FIRST DRIVE: Compact Corsair delivers full-size Lincoln luxury

Corsair uses the Ford Escape platform, as did its predecessor, the MKC

Published: November 19, 2019, 2:05 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 4:05 PM

2020 Lincoln Corsair

KELOWNA, BC – The 2020 Lincoln Corsair is proof you can enjoy luxury even in small packages. This newest addition to Lincoln’s lineup of luxury utility vehicles is the smallest kid in the family, a compact-sized vehicle that still shares most of the creature comforts and advanced technologies built into its larger siblings.

The Corsair is built on the same platform as its predecessor, the MKC, and that foundation is shared with the new Ford Escape, but that’s about the only aspect of the new Lincoln that’s a carryover. From the platform up, it’s all new. The sleek exterior is a fresh design; the interior, with its flowing horizontal lines, is totally redesigned, too.

While it’s Lincoln’s entry point into the luxury SUV segment, the Corsair shows no signs of compromise in terms of features. This 5-passenger, 2-row SUV is loaded with amenities that help ensure you’ll arrive feeling fresh, regardless of the length of drive.

Lincoln’s Canadian vehicle brand manager, Jim Rideout, says the Corsair is designed to not just delivery the touch and feel consumers expect in the small luxury SUV segment, but to “create a sanctuary for people as they are spending more time in their vehicle.”

Rideout may be on to something—I spent two days exploring the beautiful Okanagan Valley in a Corsair and never felt beat up or tired when the drive was finished. For starters, it’s difficult to not find a comfortable setting with the 24-way, power-adjustable front seats. Lincoln marketers call it Perfect Position seats, with the seat fitting the occupant, rather than the occupant fitting to the seat. I can’t argue with that billing. Available as part of an upgrade package, the seats not only have heating and cooling functions, plus additional lumbar support, they can also provide a massage as you drive. The controls are conveniently positioned on the door panel – no more groping blindly for the buttons typically located somewhere down between the door panel and the seat mount.

Luxury to stretch out in

Corsair designers haven’t cut corners on the rest of the interior either. Soft-touch coverings replace hard plastic and the materials used have a rich feel. A couple of new interior combinations – Beyond Blue, with its blue and white palette, and a rich tan and black blend called Ebony/Cashew – are particularly attractive and are expected to be especially appealing to female customers.

The cabin is spacious, with plenty of head- and legroom. I had no complaints about front-seat roominess, either as a passenger or the driver. In the second row, the 60/40-split seats slide fore and aft over a range of 15 cm, providing additional flexibility and space for cargo, as well as extra legroom. Lincoln says the Corsair’s rear-seat legroom – 98 cm – is more than key competitors such as the Acura RDX, Lexus NX and even the larger Tesla Model X. I certainly found it more than adequate for my 6-foot-plus frame.

The cargo area is also generous. With the second-row seats folded flat, there’s 1,631 litres of cargo space; with the seatbacks upright, the 781.5-litre capacity will still accommodate four sets of golf clubs. My driving partner and I had no problem loading in two larger suitcases and a couple backpacks behind the rear seats. There’s also an under-floor storage compartment and rear package tray. The convenience of the power liftgate can be enhanced with an available hands-free feature.

In response to Rideout’s “sanctuary” theme, I found the Corsair very quiet on the road. While perhaps not quite as noise-free as the new Aviator, the slight intrusion of wind and road noise was more than tolerable. In addition to the latest advances in noise abatement techniques, such as extra door sealing and double laminated glass, the Corsair also benefits from changes in the firewall structure, which now features sheet-moulded composite material that is sealed and separated by an air gap to minimize the transmission of engine noise. There’s also an active noise control system that uses sensors inside the cabin to detect the level of road noise, then compensates by emitting sound waves through the audio speakers that tune out the intrusion.

Heavy on the tech

Like its larger stablemates, the Corsair uses symphonic chimes, recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to replace the standard electronic alerts. If you’re a true audiophile and want to hear orchestral offerings (or other genres) in their fullest form, you can opt for the available 14-speaker Revel premium audio system. Speaker placement, tuning and calibration have been designed specifically for the size and acoustics of the Corsair’s cabin.

