Last fall, Lincoln ran a TV ad campaign starring Texas actor Matthew McConaughey in homespun-philosopher mode. The viewer goes deep inside McConaughey’s mind as he steers a new Lincoln crossover into an unnamed city at night.
“Sometimes ya gotta go back,” McConaughey mumbles, city lights flashing by. “To actually move forward.”
Long on imagery and atmosphere, but spectacularly short on specifics, the spots were a parodist’s dream; SNL, Conan, Ellen — all did bits that went viral. The spots and the resulting hullabaloo ignited Lincoln sales. Suddenly, Lincoln was back on the radar screen.
Post-recession, Ford has focused on bread-and-butter products like the Fusion, Focus and Escape. Now, it’s Lincoln’s turn. The 2015 MKC, a compact luxury crossover, is the second new vehicle of four expected by 2016. Lincoln brass say the company will pursue a strategy of full-on American-style luxury.
It will even resurrect the Continental nameplate for use on a new rear-drive sedan that will replace the existing MKS.
Sometimes ya gotta go back to move forward.
Luxury has evolved since Lincoln’s heyday. Today’s hot ticket is the compact luxury crossover. The competition includes entries from such formidables as Audi, Acura, BMW, Porsche and Lexus.
Based on Ford’s Escape, the MKC inherits that car’s capable platform, comfortable ride and responsive handling, while a heavy overlay of quality materials, “premium amenities” and available safety and suspension upgrades lift the platform to higher ground.
Lincoln aims it at up-and-coming luxury buyers and their downsizing elders.
Every MKC is thoroughly equipped, with such standard features as xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control and heated power front seats. Active noise cancellation is standard and AWD trims get torque-vectoring technology and real-time suspension damping.
The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to options; automatic high-beams, intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning. et al.
The standard MyLincoln Touch interface can be manipulated via an 8-inch touchscreen display, redundant steering wheel controls or voice activation. A too-busy cluster of climate-control buttons lines up below it.
Lincoln also updates a classic, stacking a set of hard-plastic gearshift buttons alongside the touchscreen. The concept works, but falls short on the elegance meter. On the upside, the strategy opens up a space for incidental storage below the instrument panel.
The MKC’s base powerplant is a 2.0-liter 240-horsepower turbocharged four that can be had in FWD (23 mpg combined/20 city/29 highway) and AWD (22/19/26) configurations, The up-level 285-hp turbo-four is AWD-only (21/18/26).
Both engines are paired with a smooth six-speed automatic. With either engine, acceleration runs mid-pack, with 0-60 times ranging from 7.2-8.0 seconds, depending on configuration.
My AWD tester had a firm, compliant ride and its all-independent suspension tamped down body lean. Steering is well weighted and on-center feel is good. Not even the adaptive suspension could tune out the occasional bone-rattling bump, though.
Standing at the crossroads, Lincoln may either discard its heritage or build on it. The MKC is a convincing step in the latter direction.
Contact Don Adair at email@example.com.
2015 Lincoln MKC AWD
Vehicle base price: $33,100
Trim level base price: $35,595
As tested: $49,265
Options included panoramic sunroof; navigation, rear cross-traffic alert; heated and cooled front seats; hands-free lift gate; 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine; Enhanced THX audio; 19-inch wheels; active park assist; adaptive cruise control; lane-keeping system; forward-sensing collision mitigation; heated steering wheel.
Maximum tow rating: 3,000 lbs
EPA rating: 21 combined/18 city/26 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified