Luxurious,? quiet cabin belies SUV?s handling and fun-to-drive qualities
OJAI, CALIF.?My friend drove faster and faster as we chatted about our work, enjoying the feel of the canyon road.
?It?s tough to make a living now in this business,? he lamented, and set up for the next corner, a tight left-hander with a long drop on its far side down the slope.
?We?re not paid what we?re worth for what we do,? he continued, keeping the vehicle to the right of the asphalt, readying the racing line on the empty two-laner.
?But sometimes, roads like this help make up for that.?
I laughed, and he glanced across at me with a grin, which at this speed was just long enough to be almost fatal. His steering strayed from the intended line as we entered the tight curve and both right-side wheels of the SUV slipped from the road onto the gravel shoulder.
I saw it coming and grabbed the dash, letting out an involuntary whoa! We were at the legal speed limit but far beyond the recommended speed.
The vehicle?s momentum was pushing us hard to the right and the tires no longer had anything like the same grip. The edge of the road and the drop down the mountain was just a metre or two away, and we were sliding toward it, fast.
My friend?s attention snapped back and he steered the wheels into the skid. When the SUV slewed back the opposite way, he kept his cool, relaxed his grip and let it find its path back onto the asphalt.
I let out a deep breath as the realization of what might have happened sank in.
?Sorry about that,? said my former friend. ?You know, this truck handled that really well. That was impressive.?
Neither of us had expected much that morning from the new Lincoln MKC. We assumed it would be a luxurious version of the Ford Escape, with which it shares a chassis, all heavy leather and fancy sound system.
It has all of that, of course. Inside, it?s extremely quiet, thanks to double-sealed doors, acoustic glass and noise-cancelling soundwaves pumped through the speakers. We figured the compact SUV would isolate the driver from the road, but we were wrong. It?s terrific to drive.
The all-new MKC gives its driver a choice of Normal or Sport performance, right there on the dash.
There?s no gear-shift lever or parking brake because designers wanted to open up the cabin as much as possible, leaving a clear space between the driver and passenger.
The brake is an electronic button on the dash below the wheel; the transmission is a series of buttons on the dash to the right of the wheel, just as it is on the MKZ sedan. Paddles mounted to the wheel let you shift for yourself if you want.
You can set the Normal or Sport buttons to your preference, although it?s a long sequence of up to eight dabs on the steering-wheel control button through the display menu.
We had the Normal setting on Comfort, which softens the suspension damping, relaxes the steering and the throttle inputs, and lengthens the gear shift ratios.
Like this, on the highway, the MKC drives like the old man?s Lincoln the nameplate?s reputation suggests, rolling around corners and floating over bumps.
But we also had the Sport setting dialed in to adjust all these the other way ? firming the suspension, tightening the steering and the throttle, and quickening the shifts.
The six-speed automatic gearbox can be worked through the paddle-shifters, but we found the MKC seemed to know better than us which gear to be in. My former friend just left it alone and the transmission flitted up and down the gears exactly as the driver would want.
Fortunately, when we hit the gravel, the MKC was set to Sport. Its all-wheel drive kicked in seamlessly and the computer?s electronic torque-vectoring moved the power from one side to the other to control the skid.
All Canadian models will be sold with all-wheel-drive, which is set to move power to the rear wheels when needed. They?ll also be sold with a choice of two engines, starting with the 2.0-L Ecoboost that already powers the Escape, which begins at $39,940. It makes 240 hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque.
There are a couple of option packages that increase the price until you can get the new 2.3-L Ecoboost engine, which comes with the fully-loaded $49,650 version. This engine is also under the hood of the new Ford Mustang and makes 285 hp and a stonking 305 lb.-ft. of torque.
You can pay an extra $2,500 for the Technology Package, which adds blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and park assist, to help you parallel park both into and out of a tight space.
This was my test car, and when I took the wheel, I punched the Drive setting down to Comfort.
In theory, that would help give me fuel consumption of 12.9 L/100 km in the city and 9.2 on the highway, But, in practice, I quickly grew bored and pressed the Sport setting again, to wreak revenge on my passenger.
The MKC is a very big deal for Lincoln. Small SUVs are the fastest-growing segment for premium vehicles, with an increase in Canada of 285 per cent since 2008. In the U.S., it?s more than double that, at 600 per cent.
It?s essential to have a player in the Chinese market, too, which is predicted to become the world?s largest luxury automotive market by 2017. Lincoln and GM?s competitor Buick are seen there as heady status symbols.
This is an SUV that strokes your vanity, with soft and adjustable optional ambient light everywhere, a fabulous optional sound system and an extremely comfortable and refined cabin.
It even has an available puddle-light that illuminates as you approach from outside to beam the Lincoln symbol on the ground, like the Range Rover.
The Lincoln is taking on aggressive competitors like the Audi Q5 and BMW X1, as well as the soon-to-be-released Lexus NX, by providing a unique cabin matched to an efficient but fun powertrain.
The competition will all be doing the same thing. It?ll be a tough battle for everyone, but great for buyers.
Transportation for freelance writer Mark Richardson was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.
2015 LINCOLN MKC
Price: $39,940 to $49,650
Engines: 2.0-L and 2.3-L four-cylinder Ecoboost
Power/Torque: 240 hp/270 lb.-ft., 285/305
Fuel Consumption L/100 km: 12.4 city, 9.0 hwy.; 12.9, 9.2
Competition: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX, Lexus NX
What?s Best: Super quiet, great handling for an SUV, very comfortable seats.
What?s Worst: Menu items fiddly to adjust on the fly, bigger engine only comes with loaded model, plastic feel to radio knobs.
What?s Interesting: Built in Kentucky.
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