I guess I should start by saying there's nothing wrong with the Lincoln MKC. I had one over the holidays, I drove the crap out of it, and it did its job just fine. My ass and my passengers' asses and our stuff was conveyed from one point to another in ease and comfort. I could easily live with this car. What I don't think I could do is want it.
I was a little surprised to find that the Lincoln name carries more cachet in the general non-gearhead public than I initially assumed. That's quite good news for Lincoln, I think, who's been in the middle of a long identity crisis for the past few years. Sure, most people still think of Town Cars and rides to the airport and old people, pockets crammed with Werthers' Orginals, but all of that stuff is still cloaked under the velvety mantle of nice car.
So, there's still some brand-snob appeal to the Lincoln badge, the car is fairly handsome, it has all the toys and gizmos you'd likely want, but I'm still not exactly sure who this car is for. Generally, I'm okay with small crossovers in that they seem to be the magic sauce needed to get Americans to accept hatchbacks and wagons, but there's something about the utility of this one that seems a bit off.
To look at it, my initial thought is that this is a more premium parent-car, with room for kid seats and stuff. But that's not really the case. It's got less usable room inside than you'd think, and doesn't really feel all that well configured for kid-use. Would a single person want this car? For just one or two people it feels somewhat bulky, and yet for more it feels cramped. It gets the look and feel right enough, but manages somehow to be just a bit wrong everywhere else. And it's not so rewarding to drive that you'd overlook the practicality issues for that.
So, I'm a little puzzled. Maybe you just love the look, and the sort of vague suggestion of ruggedness, even though absolutely nobody is going to off-road this thing beyond maybe a spiteful drive through some ex's vegetable garden.
Aside from being too chicken to just sell a cool, midsize wagon, I'm not sure why this is a crossover at all. The large wheels and ride height just exacerbate the interior space and usability issues, and I'm not sure what's gained. I'm still a little puzzled about this car, so maybe by breaking everything down I'll make my peace with it. Here we go.
The MKC is a handsome car. It's not a squeeze-the-meatballs-out-of-your-hoagie kind of attention-grabber, but it's a well-dressed crossover with some very nice detailing. Actually, I think the detailing is what really makes this car work, as the crossover ride height and chunky proportions are more of something Lincoln's designers had to work against rather than work with.
Lincoln's design vocabulary here is loosely inspired by their heyday of 60s-era Lincolns, and retains the crisp, smart thin chrome detailing around key areas, and it works, giving the car sort of a subtle pinstriped-suit feeling or maybe some subtle piping on a really crisp mid-century sofa.
The front grille is undeniably whisker-like and makes the front end look a bit feline, with the cat's-eye-shaped headlights only catting it up even more. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, and the end result is a front end that doesn't look like every other crossover in the Crate and Barrel parking lot.
The sculptural modeling on the side of the car, the little elongated bulges over the wheel arches and the lower cut-in on the door I think work well to keep the large flanks interesting, lean, and not so slab-looking. I'm also glad they kept side claddings and moldings to a minimum.
Around back, the single, full-width taillight is a nice, distinctive touch. I think Lincoln could take a page from Chrysler, who's also been having fun with full-width, racetrack taillights, and diffuse all those little red LEDs just a bit more.
The placement of the rear lights entirely on the clamshell tallight means that you can't really drive with the tailgate open if you had to transport something long, like some lumber, or, maybe more likely for this car, an antique grandfather clock or a dozen 12-foot long artisanal salamis. There are a pair of panels in the jamb there that look like they could fit some auxiliary rear lights, though — maybe the Euro version will require them?
Overall, the car looks good despite its clunky proportions. I still think this design language could have made for a really great-looking wagon, but I think this is as close as we'll get.
I'm scoring the interior only average because when you mix something good with something bad, you end up right in the middle. Which is where we are here.
The good is that the materials and design of the interior are pretty top-notch. The bits you touch feel nice and premium, giving me that lingering pit-of-the-stomach feeling that I probably don't belong here, which is exactly what a company like Lincoln should be shooting for.
The MKC also manages not to be a sea of black leather and plastic, and even achieves some genuinely lovely design work, specifically on the inside door panels. Look at this door panel— it's got a nice combination of wood, dark upholstery, light upholstery, and I really like the novel stitch pattern — it feels modern, clean, and with a slight nod to mid-60s Eames-type designs that were popular in Lincoln's heyday. It's very well done.
