MM Full-Review: 2020 Lincoln Corsair

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By Member-requests and my own interest, a Review of the all-new 2020 Lincoln Corsair

https://www.lincoln.com/luxury-crossovers/corsair/

IN A NUTSHELL: Entry-Level in name only....this is one impressive small SUV.

CLOSEST AMERICAN-MARKET COMPETITORS: Cadillac XT4, Acura RDX, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLC, BMW X3, Volvo XC40, Lexus NX, Infiniti QX50, Range Rover Evoq, Range Rover Discovery Sport, Jaguar E-Pace, Porsche Macan, Alfa Romeo Stelvio (although the Stelvio is more sport-oriented).


















OVERVIEW:

Without a doubt, one of the recent automotive success stories in the American market has been the almost complete transformation of the Lincoln SUV line, from a Ho-Hum gaggle of boring, unimaginative vehicles that were little more than rebadged Ford clones with some leather and wood-tone inside, to a line of what today are almost world-class vehicles for the price. The compact Lincoln MKC, based on the Ford Escape/Kuga platform, introduced several years go, was the first hint of what was to come, and was followed by an all-new mid-sized MKX....given a new Jaguaresque grille and renamed the Nautilus after Lincoln (wisely, IMO) decided to give up the Alphabet-Soup naming scheme. The MKC, likewise, was given the same new grille recently, but was not renamed because of the all-new Corsair that is intended to replace it.....the subject of this review. The all-new Navigator for 2018 stunned the automotive world, as, to a lesser extent, the smaller Aviator earlier this year. Now, in the Aviator's footsteps, comes the compact Corsair. For perhaps the first time in memory, the entire Lincoln SUV line-up now offers a markedly different alternative to the run-of-the-mill downmarket Fords, and potential buyers are responding. Too bad the superb Continental sedan didn't get the same reception the SUVs did....but the reality of today's market is that, for several reasons (and I won't get into those reasons here), the American market is moving away from traditional sedans and into crossover SUVs.

Lincoln's arch-rival Cadillac got caught with its pants partly, but not completely down. They were (admittedly) blindsided by the new Navigator, which left their American-Bling Escalade sitting in the shadows. But Cadillac is also fighting back...they have been putting a lot of effort, lately, into redoing/adding their own SUV line of XT4, XT5, and XT6 models, now at dealerships. Cadillac, unlike Lincoln (and unlike the rest of GM, for that matter) is also working on new sport-sedans.....the CT5 and CT4, which will debut later this year and next year. And, of course, Cadillac has a better and more impressive dealer network, with many stand-alone dealerships, than Lincoln's more limited network that operates mostly (but not completely) out of selected Ford dealerships. Perhaps Cadillac's biggest problem, right now (besides the huge GM/UAW strike), is the continuing poor reliability of its vehicles....worse than that of any other GM brand, and in some surveys, below that of even some FCA (Chrysler) vehicles.

Anyhow, back to the all-new Corsair, the subject of this review. Like the MKC before it, which was done on the last-generation Ford Escape/Kuga platform, the Corsair is done on the latest new Ford Escape FWD platform. But neither the MKC or the Corsair is simply a rebadged Escape.....far from it. As I explained above, those days at Lincoln are gone. As of now, at the October 2019 introduction, there is no Hybrid or plug-in Hybrid version yet.....one is expected in the spring of 2020. Nor is there a Super-pricey Black Label version....perhaps (?) Lincoln's marketing/thinking here is that Corsair buyers/leasers, as a whole, will be more mainstream than those of the Navigator or Aviator, and not as prone to fork over the big $$$$$ (or want the added customer-perks) that Black-Label ownership entails. For now, the Corsair is offered in two basic series, each with a choice of FWD or AWD. The Base (Standard) version starts at $35,945, and the Reserve at $42,630. Base versions come with a 2.0L in-line turbo four of 250 HP and 275 ft-lbs. of torque and an 8-speed Select-Shift Automatic. Reserve models, with the same transmission, come with a larger 2.3L in-line turbo four of 280 HP and 310 ft-lbs. of torque. I'd personally like to see a non-turbo V6 instead of the turbo 2.3L as an option, but such is the reality of today's marketing. Four-cylinder turbos, especially the 2.0Ls, have become the standard industry workhorses....my brother has a 2.0T in his Kia Sportage LX., and you will find them in many smaller SUVs and sedans.

