2020 Lincoln Corsair
2020 Lincoln Corsair
Less than a decade ago we were wondering if Ford’s Lincoln brand was about to be banished. Founded in 1917 by Henry Leland — who also started Cadillac — and named for President Lincoln, the marque had drifted into something of an automotive backwater.
Ford’s Mercury division was dumped in early 2011, but management decided to keep Lincoln, its luxury brand, rather than have Ford cars go it alone.
It’s no surprise these days that the emphasis at Lincoln has been on SUVs, up until now with just two automobiles, the Continental and MKZ. Leading the current line-up are three new sport-utilities, ranked in size from large to small, the Navigator, Aviator and Corsair.
It’s likely that much of what you know about modern Lincolns has been gleaned from the Matthew McConaughey video ads (or the Jim Carrey spoofs from Saturday Night Live). So we did some seat time in the smallest, the Corsair, to add our perspective.
First, we want to compliment Lincoln on reverting to vehicle names. It still has the MKC SUV, but otherwise it has dumped its confusing MK nomenclature for real monikers for its trio of new SUVs.
The three sport utilities share a styling theme with a similar, intricate grille and headlamp treatment. Their profiles aren’t too squared off and fit their purpose, from the more formal 8-passenger Navigator down to the tapered roof of the 5-passenger Corsair. The shapes are softer (dare we even say friendlier?) than those from Cadillac.
Lincoln claims it wanted to create a “sanctuary” in the Corsair and went to great efforts to minimize noise intrusion and make the interior experience as pleasant as possible. It works. Noise is kept out and the comfortable interior design fulfills this purpose down to the smallest detail.
The Corsair will hold five adults, though four would be best. The rear seat — divided 60/40 left/right — slides front or back to optimize leg or cargo space as needed. We discovered that riders approximately six feet tall can fit easily in all four seating spots.
You can see from the photos how the seat forms to fit you — back, bottom and sides. Ahead is a multi-button steering wheel and programmable dashboard. To the right is one of the more intelligently-designed center “stacks” with an 8-inch LCD screen that is easily read with just the right amount of information in a proper type size. We had very few light reflection problems with the display. Below that are wide PRND transmission buttons followed by a panel of infotainment and climate control buttons with a properly sloped surface for easy touch or turn control. It is all sensible yet attractive.
Down between driver and passenger is a large dial that selects your drive mode. Where other automakers tout Touring, Track or Sport, Lincoln offers Normal, Conserve, Slippery, Deep and Excite. We spent most of our time in Normal. That’s a perfect description of how the Corsair behaves. Whether driving on freeways or city streets, it’s just what you want for your sanctuary.
What else do you expect in a vehicle in which they’ve replaced annoying buzzer and gong alerts with chimes recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra?
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We did slip it into Excite for a run up Orange County’s famed Ortega Highway on a quiet Sunday. No, the Corsair isn’t a sports SUV. You won’t keep up with the sports cars and motorcycles. However, it wasn’t that long ago that only purported sports sedans were this easy and predictable on a curving canyon road.
What makes that easy predictability possible is under the Corsair’s skin. While Lincoln goes its own way, the Corsair does share some basic components with the new front-drive platform under the Ford Escape. It adds to that elements including an upgraded independent rear suspension with an isolated sub-frame and optional air springs.
There are two engines offered, both turbocharged inline-4s. With 2.0 liters you get 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Go with the 2.3-liter version and the ratings are 295 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. In either case, the engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. With the 2.3 you also get all-wheel drive. Road tests put the 0-60 time for the smaller engine at 7.3 seconds, while the 2.3 hits the mid-6 second range. EPA mileage is just over 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for both.
All this comes in two Corsair models — the Standard version starting at $35,945 or the $42,630 Reserve edition. Our test Lincoln was a Reserve that topped out at $60,110 with adaptive suspension, 20-inch wheels, 360-degree camera (quite handy) and a heads-up display added.
Very nice, but perhaps a bit pricey. We specced a Standard model in silver with the 2.3-liter engine, all-wheel drive, 19-inch wheels and a few interior upgrades and it came in at $44,785. Quite an attractive alternative.
Then again, there are also the Hyundai Palisade, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Kia Telluride, Cadillac XT4… the list goes on.
John Lamm worked for Road & Track for 37 years and is equally happy behind a keyboard or a camera. He has written ten automotive books and has been honored with the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy award and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor award for writing. He is on the organizing committee for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for two decades.