Everyone not intricately involved in the auto industry is thankful to see that Lincoln has realized that consumers will better embrace and identity with your product when they know what it is. This week’s Corsair compact-class luxury crossover has a proper, recognizable name that you can remember. Yes, some will relate Corsair to the Barbary Coast pirates of the 18th century, but this is a whole lot better than the former alphabet soup list of names that Lincoln (and other automakers) have been using to distinguish their various models. MKT, MKC, MKX — all of those monikers won’t be down for breakfast.
The compact class crossover is the hottest automotive segment, period. Yes, pickup trucks are selling like crazy right now, but most of those sales come from four brand names, while there are literally dozens of compact crossovers — across all price levels — vying for your purchase dollars. This new Corsair is going to shake up the premium end of the class like the previous MKC never did.
Going up against such favorites as the Volvo XC60, Lexus NX, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC and new Cadillac XT4, the Corsair comes to the party with two turbocharged four-cylinder engines running through an eight-speed automatic sending power either to a front-wheel-drive layout, or, a part-time AWD system. Base power is ample, 250 hp from the 2.0-liter turbo, while the 2.3-liter turbo spins out an exciting 295 hp for upscale trim levels. Peak projected fuel economy is 22/29 mpg.
Pricing starts at $35,945 — right in the hunt for premium versions of similarly sized mainstream variants of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and, well, Ford’s own Escape. Add $2,200 for AWD, which gains other features besides redirecting power to the rear wheels as necessary, plus $1,140 for the more powerful 2.3-liter engine in case you absolutely have to get there overnight — like the U.S. mail used to.
Visually, the Corsair shares the recent design themes seen on its larger siblings, like the Aviator, Nautilus and Navigator — sense a naming theme here? The Corsair’s proportions, flowing lines and liberal LED light usage in the bold, assertive grille all combine to create a much more pleasing vehicle appearance than the Escape’s compromised styling efforts.
This carries over inside, where the “floating” center console provides usable space below and sets off the 8-inch touchscreen above. The piano key shifter buttons for the transmission are aligned across the dash — unusual, but workable — while other climate and audio functions are apparent and accessible instead of layered inside tedious screen menus.
Our Reserve-trimmed Corsair (starting price $49,010) featured the Lincoln Way App portfolio of complementary accessibility via your smartphone — it can even work as your keyfob, while the full array of Lincoln driving assists and safety systems are standard: lane-keeping assist, reverse parking assist, blind-spot detection, pre-collision assist braking, SOS-post-crash alerting system, pedestrian detection braking, rear-cross-traffic alerts, dynamic cruise and more. Automatic stop-start, remote starting, Lincoln Drive Modes, Sync3 with Wi-Fi capability, plus push-button access and ignition are all standard on Reserve, as are a panoramic sunroof, 14-speaker Revel sound system, power liftgate and a power tilt/telescoping steering column.
Also like its siblings, the Corsair offers the delightful heated and cooled leather massaging seats that are prevalent across the brand. Here, however, you will have to make do with only 24-way adjustability and massage, an immense sacrifice from the normal 30-way Lincoln massaging seats. Don’t tell your massage therapist.
Second-row space is ample, with a sliding bench to aid cargo or passenger space, whichever you need more of at the specific interval, while wrap-around door thresholds shield your finely tailored garments from the vulgarities of the environment outside whenever you exit.
The 2.3-liter motor makes the Corsair lively and quick. Quiet and refined at all speeds, the Corsair is compliant on rough surfaces, yet lacks the tactile feel and superior handling of the X3 or an Audi Q5. The majority of buyers might never reach the velocities where these characteristics are exposed.
The new Corsair may share its foundation with the mainstream Escape, but this compact crossover is further proof that Lincoln has found its identity, again, and is once again building the luxury vehicles that American drivers will aspire to.