What's less well done is the overall space all this nice detailing is crammed into. I'm not exactly sure how they managed it, but almost every dimension in this car felt just a bit too small or too awkward. The trunk is far less roomy than you'd think by looking at the car. It's adequate, but that's about it. We crammed four adults and a toddler in a seat in here, and it was uncomfortably tight. That's a full load, sure, and maybe a lot to ask of a car this size, but our pedestrian daily workhorse (and much smaller on the outside) Scion xB can do it with far more room to spare.
There's strange omissions for a car of this class, too. The rear baby-seat latches are excellent and easy to access, but there's no cupholders in the rear seat. Sure, you have heated seats in the back, which is nice, but for a car like this — especially an American one — you'd expect some place to stick your drink. (CORRECTION: They're in the rear armrest. It was just partially blocked by the child seat. My apologies.)
The door pockets always seemed to be just the wrong size to hold stuff, there's no seatback pockets or anything in the way of extra storage, really — this car's exterior is writing practicality checks its interior can't cash.
I did like the full-length panorama roof, though. It's worth the extra weight.
The MKC uses Ford's 2.3L Ecoboost four. Ford says it'll make 285 HP/305 lb-ft in AWD trim (well, if you use premium). On paper, that's fine. And, hell, in practice, it's fine, too. The MKC had no problem keeping up with anything, passing when needed, or going fast enough to break the law, also when needed.
But it doesn't really feel fast, which could be a testament to Lincoln's effective sound-deadening and the comfort of the car. Really, it barely matters, since if you're buying this car to drag race or win pinks at stoplights, you probably have a pretty rich history of questionable decisions to deal with. Maybe not forehead swastika tattoo-levels, but clearly you're not thinking things through.
It's fine for what it is, and that's about it.
Much like acceleration, the MKC's braking is just fine for the jobs it will be called on to do. I drove it from NC to West Virginia, up and down mountains, and the brakes gave no issues, even on some reasonably hard stops. Are they likely to hold up well on a track day? My guess is probably not, but I'd still love to meet the loon who's buying an MKC for a track car. I'd buy that nut a beer.
There's discs all around, as well as something Lincoln calls "Roll Stability Control," which I believe is an automatic selective-braking system to compensate for the relative top-heaviness of this tallish car. And, since I didn't even roll over once, it must work pretty well.
The MKC is a very comfortable car. On a long, multi-hour trip like I took, it's in its element. It's quiet, the seats are supportive, and the somewhat softer suspension smooths out road bumps and imperfections fairly well, sacrificing road feel for a couch-feel in your ass. If comfort is a primary motivator for you — and you're not looking to cram many people or things in the car with you — the MKC would serve you very well.
I wasn't crazy about the way the MKC handled, but it didn't actually bother me that much because, come on, what am I going to do, autocross it? It's a luxury crossover — chances are good that most of the people buying this think "autocross" is that thing Catholics do with their hands.
There's pretty much zero road feel through the steering wheel on the car — it feels like a numb, electronic tool for pointing the car where you want to go, and that's because that's exactly what it is. It's not unsafe by any means, but it's not really an engaging vehicle to drive, either.
The car feels a bit bulky in turns, and there's a bit more body lean than I initially expected in hard turning. I did a few evasive maneuvers on mountain roads in the car, and, sure, it basically worked, but it felt a bit wallowy, like I had a smallish whale carcass strapped to the roof. It's not going to be a hinderance for most drivers, but this isn't really a nimble car.
And, for what it is, and who will be driving it, I think that's probably fine. It's an easy-to-drive, slightly understeering blob. That sounded harsher than I meant it, in reading it over. I'll keep it, but just be aware I'm not saying that with disgust or malice.
I'm knocking off points for the gearbox because I just couldn't get used to those stupid buttons to pick gears. I'm not completely against the idea, but if you're going to eliminate the gearshift, I'd say go bolder than a tower of boring buttons. And, besides, my muscle memory kept causing me to try and shift into reverse with a bottle of Diet Coke, and that just makes anyone look like an ass.
Or, even worse, when the bottle wasn't there I found myself making little grabbing motions at the ghost shifter in the console that's plenty large enough to actually have a shifter. The buttons are just irritating.
They actually just issued a recall to deal with the possible terrible side effects of this.
The gearbox itself is, like almost every other mechanical component on the car, a silent servant down in the basement you very rarely even think about. It's a 6-speed auto, with paddles, but in this car the paddles were especially silly. I played with them for a bit, but other than getting the engine to a point of actually being audible, the don't really add much.