As usual, for the static-reviews, I sampled several Corsair interiors and exteriors (some of them were not for sale....more on that at the end of the review). While I was inside the showroom checking out one of the interiors (at that big dealership, they have a separate smaller showroom off on the side these for Lincolns, apart from the larger one for the more numerous Fords), the dealership's owner walked in, and we recognized each other. He had worked at a nearby Lexus dealership, as a salesman, years ago, and had sold me the new yellow 2001 Lexus IS300 I had bought there....although his dad owned the big Ford franchise. When his father passed away, he apparently inherited the family business, so here we are. We shook hands, had a nice chat about about the state of both Ford/Lincoln, Lexus, and the American car industry in general. I told him I had more than a passing interest in the Corsair, which was why I was looking at one. He couldn't talk all morning.....as a businessman, of course, he's got a lot of things to do to run that place, but it was nice to see him again. He shook my hand again, said take any one out on the lot for a test-drive, and handed me a dealer-plate (they didn't even Xerox my drivers' license or have sign a permit, like they usually do on a test-drives). So, I picked out a nice-looking AWD Reserve with the turbo 2.0L, in a light ceramic-ivory color, with light tan (Sandstone) leather interior, that listed for $53,720. That's more than I would probably pay for one (I'd probably be just as happy with a base version for 40K or less), but, for the review, wanted to see how the Reserve model and the Adaptive Suspension option drove. I listed the price/options like I usually do, but here is the actual sticker for the details.....

http://www.windowsticker.forddirect.com/windowsticker.pdf?token=k4JpA8sjI+RhijHb1vCoyGtaiZ493XlHkdF45gsJzlJRREVBdQlW5PiE2xEh7/pA+7nRvWzanfmYjVrwYYyvqXtQF+cF1S49W//xUZRBvdvZ/1LVheT4yA6v62GQpYMSrS89RaQm0Z2KcD/mUEsUwdNmRfdTEqENeWX4xzVKQ9M=

MODEL REVIEWED: 2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve AWD

BASE PRICE: $44,830


OPTIONS:

Equipment Group 201A: $4150

Ceramic Pearl Paint: $695

(Ford is getting like GM.....most of their colors cost extra now)

All-Weather Floor liners: $175

Adaptive Suspension: $700

Rear Removable Package Tray: $175

Technology Package: $2750


DESTINATION/FREIGHT: $995 (about average for a vehicle of this type)

LIST PRICE AS REVIEWED: $53,720

(Because it is an all-new vehicle expected to be in high demand, the dealership was only discounting it $1000, to $52,720...but that's better than nothing)



DRIVETRAIN: AWD, Transverse-mounted 2.0L Turbocharged in-line 4, 250 HP @ 5500 RPM, Torque 275 Ft-lbs. @ 3000 RPM, 8-Speed Select-Shift Automatic transmission with paddle shifters.


EPA MILEAGE RATING: 21 City, 29 Highway, 24 Combined


EXTERIOR COLOR: Ceramic Pearl Metallic

INTERIOR: Sandstone Leather




PLUSSES:


Home-run styling, inside and out.

Good underhood layout.

Smooth 8-speed transmission.

Well-done chassis and Adaptive Suspension option.

5W-30 oil will help protect the engine in hot weather.

Relatively good EPA ratings for AWD and turbo power.

Good wind-noise control.

Right-now, instantaneous brake-pedal action....no free play.

Impressive interior materials, with very little cost-cutting.

Very good, but not quite excellent front-seat comfort for my frame.

Good front and rear headroom, even with the sunroof housing.

Well-designed/well-finished cargo area.

Some relatively nice, if not bright, paint colors.





