There cannot be two fraternal twin compact SUV crossovers that are so dramatically different than the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair, today’s tester. Both models have been redesigned for 2020 and both are far more competitive than their predecessors. But while the more utilitarian Ford doesn’t stretch any expectations, the Lincoln does.
The Corsair has the power, the presence and the appearance of a hand-crafted interior to slice into the luxury competition. But its biggest nick in the blade is a high price.
As Lincoln’s smallest SUV, the Corsair replaces the MKC and joins the midsize Nautilus, three-row Aviator and big Navigator, all recently redesigned and renamed.
The luxury competitors are many, including the Acura RDX, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT4, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The Corsair is sold in Standard and Reserve models with a choice two turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder engines and an eight-speed automatic transmission. (A Grand Touring plug-in hybrid, with an estimated 25 miles of battery driving, goes on sale this summer.)
The Standard front-wheel drive model is only offered with the 250-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine and can be optioned with automatic all-wheel drive for $2,200. Pricing starts at $36,940, including the $995 freight charge from Louisville, Ky.
The Reserve, standard with AWD and the 2.0-liter engine, can upgraded to the 295-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder. Pricing starts at $43,625 with 2.0-liter engine or $50,365 with the 2.3-liter, which includes the Reserve 1 technology package of Co-Pilot360 Plus package and the Elements package (including ventilated front seats, heated back seats, heated steering wheel). Co-Pilot360 Plus package includes adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist (and lane centering, speed sign recognition and stop-and-go), 360-degree camera (with front camera washer), front sensing system, evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist and active park assist plus.
A sweet perk is 4 years and 50,000 miles of warranty coverage with pickup and delivery for service.
I appreciated the ready power of the 2.3-liter four-cylinder. It easily motivates the curb weight of 3,851 pounds, from takeoff to guarding your space in the commute.
Fuel economy might be hopeful at 21 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 mpg combined, on 87 octane. I could only achieve the low- to mid-20s in a week of testing, but I don’t expect owners will have regrets because the Corsair makes up for mileage in other areas.
The 2.0 engine doesn’t offer much mileage incentive, with front-drive ratings of 22/29/25 mpg combined with AWD at 21/29/24 mpg.
The eight-speed automatic can at times feel unsteady in rolling out shifts, mostly at light or moderate acceleration. And some of that might be in providing the varied performance in the five drive modes, named with Lincoln’s euphemistic enthusiasm of Normal, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions and Conserve.
I preferred the Normal setting because Excite was just a little too jerky unless driving hard; it increases pedal response and stiffens the suspension for handling and control.
The adaptive air suspension provides competitive cornering. And city driving is quite civil, without much head toss as the air springs dip to comfortably transition speed bumps and steep driveways.
The CoPilot360 Plus system for semi-autonomous driving provides precision lane centering and was not prone to random cancelling due to sunlight glare or road-marking conditions. The other driver-assist and warning systems worked subtly and without frightening alerts to potential danger.
Braking is confident from 12.1-inch vented front discs and 11.9-inch solid rear discs.
TThe automatic all-wheel-drive system requires no driver input and with a disconnect feature, switches automatically from front- to all-wheel drive in response to road, speed, temperature and other conditions.
Lincoln tried to build a sanctuary in the cabin, and succeeded. There is engaging and restrained use of chrome, piano black and metallic trim elements — and no burl walnut. There is a reassuring feel of quality to the action of switches, door closings and the Bridge of Weir leather-trimmed upholstery.
With laminated windshield and side glass, dual-wall dashboard, acoustic underbody panels, wheel-arch liners and a noise-cancelling audio function, the cabin is not vault-like quiet, but the decibel count is luxury class whether driving 35 or 65 mph. Even tire noise or harshness from the 20-inch Continental Cross Contact tires was not objectionable.
As a compact-class vehicle, Lincoln has carved out comfortable interior space. Headroom is functional at 38.7 inches with the panoramic vista roof and maximum legroom is long at 42.3 inches. Sightlines are not compromised, though the rear glass is narrow. The tester’s optional 360-degree view camera is helpful in being able to see how badly centered you are in a parking slot or how close you parked to the garage door.
The array of driver controls and an 8-inch touch screen display are not as difficult to master as might seem at first view. And the 24-way Perfect Position seats should adjust for most sizes, but the upper side bolsters might cramp large bodies.
There seem to be no overlooked conveniences, including headlights that turn with the steering wheel, wireless charging, four USBs, keyless locking and push-button ignition, 14-speaker Revel audio system, 4G Wi-Fi, infotainment apps and approach and departure lighting (including the Lincoln logo beamed downward at the side mirrors).
Safety features include eight air bags, blind-spot detection and precollision assist with automatic emergency braking.
Another Lincoln signature (gimmick) are six symphonic chimes — replacing standard electronic alerts — for everything from an open fuel door to an unbuckled seat belt. The chimes, recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, add another layer to the calming soundscape of the cabin, Lincoln says.
BACK SEAT AND CARGO
The back seat is reasonably comfortable for adults, but with the benefit of about 6 inches of fore-aft slide and seatback recline. The window seats are heated and he lowish transmission tunnel helps center position footroom. There are two USBs for charging and a 110-volt plug with wimpy 100-watt power.
The cargo space is squared off with a wide opening of 43 inches and 33 inches to the seatback. Fold the 60/40 seats for about 5 1/2 feet of length. Total space ranges from 27.6 cubic feet (packed to the ceiling) to 57.6 cu. ft. with seats folded.
The Corsair is surprisingly well done throughout — and it needed to be. As a bellwether for the brand, it will attract a new level of buyers seeking midprice luxury.
At $60,000 as-tested, buyers won’t like the price, but they will like their Corsair.
2020 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve
Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door SUV crossover with AWD
Engine: 295-hp, turbocharged and direct-injection 2.3-liter 4-cylinder; 310 lb.-ft. torque at 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21/28/24 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
Fuel tank: 16.2 gal.
Cargo space: 27.6 to 57.6 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 38.7*/43.2 in. *w/panoramic roof
Rear head/leg room: 38.7/38.6 in.
Length/wheelbase: 180.6/106.7 in.
Curb weight: 3,851 lbs.
Turning circle: 37.1 ft.
Standard equipment includes: smart-key entry and push-button ignition, Lincoln Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technologies, Bridge of Weir leather-trimmed upholstery, 24-way power adjustable front seats, electric parking brake, rearview camera, panoramic vista roof, heated and foldable side mirrors, LED headlights-taillights-fog-running lights, 8-inch touch screen for infotainment and navigation, heated front seats, active noise control with laminated windshield and side door glass, front and rear floor mats, Lincoln Connect and Lincoln Way App, illuminated door-sill plates, power steering column, hands-free liftgate, 19-inch wheels and all-season Continental tires, approach and exit lighting
Safety features include: 8 air bags, blind-spot detection, precollision assist with automatic emergency braking, roll-stability control
Base price: $50,365, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $59,660
Options on test vehicle: Flight Blue paint $695; 20-inch wheels and 245/45 all-season tires $1,150; head-up display $1,700; Equipment group Reserve II $11,540 (including Co-Pilot360 Plus, Perfect Position 24-way power seats, adaptive suspension
Where assembled: Louisville, Ky.
Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper including pickup and delivery for service; 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain