THE PROS & CONS
- The Good: Comfort rules
- The Bad: Occasionally clunky ride
It’s New Year’s Day, and the weather forecast is calling for temperatures just above zero with cloudy skies. Which in Nova Scotia means it’s time to load up the dog and the Chuckit and head to the beach. Sure there are some options closer to the city, but a 90-minute drive puts us on a 2 kilometre-long stretch of deserted sand that you can drive your car on. Normally.
Today, though, a storm surge and a slight misreading of the tide chart means that the beach is underwater when we arrive. On top of that, the clouds are starting to look less fluffy and more ominous by the minute, and as we retreat to a nearby fenced-in park, a mix of rain and snow starts to fall. We try to play some fetch in that mix, but even our always energetic Dalmatian pup wants nothing to do with being outside in these miserable conditions.
All of that has lead to one of the ultimate tests for a luxury vehicle, especially one that’s part of such a complete rebirth of a brand as Lincoln is currently experiencing. We’re tired, the dog is wired, we’re frustrated, cold, damp, and this day is just minutes away from being a complete write-off.
It’s time for some coddling. Some warming up and some recharging. The kind of treatment that’s supposed to separate luxury cars from just cars. Is the 2020 Lincoln Corsair up to the challenge, or are we going to arrive home as miserable as we are at the halfway point of this so-far disappointing day?
The Corsair is the latest Lincoln to get a real name in place of letters, and while the Nautilus did the same trick with just a refresh, the Corsair is all-new under the skin. And the skin’s new, too, though it certainly takes most of its styling cues from the larger Nautilus and Aviator. Not that that’s in any way a bad thing, because like both of those crossovers, the Corsair is handsome and elegant in a sea of overwrought and overly-styled attempts at adding “sport” to vehicles that want no part in such matters.
Inside, the coddling starts with the optional 24-way “Perfect Position” seats. The seats are very much like those in modern Volvos, where they look like you’re about to sit in something resembling one of those plastic chairs from high school, but instead are immensely supportive. Are 24 adjustments far too many? Probably, but that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to find the right combination for you. Lincoln has wisely put the main adjustments, like height, fore-aft, and recline, right on the door panel. One button press takes you to the on-screen menu to control the various bolsters and the five massage functions. The adjustments I found most impressive, though, were for the thigh bolster extensions. That’s one feature I always look for, but Lincoln has taken it a step beyond just about any other vehicle and allows the left and right side thigh supports to be adjusted separately. I’m not sure why you’d want that, but I’m glad the choice is there.
Now that I’m warm, and using one of the few massage seat options that I’ve found more soothing than irritating, it’s time to coddle with the back roads back to the highway. Lincoln has given the Corsair an adaptive suspension, one that even adds a sport mode which tightens the dampers, throttle response and even the steering. Does it turn this into a competitor for BMW’s X3M? Of course not. What it does is make for a crossover that’s fun to toss into corners and stable through mid-bend bumps. The steering is quick and the chassis is agile, making this much more of a good time for drivers than you would expect from anything with the Lincoln badge on the grille.
My emerging smile grows with some prods of the 2.3L turbo-four under the hood. With 295 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, there’s plenty of shove for this little crossover. The engine is quiet with the RPM kept low, but get it on boil and the sounds from the engine bay grow louder even over the active noise-cancellation system and acoustic glass. Not the silent rumbling V8 of Lincolns past, this engine instead shows that it’s related to the same-sized powerplant found in the Ford Mustang and Focus RS. In short, give it a chance and this package is ready to play. Far more than the average Lincoln buyer is, at least. The engine also runs on regular gas while most competitors use premium. Not something you’d think of as a concern for buyers of $65,000 luxury crossovers, but the last time I filled up with 91 in Toronto it was 40 cents more a litre, and that’s enough to catch almost anyone’s attention.
Toggle back Conserve mode – Lincoln uses Conserve, Excite, and Normal instead of the usual Eco, Sport, and Normal modes – and things soften up. The adaptive dampers don’t go full cush like in some other vehicles, there are still some sharp bangs over the wrong pavement imperfections, but overall they make for a ride that’s thoroughly relaxing.
Lincoln’s other party trick in Conserve mode is in the digital dash. Where other automakers are using their digital instrument clusters to load as much information as possible, including even the map, Lincoln recognizes that in most driving conditions less is more. The cluster goes into Calm Mode, showing you only the gas gauge in the bottom right and a minimalist speedometer. You can toggle on more gauges, but why would you want to? All you really need on the highway or in town is how fast you’re going, and taking away some of the extraneous information here makes it easier to focus on the things you need to focus on. Like driving. Excite adds a tach and more filled-in speedo to the screen, but Conserve is the sweet spot. It doesn’t have the wow factor of the busier dashes, but it’s by far my favourite implementation of the digital dash so far.
Up front, there’s plenty of space for driver and passenger, even lots of headroom despite the panoramic roof glass opening. In the rear seats again, this is large for the class, and Lincoln lets you slide the second row fore or aft several inches to let you trade legroom for cargo space, or to bring a child seat closer to you if you need it. The rear seats recline to let passengers get comfy and relax back there. There’s also a generous cargo area that comes with handles in the hatch to fold the rear seats up and down, saving you from walking around. Though if they’re not slid all the way back, they’ll hit the front seats.
Lincoln offers a Revel audio system in the Corsair that comes with 14 speakers and plenty of audio power. It works on the same touchscreen as the standard system, and both get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity as standard, which is still not a given in this luxury segment. The 8.0-inch screen looks smaller than it is, but it gets the job done quickly and responsively. I’m always in favour of getting the top-spec audio option whenever it’s available, and Lincoln’s Revel system doesn’t disappoint. Still, it lacks some of the clarity and presence of the Revel options in some of Lincoln’s other offerings.
Corsair can be had with all of the usual active safety driver aids, including self-parking, but there are some interesting new ones here like the evasive steering assist feature. If you’re unable to stop before hitting an obstacle and instead try and turn around it, the Corsair will add some steering assist and reduce braking pressure to help you make the right steering moves without overcorrecting. Lincoln has also made available Phone as Key that locks, unlocks, and starts the vehicle through your smartphone. Leave the fob at home. Another nice touch is the welcome lighting that slowly phases in the LED accent and taillights as you approach, then dims them as you walk away. It’s the kind of touch that makes you feel just a bit more special.
No longer content to offer B-grade luxury vehicles, Lincoln has gone all-out with the Corsair both in content and in price. It comes with as much tech or more than the competition, but not Acura or Lexus. This one is going after BMW and Audi. That’s reflected in the window sticker, which is close to a similarly-sized BMW X3 or Audi Q5. It’s a surprise, but this one seems to be as good as those big dogs in the segment. Is it perfect? No, there are still some concessions made to containing costs, most notably in the interior materials used. Though Lincoln’s engineers, designers, and accountants kept all of those hard looking and feeling plastics under the beltline inside the car, down where you’re not likely to see or feel them unless you’ve lost your phone between the seats. That’s with the notable exception of the ribbed plastic around the cup holder. I’d cut the price even further by picking the 2.0T instead of the big motor. It’s still got more than enough power and torque for this segment, and can get almost all of the same options as the loaded Reserve with the 2.3.
The Corsair does what luxury vehicles need to do most: It makes you feel special. Even on a cold, sleet-filled, disappointing winter day, the Corsair made us feel warm, content, and coddled. As company spokesman Matthew McConaughey said in the brand’s most recent ads, sure beats jigging in a shack.