And, I'm not exactly sure of the gear ratios used in this particular application, but maybe they could have made 6th a bit lower, to help fuel economy. Because the fuel economy of this car isn' great at all. After a long trip of mostly highway miles, I was still only averaging about 23 MPG. For a car of this size and type in 2015, that's notso hotso.
Let me be clear here: the Lincoln MKC has plenty of toys. It has adaptive cruise control (which was useful, fits the character of the car, and worked well), full-LCD dash binnacle, seat heating and cooling, a steering-wheel heater, nice-sized infotainment/nav screen, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and even automatic parallel parking. So that's not the problem. The problem is some annoying UI issues.
My problems with the user interface on the MKC weren't limited to one particular thing, but were rather an overall set of some crappy decisions. I'm going to pick one example here that's indicative of what I mean to give you the idea.
It's a simple, but important control when you're using the nav system: is the robot lady talking to you or not? There's a number of different ways to convey this visually, but they usually revolve around some icon/button on the screen of either a speaker or profile head with those radiating sound lines coming from the noisy end. It's one of those visual things we all know and understand at this point.
The MKC's system used a speaker, like you'd expect, but instead of the audio lines, used an X. Okay, speaker with an X by it must mean that the audio is off. Great. So, I poked the button, and a fake LED under the speaker-X icon illuminated. Which meant that, no, before it was on, NOW it's off. It's like having a big sign on a fruit stand that says NO APPLES, but that means, yes, they have apples, unless that sign's small green light is on, in which case it means, YES, WE HAVE NO APPLES.
There's many issues with this. First, when you glance at the screen and see a speaker and an X, you think "sound off." Having that mean "sound on" and a version with a fake illuminated green LED to mean "sound on" is just insipid. It's the worst kind of skeumorphism. It's an LCD screen. You don't need to pretend it's some physical printed button that requires a physical LED to show when it's active. They could have made an icon that showed an active speaker for when its on, and one with an X for when it's off. Because it's a fucking screen!
That's just one little annoying example, but that's the kind of backwards-ass thinking that permeates all the controls in the UI. You'll get to test how the touch screen responds to fist input, at least.
Also, the automatic parallel parking is scary. I tried it three times, and two of those times I had to stomp on the brake to stop it because we were inches from hitting a parked car. The other time it worked pretty impressively, but I think I'll still parallel park on my own right now.
I'm using a slightly different metric to rate this than I normally would, because I'm not really evaluating the sound — I'm evaluating the lack of it. And the MKC does a pretty good job of that.
The engine note here is really nothing to send an MP3 home about here. You do hear it occasionally, but it's unremarkable, really. And I don't think people buying this car will care.
The MKC is quite well insulated, and even driving it at highway speeds in the wind and rain the interior was quiet. The one I drove had a $995 option for an "enhanced THX audio sound system" and it certainly did sound enhanced and THXish. It sounds good, and the rest of the car is quiet enough to let you enjoy it.
So, for what this car wants to be, the audio-scape works.
The MKC I tested cost $48,770. When I asked some of our other writers here who they think actually would buy an MKC, both Patrick George and good old Automatch Tom told me "It's for people who can't afford a Q5" — but I checked, and an Audi Q5 starts at $38,900, and the 3L Premium Plus one is $44,900. So why would you pay more for the MKC?
It's not like Lincoln's made a bad crossover here — but I just can't figure out exactly who really would want this car. It's not quite practical or usable enough to be a good premium family car — I mean, it could work, but there's certainly better choices.
It looks good, but good enough that a single, style-conscious person would pick it over any number of other good-looking cars available now? Maybe it hits some people's tastes and criteria exactly, but I can't claim to be one of those people.
It's a well-designed car in many ways, but there's nothing it does exceptionally well — it's comfortable, attractive, but not particularly engaging to drive, not especially useful, not really suited to off-roading, and not, well, not a car I'm going to dream about owning.
I still think Lincoln can be successful, but I think they need to take bigger risks than this.
Engine: 2.3L I4 Ecoboost
Power: 285HP @ 5,500, 305 lb-ft @ 2,750
Transmission: 6-Speed SelectShift® automatic transmission with paddle activation
0-60 Time: Um, maybe, what 8 seconds? 7 point something?
Top Speed: Probably 130-140 or so.
Curb Weight: 3,963 Pounds
Seating: 4 people, 5 in a pinch, but no one is happy.
MPG: 18 city/23 highway, as observed
MSRP: $48,770 as tested