voice recognition; blind spot warning with cross traffic alert; heated and cooled front seats; and Ford’s hands-free lift gate — simply wave your foot under the rear bumper and it opens.

Other premium options include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision warning with brake support, active parking assist (in and out), and a heated steering wheel.

All of that is available on top of the standard equipment of the AWD model, which starts at $36,490 price, and includes dual zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, remote starting, and Lincoln’s MyTouch and SYNC infotainment systems.

The MKC uses pushbuttons to shift the automatic transmission, which works fine once you get used to them. Unfortunately, the lever for the electronic parking brake is inconveniently out of sight under the dash.

Though owners won’t likely take the MKC off-road, this crossover is offered with features for sure-footedness. According to Lisa Drake, MKC chief engineer, “The width of MKC’s track has been set to allow the designers the freedom to create a planted stance for the vehicle, and it provided engineers the opportunity to minimize body roll and give the vehicle a more sporty feel.”

The intelligent all-wheel-drive system also includes continuously controlled damping (CCD). Drivers can use Lincoln Drive Control to select from sport, comfort and normal drive modes to cater to their driving mood. CCD constantly monitors the road; the suspension reacts on average within 20 milliseconds, providing a smooth ride with enhanced handling.

If your motoring taste skews toward the softly luxurious, as opposed to sporty athleticism, the MKC nicely fills the bill.