Technology and connectivity features abound in the Corsair. Standard equipment includes Lincoln Co-Pilot360, with pre-collision assist and automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection with cross-traffic alert, a lane-keeping system, rear view camera and automatic high-beam headlamps. An upgrade to Co-Pilot 360+ adds additional technology and driver assist features such as adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition and active lane centering. Also available is active park assist plus, which takes over steering, braking, gas pedal and transmission shifting when engaged, making parking maneuvers a breeze.

The advanced key fob and personal profile technologies introduced on other Lincoln utility vehicles have also been bred into the Corsair. The key fob functions can be linked to your smartphone through the Lincoln Way app, enabling the owner to remotely activate functions such as starting and locking and unlocking the vehicle. Up to eight personal profile settings can be linked to the key fob, such as seating position, including your preferred position for the tilt/telescopic steering column and adjustable pedals; music preferences and cabin temperature.

There’s also an available head-up display that I found especially helpful. In our test car it was configured to show speed, navigation info and speed limit signs – all easily readable without having to glance to the instrument cluster or centre touchscreen. Unlike the flip-up plastic screen in its cousin, the Escape, the Corsair’s display was projected on the windshield and could even be seen clearly with polarized sunglasses.

The interior designers put their minds to work creating the Vision steering wheel, which replaces the numerous controls and buttons typically found in many other brands with a simplified system. A pair of joystick toggle switches replace the buttons and once you get used to the way they work, the system is quite intuitive and efficient, especially while making changes on the go.

Motivationally speaking

Corsair buyers have a choice of two turbocharged gas combustion powertrains – a 2.0-litre EcoBoost 4-cylinder or an available 2.3-litre EcoBoost four – plus a plug-in hybrid coming next spring. The base gas engine delivers 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, while the upgrade to the 2.3L boosts output to 295 hp and 310 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. Intelligent all-wheel drive is standard (in Canada) with both gas engines.

The plug-in hybrid model, named the Corsair Grand Touring, will combine a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle gas engine with an electric system of two motors fed by a new GEN 4 lithium-ion battery. The PHEV system combines to produce 266 hp and is the first Lincoln with all-electric all-wheel drive – also a first in its segment.

Five driving modes – conserve, excite (sport), normal, slippery and deep conditions – are available and can be selected on the go by simply turning the console-mounted knob. The engaged setting is displayed on the instrument cluster screen, which is reconfigured to match the mode. Switching from “excite” to “normal,” for example, resulted in a noticeable softening in throttle tip-in and response, as well as transmission shift points.

I didn’t have an opportunity to drive the 2.0L Corsair, but expect its performance was comparable to the 2.0L Escape – adequate, but not overwhelming. The 2.3L, however, would be my preference as it has plenty of response and cruises effortlessly. It doesn’t force you to pay a penalty at the pump either – the 2.3L 4-cylinder is rated at 11.1 litres/100 km in city driving and 8.2 on the highway, for a combined rating of 9.8 L/100 km, while the 2.0L engine has the same combined 9.8 score (11.1 city; 8.1 highway.) During a 165-km leg of our drive, the 2.3L Corsair averaged a decent 10.2 L/100 km in combined urban and highway driving that included plenty of steep grades.

The Corsair’s dynamics were impressive, with responsive steering and decent handling. The brakes, at times, seemed to be a bit grabby and difficult to modulate, but they did a good job bringing the 1,745-kg mass to a stop. Corsair features a Lincoln-first rear integral bush suspension, which delivers a smooth ride by directly absorbing impacts that would otherwise be felt in the cabin.

There’s a premium for luxury

Pricing for the Corsair, which is now rolling into dealers’ showrooms from the Louisville, KY assembly plant, starts at $44,700 for the base AWD model, while the upgrade to the Reserve AWD trim costs $50,500. (Pricing for the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid will be announced closer to its on-sale date in 2020.) A delivery fee of $2,100 is additional.

However, depending on the option boxes you tick, the bottom line can increase quickly. For example, the 202A package, which includes Lincoln CoPilot 360+, a technology package, adaptive suspension, the 24-way seats and the 2.3L engine, bumps the price up $11,350. The models in the media test fleet here were all loaded Reserve units and were typically in the $66K to $68k-plus range.