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2020 Lincoln Corsair review: Surprise and delight

© Provided by Roadshow   This is a tastefully styled luxury utility vehicle. Craig Cole/Roadshow

By Craig Cole, Roadshow


This new small crossover proves Lincoln can successfully distill its core brand attributes down to a smaller scale.

Lincoln's larger SUVs , the Aviator and Navigator, have spearheaded its ongoing renaissance. That means this compact Corsair has some pretty big tire tracks to fill.

Far more than just an MKC with a different name, the Corsair is brand new from the foundation up. Even though it shares its architecture and major components with Ford's new Escape , you'd never know it. The styling, features and overall feel are pure Lincoln. Its design is tastefully elegant, with no gimmicks or superfluous visual bric-a-brac. Like the Navigator and Aviator, the Corsair harkens back to Detroit's glory days, a time when pistons were the size of coffee cans and American luxury cars were cushy and quiet.

© Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Corsair may be a compact luxury utility vehicle, but it offers a generous amount of cargo space. There's nearly 28 cubic feet of room behind the second-row bench. Fold that split backrest down and you get just shy of 58 cubes. It's more capacious in both measures than an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, though it is slightly less roomy than either an Infiniti QX50 or BMW X3.

But this little Lincoln isn't just adept at schlepping freight, it's great at moving people, too. Sliding fore and aft by about 6 inches, the second-row seat provides ample legroom.

© Provided by Roadshow   If you don't have a family, there's enough space in the Corsair's back seat to get started on one. Craig Cole/Roadshow

Up front, the available Perfect Position bucket seats are brilliant as well, adjusting in 24 different ways, plus they're heated and ventilated. But these things damn well better be comfortable for what they cost. Only available on the top-shelf Reserve model, they're bundled with the $11,540 Reserve II package. This means you have to shell out about $57,000 to get a Corsair with those seats. Oof!

Fortunately, this options group includes an array of other kit, from a windshield deicer, 360-degree camera and adaptive suspension system, to a 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster, reverse braking assist and advanced LED headlamps. Adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist, lane centering, stop-and-go capability and road-sign recognition is included, too.


Unintimidating tech

Unlike many rivals, the Corsair isn't trying to be an electronics store on wheels. Yes, it offers plenty of technology, but almost all of it is refreshingly easy to use.

For instance, the radio and climate controls are an array of physical buttons located on the center stack where they're easy to operate by feel alone. The Sync 3 infotainment system is clear and concise, with a simple menu structure and speedy performance. That available digital instrument cluster couldn't be easier to toggle through.

© Provided by Roadshow   Tasteful is a word that nicely sums up this vehicle's interior. Craig Cole/Roadshow

The 8-inch infotainment display is noticeably smaller than what you get in either an Aviator or Navigator. It feels a little cramped, but at least it is appropriately sized for the Corsair's cozier interior.

Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, the automaker's suite of driver-assistance features, is standard equipment. It includes things like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams. For an extra outlay of cash, you can upgrade to Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus, which gets you adaptive cruise control and other goodies. As in its big brother, the Aviator, warning chimes for things like an open door or unbuckled seat belt were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Instead of an annoying buzz or beep, you get a few melodious notes, which is an elegant touch.

Speaking of music, an advanced Revel sound system is offered in this half-pint Lincoln. Its 14 speakers were specially placed and specifically calibrated for the Corsair. It provides a titillating listening experience, even if it's not quite as showstopping as the Aviator's available 28-speaker system.

This luxury crossover's interior is quiet, comfortable and spacious where it counts, plus it's made of nice materials. The leather is soft and plastics nicely grained. Three interior color schemes are offered. There's blue and white, black and tan, and gray with touches of ebony. Unfortunately, no Black Label themes are offered. In other Lincolns, these push luxury to new heights with even finer leather, unique materials and a raft of owner benefits.


Speeds and feeds


Two engines are available in the Corsair: a base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a larger 2.3-liter unit. The smaller of these two offerings is rated at 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, exactly what it delivers in the Ford Escape. The up-level engine pumps out 295 hp with 310 lb.-ft. when running on premium fuel. Both engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Either front- or all-wheel drive can be had with the 2.0-liter engine, but its bigger sibling comes exclusively with four-corner traction. 

© Provided by Roadshow   There's an engine hiding underneath all that plastic... seriously! Craig Cole/Roadshow

When fitted with that larger four-banger, expect 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on highway jaunts. Combined, this arrangement should return 24 mpg.

Providing much greater efficiency, Lincoln is developing a Grand Touring version of the Corsair. Its plug-in hybrid drivetrain will deliver an estimated 266 hp with an electric-only range of about 25 miles. This will be the version to get if fuel economy is a top concern.


A smooth operator

Acceleration with the 2.3-liter engine is strong. Thanks to ample low- and midrange torque, this powerplant has no trouble whisking the Corsair up to extra-legal speeds.

Whether idling in rush-hour congestion or sprinting to redline as the transmission hands off to the next gear, one thing you won't notice in the Corsair is powertrain noise. A clever, dual-wall dashboard provides an extra level of sound insulation, shielding passengers from uncouth mechanical racket. Active noise cancellation further quashes any ruckus that breaches these defenses.

© Provided by Roadshow   The Corsair's gear selector resembles an old-school tape player. How cool is that? Craig Cole/Roadshow

This Lincoln's eight-speed automatic transmission can be just as serene as its cabin, or not. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, or what the dewpoint is in Barrow, Alaska on a Tuesday, upshifts can be imperceptibly smooth or somewhat clunky. This hit-or-miss performance is a bit disappointing given how refined everything else is, including the ride.

Lincoln's Corsair is nearly as soft as a down comforter. In the Normal driving mode, it nonchalantly shrugs off bumps and chuckholes. The trade-off for this smoothness is undulating body motions over irregular pavement, plus quite a bit of squat and dive during even moderate acceleration or braking.

In that mode, the Corsair feels a bit disjointed, wonderfully supple but a little on the sloppy side. Clicking it over to Excite -- Lincoln-speak for sport mode -- firms up the optional adaptive suspension system. This degrades the ride quality ever so slightly, but provides far more body control, making the vehicle feel like a much more cohesive package. I recommend leaving it in this setting for the most satisfying experience.

One minor annoyance is the Corsair's braking feel. The pedal is too sensitive, a tiny amount of pressure causes the calipers to clamp down like a starving Rottweiler on a soup bone. Just a skosch more pedal travel would make these binders far easier to modulate.

The Corsair is an excellent road-trip machine, able to tackle vast distances at a stretch without fatiguing its passengers. The available adaptive cruise control certainly helps in this area, though it's not the best around. It saws at the wheel more than I'd like, constantly making small adjustments left and right as you're driving, which is at best annoying and, at worst, going to make you turn the whole system off.


Puttin' on the ritz

© Provided by Roadshow   Craig Cole/Roadshow

The 2020 Lincoln Corsair is comfortable and upscale, smooth and refined. I love its traditional take on luxury, an approach that's, regrettably, a rarity these days. And unfortunately, all that goodness comes at a price. My tester here rang the cash-register bell at $60,110, including $995 in delivery fees. That's BMW and Audi money for what is still a challenger brand. 

The Corsair is a bit hard to recommend at that price, but steering clear of any options, you can drive home in one for just about 38 grand, which is a much more appealing figure for what should still be an enticing vehicle.

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Automotive Magazine: 2020 Lincoln Corsair review: Surprise and delight
2020 Lincoln Corsair review: Surprise and delight
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