Lincoln’s smallest SUV continues styling streak set by Navigator and Aviator
We were anxious to see the 2020 Lincoln Corsair compact crossover for a couple reasons. Would it continue the strong design streak set by the Navigator and carried through by the Nautilus and Aviator? And how would Lincoln differentiate it from the new 2020 Ford Escape that has a more urban and upscale look?
The good news: No one will mistake the Corsair for an Escape or even for the MKC it replaces. Based on our first look ahead of the 2019 New York International Auto Show, designers have arguably made Lincoln’s smallest SUV its most dramatic.
This is a crucial vehicle for Ford’s luxury brand. Compact SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in both the U.S. and China. And for most buyers, this entry-level utility vehicle will be their first introduction to a brand that is slowly rebuilding itself with a series of eye-catching vehicles.
The Corsair makes a clean break from the MKC, so much so that it adopted a new name that reflects the brand’s desire to drop confusing alphanumeric monikers. Corsair comes from the Latin “cursus,” which means journey, and continues the wayfaring theme set by Navigator, Nautilus (formerly MKX), and Aviator.
The two-row vehicle, like the new Escape, was engineered on Ford’s new front-drive unibody car platform. However, the Lincoln team took great pains to give the Corsair not just its own look but also technology and features that are specific to Lincoln. Some aspects are shared with other Ford vehicles; after all, the point of reducing product development to five platforms is the savings possible if a new vehicle can use 70 percent shared parts. The 30 percent that is unique to the Corsair is in components customers see, feel, or experience.
Lincoln must stay true to itself, said Joy Falotico, president of the Lincoln Motor Company. Its designs must stand on their own, interiors must double as sanctuaries, and service must be concierge-like.
The Corsair has the same wheelbase as the Escape, but the Lincoln is longer, wider, and the floating roof sits lower. The body sides are sculpted and create a dramatic “S” form. A line that stretches from bow to stern accentuates the SUV’s planted, stable stance, further highlighted by Corsair badging that extends into the door.
Under the hood is a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The base engine is a 2.0-liter I-4 that generates 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. An optional 2.3-liter produces 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (all horsepower and torque ratings require the use of 93-octane fuel). Conversely, the Escape has a 1.5-liter turbo-three as the base engine, with the 2.0-liter as an optional upgrade.
Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the Corsair has a piano-key set of buttons for gear selection. All-wheel drive is standard with the larger engine, optional with the base engine. The intelligent AWD system disconnects to automatically send as much as 100 percent of the power to the rear if needed, said chief engineer John Jraiche.
Lincoln has pledged to electrify its lineup, and the Corsair will get a plug-in hybrid version, though likely not in its first model year. A full electric version is also being considered. Electric propulsion works well with Lincoln’s goal of providing a quiet, smooth ride. More details will come later, but we’re told the plug-in setup in the Corsair differs from that in the Escape; the latter will offer both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid. The difference will be in how the batteries are situated under the Lincoln’s floor and the electric motor positioned in back. Jraiche said Lincoln defined the customer first and then planned the powertrains that fit.
Corsair has an advanced new rear integral bush suspension, and an optional continuous controlled damping system further smooths the ride.
Great pains were taken to create a quiet cabin. In addition to an active noise control system, a dual-wall dashboard in the engine compartment includes an air gap that keeps vibrations from entering the cabin. Needless to say, Lincoln doesn’t artificially enhance the powertrain’s exhaust notes. Six chimes recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra replace standard electronic alerts, and audiophiles can opt for a 14-speaker Revel sound system.
For comfort, the 24-way-adjustable front seats are heated, cooled, and can provide a massage. The cockpit feels roomy. The air registers are thin, and a floating center console hangs over an area with a slot for wireless phone charging and a media bin with two USB outlets and a 12-volt outlet. There are two more USB ports and a 110-volt outlet in the back. Overhead is a large panoramic sunroof.
Among the three available interior color schemes is Beyond Blue, which features a Mediterranean blue with white trim and painted wood along the dash. The shade of blue stands out for being different from the normal fare. Other choices include Cashew (tan and black) and Slate (gray). The Corsair gets the same steering wheel as the Aviator, with paddle shifters.
Like the Escape, the Corsair offers a lot of interior space, especially in the second row. The rear seat moves 6 inches fore and aft to provide 38.6 inches of legroom. The cargo area can accommodate 27.6 cubic-feet of stuff behind the second-row seats, and 57.6 cubic-feet with those seats folded down, both improvements compared to the 2019 MKC.
Lincoln-only tech includes “phone as a key,” which puts a virtual key on up to four smartphones, allowing them to unlock and start the car, open the liftgate, and program up to 80 preferences including seat position, temperature, and music. This tech debuts on the Aviator.
Co-Pilot360 offers standard driver assist features including pre-collision assist with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection, a lane-keeping system, rear camera, and automatic high-beams.
Upgrade to Co-Pilot360 Plus for adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, which brakes and inches the vehicle forward with the flow of the cars around you. The lane centering system also reads signs and adjusts to speed limits. Like the Escape, the Corsair gets reverse brake assist, evasive steering assist, and active park assist, which parks the car with the push and hold of a button—the car handles the steering, acceleration, and braking.
The new rear-drive three-row Aviator goes on sale this summer, with the smaller Corsair following in the fall. Whereas the Aviator will appeal to families, the Corsair targets empty nesters who want an agile, premium performance vehicle. It’s also being positioned as an aspirational vehicle for young professionals, especially women.
Pricing has not been announced. The Corsair will be built in Louisville, as well as China, where it will be the first Lincoln assembled there for local consumers.