MINUSES:


No non-turbo V6 option offered.

Road-noise level good, but could be better on porous surfaces.

Awkward-looking Etch-a-Sketch video screen housing.

Transmission buttons mounted a little low for best convenience.

Brake pedal location not particularly good for large feet/shoes.

No Black Label versions (yet).

Still a wait for the Hybrid version....due in Spring 2020.

Rather sparse Lincoln dealer network too closely tied to Ford.

Guessing game on reliability....little or no current data.






EXTERIOR:

One can tell, practically blindfolded, that the Corsair is a member of the Lincoln SUV family. As the mid-sized Aviator is, style-wise, (with only a few minor differences) a buttoned-down version of the full-sized Navigator, the compact Corsair is, more or less, a buttoned-down version of the Aviator. Not that there is anything wrong with that by any means, for all three, IMO, are quite handsome, are styled for space-efficiency despite their good looks, and share the Jaguar-esque grille/front-end/headlights that are simply light-years ahead of the older Lincoln wing-shaped and toothy-grin-shaped grilles. And this handsome styling is paying off....people are coming to look at these vehicles that wouldn't have given the time of day to the older-generation Lincoln SUVs that were mostly rebadged Ford-clones, and sales are up.

As with many SUVs and crossovers, a strip of black vinyl cladding run around the lower-body, front/rear-ends, and wheel wells. Some people complain about that feature. I disagree....it helps to protect those parts of the vehicle from damage or deterioration from all the crap lying on today's roads. The same (more or less) aforementioned Jaguar-style grille and headlights adorns the front end, which adds a big touch of class, and is rapidly becoming the new Lincoln trademark. The Corsair name is spelled out, in plasticized chrome, on a trim-bar under each side mirror. The body sheet metal is reasonably solid by today's standards (which often isn't saying much), and all four doors shut with a reasonable thunk. The rear hatch, of course, which is power-operated, closes and latches slowly, so you don't sense the thunk as much. The paint-jobs, which were generally good, varied in their gloss levels, smoothness, and freedom from imperfections (more on that at the close of the review, below). Although most of the paint-color choices, typical on vehicles of this type, tended to be on the dull side (the red was the one exception), I liked a number of them anyway...particularly the Ceramic Pearl I chose for the test-drive. Unfortunately, most of them, outside of the plain (non-Pearl) black and white, cost anywhere from $695 and up. (Buick, unfortunately, does the same thing). Now, if Lincoln would just offer the gorgeous (dark purple) Tahitian Pearl paint that they did on the first year of the MKC...........



UNDERHOOD:

As with the new Explorer and Aviator, the hood unlatches with the same double-pull lever that is hidden under the door jamb when the driver's door is closed....it does not have the usual secondary finger-latch under the front edge of the hood that most vehicles have. The hood itself, which is not heavy at all, is held up by two nice gas struts, and has a thick (and I mean THICK) insulation pad on its underside...perhaps an attempt to compensate for the lack of a smoother V6 engine. Both the 2.0L and 2.3L turbo fours fit in underhood very well, and though they have the usual plastic engine cover on top, access to lower components is not bad. The battery is to the rear-right of the engine, uncovered and generally easy to access. Although some of the filler-caps / reservoirs / dipsticks are either behind the engine along the firewall, or stuck in a deep hole in the plastic engine cover, they are generally not difficult to access. I noticed, on the oil-filler cap, that (like on my Buick Lacrosse's V6) that Ford is requiring 5W-30 oil...a good move, IMO, for protecting the engine in hot weather. The 5W-20 and 0W-20 oils that some manufacturers recommend will flow quicker in cold weather and give better gas mileage under those conditions, but I am not convinced of their benefit for summer use, particularly in hot climates. And, as for the often-used argument that heavier oils are not compatible with the very small production-clearances on today's engines or are unsuitable for cold temperatures, I agree if you are talking about something like the old 20W-50. But the 5W-30 should be fine for most driving conditions, most of the time. And Lincoln warrants their engines for 6 years / 70,000 miles, so they apparently have confidence in it, too.




