On the Road Review: Lincoln MKC Black Label

If you have been a longtime fan of the Ford Escape but always wanted something more from this compact crossover — more style, more features, more panache — then your request has been answered. The Lincoln MKC is the Escape for premium buyers who like upscale accoutrements but want to shop at the domestic automaker brands.

Competing against Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Cadillac XT5, the Lincoln MKC antes up with sleek styling, a full range of luxury features and driving aids as well as the prices to match. Base Premiere trimmed MKCs with front drive start at $33,805 with destination fee, while top-themed Black Label models with AWD, like our sample, can easily best $50,000 if you check all of the available options.

For perspective, most Lincoln buyers remember the days when the Town Car was far and away the most popular Lincoln model. And then the Navigator SUV led the sales race before Ford’s neglect of the Mercury/Lincoln lineup led to several fallow years. Ford claims renewed commitment to Lincoln, yet several recent new car introductions have fallen flat as buyers are moving away from luxury sedans in favor of crossovers and SUVs that are more versatile. Lincoln’s two top-selling models are crossovers/SUVs — the Ford Edge based MKX and this MKC.

In some quarters, pundits point to the model names as an issue, as long-term Lincoln buyers are hard pressed to distinguish the various products. How many readers know what the difference is between an MKZ, MKS, MKC, MKT and MKX? (The last three are crossovers — but how would you know?) Where are the traditional names? And why is every model just an extension of an existing Ford product? These points must be clarified, refined and massaged if bottom-of-the-class Lincoln ever wants to be a top competitor in the luxury segment again, a segment that Cadillac and Lincoln used to own in the American marketplace.

From the get-go, the MKC makes points with its attractive street-stance, potent turbo power and full array of features. Available with either a 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine (240 hp) or the 2.3-liter Ecoboost (285 hp), the MKC comes with front or AWD running through a six-speed automatic. EPA ratings are 19/25 mpg with a realized 21 mpg as the top Ecoboost engine rewards eager drivers with prompt acceleration, but you’ll need to visit the fuel pumps more often. Throttle response and tip-in are top-notch — which only further increases your likelihood to sample the robust power.

Twenty-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, Ford’s latest Sync3 system, nicely enhanced now with Apple/Android compatibility, plus heated and cooled leather seating up front with heated rear seating, plus the power liftgate activated by waving your foot under the rear bumper are but a few of the many features available in Black Label trim. Lincoln is serious about re-establishing its luxury bonafides — Black Label MKC buyers get four years of free scheduled maintenance with free pickup and delivery of your vehicle as well as free loaner cars.

On the flip side, in an effort to differentiate the MKC from the Escape — as well as other luxury crossovers — Lincoln uses a vertical array of push-buttons for the transmission shifting act, located next to the center dash, with the electric start button at the very top. After a week of use, there was no muscle memory attached to this odd arrangement. My right hand still searched for a nonexistent shifter lever while each change from reverse to forward or any other shift requires that you visually focus on the dash, make a concise finger push — all without the intuitive acts of decades of driving. While less confusing than the ridiculously complicated pull/push-button arrangement that Honda is employing in its Pilot, the MKC’s powertrain deserves better.

From special paint colors ($1,750) to adaptive dampers and suspension setups, the MKC covers a broad spectrum of content and price. It can tow up to 3,000 pounds, while driving with the spirited poise and confidence of an Escape, which is a solid performer.

There is certain visual appeal that works with the MKC (as well as the MKX) that just doesn’t with Lincoln’s car models sharing the same basic design theme. Is that enough to lure buyers back to this storied brand? Will luxury drivers embrace the evolving role of crossovers under the Lincoln name?

Evidence suggests yes.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

Latest posts by Tim Plouff (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.