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2015 Lincoln MKC Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Lincoln MKC front quarter view
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Introduction

The top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for much of the 1990s, Lincoln has fallen well behind in the past decade, and now ranks eighth. To many analysts, the reason is clear: while competitors, especially those hailing from Europe, have become increasingly sophisticated, Lincoln has had to base its models heavily on mainstream Fords. Its newest model, the 2015 MKC compact crossover, shares its underlying structure and one of its two engines with the Ford Escape. A recipe for failure?

Not necessarily. The best-selling models at Acura and Lexus are based on Hondas and Toyotas, respectively. The new Audi Q3 has a healthy helping of VW under its skin. So, before we rush to judgment on the MKC, perhaps we should see what it offers above the Ford Escape, and how well it compares to the Acura RDX.

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC front quarter view

A white MKC with the optional 20-inch wheels. more MKC photos

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC interior

Interior feels especially warm in hazelnut. Center stack angled upward for easy view and access.

Tested: 2015 Lincoln MKC

4dr SUV turbocharged 240hp 2.0L I4 6-speed shiftable automatic FWD

Compared: 2015 Acura RDX

4dr SUV 273-horsepower 3.5L V6 6-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2015 Lincoln MKC?

  Compared to the RDX
Interior styling
Interior styling: Much better Better Worse

Step inside the Lincoln MKC, and you'll find few clues of its Ford basis aside from the standard-issue touchscreen infotainment interface. Compared to the Escape's interior, the MKC's has cleaner, more upscale styling. Especially in white or hazelnut the atmosphere feels warmer than in a German competitor. Heavily grained, matte-finished real wood trim might polarize opinions. For those who don't like it, Lincoln offers aluminum trim as an alterative. The door panels, with quilted inserts, are far nicer than those in the Ford. The supple leather on the seat faces, sourced from Bridge of Weir in Scotland, feels richer to the hand than any other you'll find at this price point. The slicker hides in the Acura RDX and the thick skins in the Audi Q5, much less the near-vinyl in the Ford Escape, don't compare.

Not all parts of the interior are up to the standard of the door panels and seats, though. As in the Fusion-based MKZ sedan, the plastic that faces the center stack looks and feels a touch downmarket, if less so than the Acura's plentiful silver plastic. Unlike in other recently designed Lincolns, knobs are offered to adjust the volume and change stations. While good for usability, these don't look or feel as slick as the touch-sensitive sliders first seen in the 2011 MKX and now also present in the MKS, MKT, and MKZ.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, the MKC's interior is a very nice place to spend time.


Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Better Better Worse

Seat comfort can be highly subjective, partly because human bodies come in many different shapes and sizes. This said, the MKC's driver seat fit me like a glove from the moment I first sat down. The seat bottom is cushier than most, including those in the Acura and Audi, while the seatback is very well contoured. You'll find more lateral support in the Acura, but the Lincoln's seats offer as much as owners are likely to need in a compact crossover.

The view forward from this seat is better than in the Ford Escape, as the MKC's windshield doesn't seem as steeply raked and doesn't have oddly curved, fishbowl-effect lower corners. Also, the top of the Lincoln's instrument panel better disguises its considerable depth. The instrument panels in the Acura and in German competitors require no such artful disguising, as they aren't nearly as deep. To the rear, the MKC's windows are at least as small as the Escape's, and smaller than the Acura's and the Audi's. Luckily the side mirrors are large and blind spot warning is an option.


MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC rear quarter

18-inch wheels don't appear under-sized.

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC instrument panel

Knobs instead of the sliders found in other Lincolns.

Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: Better Better Worse

I first drove the second-generation Acura RDX a couple years ago, while evaluating the RX 350 F Sport. At the time I felt it rode and handled well, perhaps because the F Sport treatment ruined the ride quality of the Lexus without doing much for its handling.

This time around I was not impressed. Compared to the Lincoln MKC's ride, the RDX's feels insufficiently controlled, occasionally rough, and generally in need of another round or two of refinement.

The MKC has an unfair advantage, as the Ford Escape rides and handles much better than the Honda CR-V on which the RDX is based. For the MKC, Lincoln merely had to further refine an already excellent chassis. The difference isn't large, but it is noticeable. Compared to the Escape, the MKC feels even more poised and substantial, with virtually none of the bibbles, bobbles, and jiggles that afflict many crossovers. The additional substantial isn't only a matter of perception; tipping the scales at 3,791 lbs, the MKC 2.0 weighs a couple hundred more than an Escape with the same engine.

Three-mode adaptive dampers, $650 with front-wheel-drive and included with all-wheel-drive, likely deserve some of the credit. "Comfort" mode proved too floaty for my taste. The difference between "normal" and "sport" isn't large. The ride is a little more absorbant in normal, and a little more tightly controlled in sport. But it's far from harsh even in the latter.

I haven't experienced better ride quality in a compact crossover.