INTERIOR:

The best way (and just about the only way) to describe the Corsair interior is, with a few exceptions, generally a scaled-down version of that found in the larger Navigator and Aviator. And that, of course, is anything but a detriment, as the Navigator and Aviator interiors have impressed reviewers and the auto press from Day One. This just one more example (among several) from Lincoln, lately, that they are NOT doing Ford-clone interiors any more. There are a few differences between the Corsair inside and its larger brothers (I'll get to some of those in a minute), but, in general, except for the lack of a third-row seat in the Corsair, it's Like-Father, Like-Son. For those of you who aren't satisfied with the usual interior colors (black, tan/camel, sandstone, etc...), there is a classy, extra-cost, Beyond-Blue interior package, although, according to the Build-Your-Own feature, it seems to come only with the black exterior paint option....why, I have no idea.

The interior, first, of all, starts out with relatively good space-efficiency from the squarish roofline, and (mostly) solid, well-finished materials inside that don't look or feel like they all came from the lowest-bidder. With the standard 10-way power front seat (24-way with optional packages) adjusted down, there is adequate head room both front and rear, even under the sunroof housing. In back, you won't be able to fit NBA guys, but there is generally adequate head and leg room for most reasonably-sized people. The power-seat controls up front are done, Mercedes-style, with the contour-buttons on the upper-door panels. As in other recent Ford/Lincoln products, it takes a little getting used to the power-mirror controls....it is easy to keep hitting the button that folds in the side mirrors completely when you just want to make a minor adjustment. The stalks on the steering column, though plastic, are the typical Lincoln chrome-outlined that look and feel much nicer than those in equivalent Fords, although the somewhat flimsy black plastic shift-paddles could be improved some. The colorful dash gauges and Information Center show different hues and patterns depending on which drive-mode you are in, and are definitely one of the more entertaining of the vehicle's features. The sun visors are well-covered with a nice soft fabric. Like with other new Lincoln SUVs (and a number of other vehicles today), an awkward-looking housing for the video screen juts up vertically from the center of the dash.....some reviewers have compared this type of housing to the old Etch-a-Sketch toy that was popular decades ago, when I was a kid. Fortunately, the Corsair avoids the flat-mounted engine start/stop button in the Aviator and Explorer that lies flat on the upper dash (you push down instead of forward). It's worse on the Explorer because you have to stick your finger in a hole under the air vents to reach it. On the Corsair, the button is where it should be...clear, unobstructed, and facing the driver. Although not as poorly-designed as the transmission buttons in the new 2020 GMC Acadia, the Corsair's transmission buttons are mounted a little low on the dash (beneath the air vents) for ideal convenience......you will be using those buttons, of course, every time you drive or park the vehicle. The front seats have a nice grade of real leather (on the Reserve Model), are reasonably well-padded (though not like my Lacrosse) and are shaped close to, but not quite 100%, for best comfort for my big frame and torso. The folding rear seats have a fair amount of padding in them, but the padding, like with most SUVs in the rear, tends to be rather firm and unyielding. There are numerous chrome surfaces and trim-parts inside that appear to be real metal chrome, not just chrome-plastic....yes, even on the awkward-looking video-screen housing. The stereo sound quality, though not the absolute best I've sampled (which would probably be the Lexus Mark Levinson in the former LS460) is still well above average....my test vehicle had the optional Revel system. There is too long a list of Infotainment/Technology features for me to list them all here, but, depending on trim-model / options / packages, some of them will include the 360-degree view-feature, Active Park feature, Waze-NAV system, wireless phone-charging, Phone-as-Key, Bluetooth, MP3, Sirius XM radio, Considerate-Prompts, Sync-3, Android, and Apple Car-Play. Folks, the bean-counters, with few exceptions, like with the Navigator and Aviator, did NOT win out on the interior this time.




