The Lincoln MKC luxury compact crossover SUV shares its foundation and much of its structure with the long-lived Ford Escape. In appearance, the two models differ. Lincoln introduced its MKC as a 2015 model.
Little has changed for the 2018 model year. Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label trim levels are offered. Even the base model is well-equipped. With its brightly shining interior, in particular, the MKC delivers on the level of luxury promised by the Lincoln brand.
Lincoln offers a choice of two powertrains. Base engine is a 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged four-cylinder that develops 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Pushbuttons make selections on the standard 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is estimated at up to 23 mpg in Combined city/highway driving.
The 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet, sufficient to permit acceleration to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, a quick performance. This engine is an option for all MKC trim levels except Premiere, but is not offered for the Ford Escape.
Each MKC version is offered with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. The 285-horsepower, 2.3-liter engine comes only with all-wheel drive.
Available Stop/Start technology can shut off the 2.0-liter engine at stoplights, to help save fuel. An adaptive suspension with continuously controlled dampers is available for upper trim levels. With either engine, an MKC is rated to tow 3,000 pounds.
In its crash-testing program, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the MKC only a four-star overall rating. The MKC earned a five-star score for the side-impact test, but four stars for frontal impact and rollover resistance (a calculated figure). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has put the MKC through only part of its crash-test program, giving it a Good rating for side-impact and moderate overlap testing.
A rearview camera is standard. Blind-spot monitoring is included or available with upper trim levels. An optional Technology Package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and parking assist.
A reworked MKC is scheduled for release in summer 2018 as a 2019 model, with revised styling and a pre-collision safety system.
Lincoln MKC Premiere ($33,355), the base model, comes with the 2.0-liter engine and includes heated power front seats, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, a rearview camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate, and nine-speaker audio. Infotainment features an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Sync 3. Premiere AWD ($35,765) has all-wheel drive rather than front-drive. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $925 destination charge.)
MKC Select ($36,110) and Select AWD ($38,520) upgrade with perforated leather seat surfaces and ambient lighting, as well as greater option availability, including blind-spot monitoring.
MKC Reserve ($39,985) and Reserve AWD ($42,395) include a dual-pane sunroof, navigation, heated/ventilated front seats, wood interior accents, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
MKC Black Label ($45,975) and Black Label AWD ($48,380) come with 19-inch wheels, upgraded leather seating surfaces, and an Alcantara headliner.
Even though it’s based on the Ford Escape, Lincoln’s compact crossover shares few appearance elements with its less-costly cousin.
Developed as a pleasing blend of relatively soft lines and sharp creases, the MKC exterior ranks slightly above average. The split wing grille should be familiar from all Lincoln SUVs. Some similarities to Ford’s Escape can be discerned in the MKC profile. Lincoln’s bulbous back end is not among them.
More impressive inside than its starting price might suggest, the MKC provides a luxury-car experience. The MKC cabin feels bigger than it is, numerically.
Front occupants get a taste of elegant simplicity. High-quality materials run the gamut from merely nice to nearly decadent, accented by wood.
Base-model seats wear synthetic leather and cloth upholstery. Black Label versions escalate to Venetian leather and an Alcantara headliner. Bridge of Weir leather goes into Reserve trim.
Front-seat occupants can expect a quiet, refined experience, on seats that are both spacious and supple. Side bolstering is limited, but its lack is notable only during intense drives.
Back-seat passengers are less fortunate, facing a cramped bench. Adults may be short on legroom as well as head clearance. At 36.8 inches, rear legroom is impeded by sizable front seats. Outboard seating positions are adequately sculpted, but cushioning is limited. The available dual-pane sunroof cuts into headroom, too.
Split-folding rear seats expand the cargo area from 25.2 cubic feet with seatbacks upright, to 53.1 cubic feet when they’re folded.
Sync 3 infotainment is satisfying, compared to prior systems. Active noise cancellation keeps unwanted sounds under control.
Each engine provides stimulating responses. While the base engine provides appropriate power for an MKC, the 285-horsepower upgrade ratchets up performance to a level that almost seems out of character for a compact crossover SUV.
Available only with all-wheel drive, the 2.3-liter powertrain would be the logical choice for steep-terrain journeys, imparting an extra layer of confidence. Although the automatic transmission delivers engine power effectively, its pushbutton-type gear selector never seems fully intuitive. Other MKC controls, fortunately, are easier to operate.
Competent, composed road manners are no surprise from Lincoln. Ride and handling compare favorably to others in its category, including rivals from German automakers.
Available continuously controlled dampers can provide several levels of stiffness. Sport setting may feel somewhat firm, but the MKC clings tenaciously to the pavement, with minimal body lean through curves.
Unfortunately, mode selections aren’t so intuitive, demanding use of the pushbutton shifter or steering-wheel control. Sport mode requires one push of the S button. A second push yields semi-manual mode. A semi-buried series of menus must be used to customize suspension operation. Still, the adjustable suspension beats the base setup at smoothing out rough spots.
Fuel economy is reasonable for a luxury crossover, though reaching EPA estimates in real-world driving is a challenge. With front-wheel drive, the 2.0-liter base model is EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate significantly, to 19/25/21 mpg (22 mpg Combined with Stop/Start system operating). An MKC with the 2.3-liter engine is EPA-rated slightly lower at 18/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined.
Lincoln’s MKC offers plenty of amenities, though the brand’s cachet doesn’t match that of some European and Asian manufacturers. Good standard equipment is offset by less-than-ideal safety ratings. Styling is less daring than that of Lincoln sedans, but elegance awaits inside. All told, the MKC represents good value, though an abundantly fitted Black Label edition can top $50,000.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.