Quietness
Quietness: Better Better Worse

Similarly, the MKC is significantly quieter than the already fairly quiet Escape, and a more than a match in this regard for the RDX. Some of the Lincoln's additional 200 lbs. can be accounted for by laminated front door windows and additional sound insulation. The 2.0-liter engine sounds less sophisticated than the 2.3, but you can't hear either much. The RDX's V6 is much louder, but then it sings a song you're more likely to want to hear.


Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Much better Better Worse

Outside, the Lincoln MKC also bears little resemblance to the Ford Escape. Instead, it strongly resembles the Q5, and even copies the Audi's wraparound clamsheel tailgate. Of course, if you're going to copy someone, copy the best, and the Q5 is a handsome crossover. Lincoln did add some muscle to the Audi's hyper-clean shape. Creased fender bulges are the most noticeable addition. All in all, they've dialed the Audi's shape up a notch or two, without going too far for good taste. As compact crossovers go, the MKC might not be striking, but it's certainly attractive.


Why Not the 2015 Lincoln MKC?

  Compared to the RDX
Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Much worse Better Worse

Unfortunately, the Lincoln MKC's key weakness is at least as apparent as any of its strengths once one moves beyond the official specs--likely cheated, per Ford's recent practice--and actually sits in its rear seat. The Escape is tighter than most back there, and the MKC is tighter still. Sitting behind my 5-9 self, my knees come within a couple inches of the front seatbacks. Put a tall driver up front, and I wouldn't fit in back. Nearly all competitors have roomier rear seats. You'll find far more shoulder room and rear knee room in the RDX.

Perhaps Lincoln should have stretched the MKC's wheelbase a few inches to expand the rear seat. As is, it's about four inches shorter than the RDX, Q5, and Volvo XC60. A roofline an inch lower than the Escape's might improve the exterior's proportions, but it cuts into interior space.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Worse Better Worse

Cargo capacity similarly falls short of the class average. At 53.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded, it's four cubes short of the Q5, eight short of the RDX, and 14 short of the Volvo XC60. While cargo volume measurements are subject to gaming, subjective impressions are in line with these specs.

One bright spot: the pushbutton transmission selector and consequent absense of a shifter opens up useful storage space in the center console. Ford Escape owners, without this space, don't have a good place to stow a phone.


MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC front view

Lincoln's current face has many critics, but it works pretty well on the MKC.

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC back seat

Tight back seat.

Other features of the 2015 Lincoln MKC

  Compared to the RDX
Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Worse Better Worse

If you really want a high-performance compact crossover, there are better options, most notably the Audi SQ5 and BMW X3. Or the Porsche Macan Turbo, which easily out-scoots them all.

But for anything approaching typical driving the MKC's performance is more than sufficient even with the base engine, a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is the Escape's strongest engine. Want a little more thrust? Then spend $1,140 for the optional engine, a 285-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four, and you'll be able to get from a dead stop to 60 mph about a second sooner (roughly 6.5 vs. 7.5). With a 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, the Acura RDX is a little quicker than an MKC with the 2.3.

Both engines are paired with a paddle-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. With front-wheel-drive, the MKC's steering wheels squirms just a bit with hard acceleration. Overall, the 2.0-liter's torque is managed well enough that all-wheel-drive isn't a must for performance purposes. The torquier 2.3-liter is offered only with all-wheel-drive.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: About the same Better Worse

Unfortunately, the Lincoln MKC's relatively compact size doesn't render it more fuel efficient. The base powertrain's EPA ratings, 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, barely top the larger, V6-powered RDX's 20/28. AWD drops the figures all the way to 19/26, while the 2.3-liter engine knicks another mpg off the city rating. The all-wheel-drive RDX, not known for fuel efficiency itself, slightly bests the MKC 2.3's ratings, 19/27 vs. 18/26. The Audi Q5, with standard AWD, tops both with 20/28, but is also less powerful (220). The Volvo with front-wheel-drive is easily the best of the bunch, with 24/31. But you can't get Volvo's new engines with all-wheel-drive yet. So add this and the XC60's EPA ratings plummet to 18/25.

The four-cylinder diesel engines offered by BMW (27/34) and Mercedes-Benz (24/33) and the hybrid version of the new Lexus NX (35/31 with FWD, 33/30 with AWD) are the fuel economy champs of the class. Lincoln should consider countering them with the hybrid powertrain from the MKZ sedan.

In my real-world suburban driving, 29.5 mpg was the best average I managed to squeeze from the MKC's trip computer. Mid-20s were far more common. With a cold start and Gayla's heavier foot in moderate traffic, it reported 19.8 mpg. On a 70-mph highway it reported a two-way average around 30 mpg, just barely above the EPA rating.