CARGO COMPARTMENT/TRUNK:

Although, like on the larger Aviator, the rear roofline has a very slight downslope to it which cuts out some vertical space, the basic two-box shape of the Corsair gives it generally good space efficiency for an SUV its size. On my test vehicle, the rear hatch, of course, opened and closed with power-activation, and the swipe-foot feature under the rear bumper allows one to open it (with the fob in their possession) when their arms and hands are full of packages. Inside, of course, the split-rear seats fold almost flat extend the cargo area, but you may have to adjust the headrests to get the dropped seat to fit up against the front seat, depending on where the front seats are adjusted. The cargo area itself is quite well-finished, even for the price, with a nice grade of black carpet on the floor and sidewalls. Polished-chrome tie-down hooks are located on either side, and behind them, on each size, are a couple of small netted storage-cubbies. Under the floor pull-up-panel is at least a temporary spare tire...no Fix-a-Flat-bottle crap here. A black-rubber floor liner to protect the carpet is an option (my test-vehicle had it). I did not see a cargo-cover option, even when I looked carefully in the specs...though I may have just missed it.



ON THE ROAD:

Start the turbo four up with the engine-start button (the button's location/angle is much nicer on the Corsair than it is on either the Aviator or Explorer) and the engine comes to life with reasonably good refinement for a four. The aforementioned seat-cushion-thick insulation pad underhood, no doubt, filters out some of the growl and vibration, but some light engine noise remains on low-speed acceleration. I had the turbo 2.0L on the actual test-drive, and its power level, at least lightly-loaded, was not any problem in most normal everyday driving. The optional turbo 2.3L, of course, would add a little more power, but, for my style of driving, is probably not needed. Still, I'd like to see the 3.0L non-turbo Six from the Continental offered on the Corsair.....all else equal, sixes are almost always more refined than fours.

The 8-speed Select-Shift transmission was not quite as smooth as GM's FWD/AWD 9-speed, but close (only very minor differences). The chrome "piano key" push-buttons for the shifting, on the dash, under the center air-vents, were mounted a little lower than I'd like. I generally prefer the vertical row of buttons, closer to the driver, used on other recent Lincolns.....but still, I had no problem with them, and they are much better than the awkward buttons the new GMC Acadia is offering. Although there is no separate button for manual-shift mode, paddle-shifters on the steering-column will upshift or downshift on demand, such as for long or steep hills. Like GM's, Ford's black plastic paddle-shifters tend to have a somewhat cheap, flimsy feel....it is one of the rare hardware-shortcomings inside the newest Lincolns.

The chassis and underpinnings are quite well-done for an SUV in this class. With the Adaptive-Suspension option (which my test-vehicle had), I thought the ride quality was actually better than on the longer-wheelbase Aviator I had sampled a couple of months ago....less tendency to porpose or rock back and forth. My vehicle had the 19" wheels and 55-series tires...other wheels/tires are, of course, standard or optional, depending on trim-version. If possible, if it were my vehicle, I'd probably order the Adaptive Suspension with the tallest-possible (60-series) sidewalls for the best ride-comfort.....I dislike stiff rides with a passion. The electric power steering, like on many other Ford products, had a numb feel but was generally precise. The Adaptive Suspension also controlled body roll quite well for a high-center-of-gravity vehicle of this type...I couldn't get much lean, even with sharp steering inputs, although the actual steering response was a little slower than I expected. Wind noise was very well-controlled from the extensive sound-deadening features in the doors and windows. But, though quiet on glass-smooth roads, some minor road noise got through into the cabin on some concrete or asphalt porous-surfaces....still, not bad at all. Noise-isolation is expected with the Lincoln nameplate, and, overall, the Corsair did not disappoint. The instantaneous, Right-Now brake-pedal feel had the firmness and reaction of some of the better German sports-sedans (virtually no free play at all), although the brake pedal itself was not in an ideal location for my big shoe to easily go from gas to brake without carefully lifting it to make sure it did not catch on the side of the brake pedal. As with most vehicles of this type, several different drive-modes are available to change the vehicles road-manners, steering-feel, engine/transmisison characteristics,and traction/surface requirements. Lincoln's colorful dash-display for these systems, with images that flash back and forth and fade in and out (the one in the Corsair is virtually identical to that in the Aviator) is very interesting, and will give the driver some entertainment with use (but remember to keep your eyes on the road LOL). Most of today's electronic safety-aids on the road (I won't name them all here, because the list is too long) are either standard, optional, or package-optional.




THE VERDICT:

Well, it's no secret that I have a high opinion of this vehicle. It is probably the best compact SUV of its size I've seen yet with an American nameplate on it. In some areas (not all, of course), it equals or outdoes the competition from Europe, Japan, and Korea, although we'll have to wait and see what Genesis comes up with on the smaller GV70 SUV, which will supersede the bigger GV80 sometime in the future. But, with each new vehicle that it introduces now, it is obvious that Lincoln is trying hard to change its poor image of Ford rebadges/clones and undoing the sins of the past. IMO, they are now credible alternatives to some of the classy and prestigious European SUVs that are so common and popular now among well-heeled suburbanites.

And, in many cases, you really don't have to be that well-heeled to own or lease a Corsair, particularly if you choose a base model and limit the options......which, of course, you can do if you special-order one from the Louisville, KY plant, and are willing to wait a number of weeks for delivery. (Yes, though some the engines come from Spain, the final-assembly plant is in the U.S., so you are helping to support American labor).

As with any vehicle, though, it could be improved. On the next-generation model, dump the Etch-a-Sketch video screen and integrate the screen into the dash, like GM does on most of its vehicles. Maybe give the front seats a hair more padding and greater width like one the Aviator. Offer a non-turbo V6 like on the Continental. And bring back the Tahitian Pearl color. But, minor quibbles aside, it is really difficult to find fault with this vehicle....even by my picky standards.

And, of course, a big question inevitably arises...will it be reliable? That, of course, will only be answered by time and owner-experience, and what Consumer Reports and other similar organizations. The bigger-brother Explorer/Aviator, only recently introduced, has already had some significant quality control issues. But one must also note that the Corsair (and Ford Escape) are not assembled in the same plant that produces the Explorer and Aviator...they may not have the same issues. A couple of the Corsairs I looked at today had some minor glitches in the paint jobs....low gloss level in some colors, and one or two cases of primer/paint/clearcoat being applied over what seemed to be dirt particles, causing burrs. It is fair to note, though, that the vehicles which showed the paint imperfections had stickers on the windows stating they were not for sale.....they were pre-production models that had been sent to the dealers for display and dealer-use only.

So, if you actually go look at this vehicle, I think most of you (or at least a clear majority) will be impressed, as I was. But, as with any all-new vehicle or component from an American manufacturer, it is wise to wait at least a few months before a purchase/lease (and note the date of manufacture on the door-jamb sticker), to allow any possible teething problems at the factory to get sorted out.

I'm going to do something I don't do very often with an all-new vehicle, and make a prediction of future sales.....I think the Corsair is going to do quite well, and be a success for Lincoln, even if it doesn't ring up Toyota RAV-4 or Honda CR-V sales-numbers. It has the potential to appeal to a lot of people, particularly those who don't need a third-row seat like in the Aviator and Navigator. It will probably turn out to be Lincoln's Bread-and-Butter vehicle, at least in the American market.

And, although I'm clearly a sedan person, yes, I would spend my own money on one of these and take it home. It does, of course, offer some extra ground-clearance and cargo-space advantages a sedan doesn't, and, though not as cushy as a Lacrosse, has decent ride comfort for a vehicle of this type.

And, last, I may (?) actually owe Ford or Lincoln some business. First, even after all these years (and I'm no Spring Chicken), I've never actually owned a Ford product. Every year, at the D.C. Auto Show in January, Ford signs me up (and those with me who are interested) for a $50 debit-Mastercard on dealer test-drives, and Lincoln (who used to give out their own $75 cards).....now donates the $75, in your name, to your choice of one of several different charities. So, Hmmm......with the Corsair, I just wonder???? Well, we'll see.

And, as Always......Happy SUV-Shopping. 🙂

MM
 

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