Handling
Handling: Much better Better Worse

When the road curves, the Lincoln MKC again benefits from its Escape underpinnings. Lean in turns is moderate and the electronic chassis controls limit understeer and boost agility. Push the MKC hard, and the chassis maintains its composure. Moderately firm, well-weighted steering inspires far more confidence than the far too light wheel in the RDX. If memory serves, I was also less impressed by the relatively lifeless steering in both the Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60. Though the Lincoln certainly isn't a hardcore sports machine, I enjoyed driving it much more than I expected to.


Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Better Better Worse

While the MyFord Touch (here MyLincoln Touch) interface continues to include too many overly small virtual buttons that are not far enough apart--or far enough from the edge--the touchscreen is at least large and close at hand in the MKC. The entire center stack is set at an angle, making everything easier to reach than in crossovers with vertical center stacks, most notably the Audi Q5. The push-button transmission selector takes a little getting used to, and provides no more of a driving experience benefit here than it does in the MKZ sedan. Maybe if the buttons had more weight to them. The layout does place the [S]port button where it can be seen and tapped at a glance, for easy switching between driving modes. And, as noted earlier, it opens up a useful space for storing your personal electronics.


Price or payments
Price or payments: About the same Better Worse

The Lincoln MKC starts at $33,995. Add $3,230 for the Select Package, which includes the soft leather, additional power adjustments for the front passenger seat, and a few other less significant features. (TrueDelta's defaults put the total value of these features around $1,700, but we don't ascribe any more value to premium leather than to economy grade hides.) Add another $1,100 for the Select Plus Package to get a navigation and a blind spot warning system. A similarly equipped Ford Escape Titanium lists for $4,925 less and includes about $1,100 in additional features. These additional features can only be added to the MKC by purchasing the pricey Reserve and Technology Packages. Figure that the upgraded interior and smoother, quieter ride of the MKC cost $5-6k. Worth it? This will depend on how much you personally value them.

Want a panoramic sunroof? One is $1,495 on the Ford but $1,700 on the Lincoln. Similarly, all-wheel-drive is $1,750 on the Ford but $2,495 on the Lincoln, partly because it includes adaptive dampers (which otherwise cost $650). Tick every single box on the Lincoln, including special paint, and its sticker will barely top $50,000.

The tested MKC, with front-wheel-drive, the Select and Select Plus Packages, the sunroof, and adaptive dampers, listed for $40,675. An Acura RDX with Technology Package lists for $1,185 less, but comes up about $2,000 short in the features department. Note, though, that the RDX includes a stronger engine and more powerful audio system. Add the larger engine and 700-watt THX audio to the Lincoln, and add all-wheel-drive to the Acura to keep things even, and the MKC checks in $3,765 higher, $44,655 vs. $40,890. About $2,300 of the difference can be attributed to the Lincoln's additional features, leaving about $1,500. Is the Lincoln $1,500 better, despite being more cramped inside? I'd say so.

And the European competition? The Lincoln MKC undercuts the Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60 by about $4,000 and about $3,000, respectively. This seems about right, given their slightly roomier rear seats and more prestigious badges.


Conclusion

Seen against Lincoln's best days, when its cars rivaled the best in the world, a Ford Escape-based crossover might seem unworthy of the brand. But evaluated on its own merits, the new MKC impresses. It rides and handles well, has a well-finished interior with a warm ambiance and comfortable front seats, and looks the part. Given how people typically drive upscale crossovers, it ranks among the best--as long as an adult-friendly back seat isn't a priority. If one is, wait for the redesigned 2016 MKX.

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC 2.0-liter engine uncovered

Beyond adequate performance even from the base engine.

MKC Reviews: Lincoln MKC cargo area

Large tailgate opens up to compact cargo area.

See more 2015 Lincoln MKC photos

Lincoln provided a fueled, insured MKC for a week. Richard Wolf (248-354-4900) of Star Lincoln in Southfield, MI, provided one with the 2.3. Ramzy Sheikh (248-427-5734) of Suburban Acura in Farmington Hills, MI, provided an RDX for comparison purposes.

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2015 Lincoln MKC pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2015 Lincoln MKC. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from zcd1

2:19 pm November 14, 2014

I was impressed by the MKC's driving dynamics when I test-drove one recently. The 2.3 liter EcoBoost provided ample power and refinement, and the ride was very composed and comfortable overall. Felt very European to me, which is a compliment.

What I didn't like was the relative lack of space, both for passengers and cargo, and to a lesser extent, the overall interior quality. The one I drove was pretty well loaded, including the panoramic sunroof, and with that, the rear headroom is unacceptably tight. Granted, at 6'2", I'm taller than many, but it will be an issue with anyone 5' 11" or more. That simply shouldn't be the case in any SUV, as space is a primary driver for buying an SUV in the first place.

The interior was hit and miss for me - nice leather, but cheap plastics in places. Unfortunately, some of those places stare the driver right in the face - like next to the (odd) push-button shifter.

Priced virtually on top of the BMW X3 28i I drove soon thereafter (which had none of the aforementioned drawbacks), I couldn't see myself choosing the MKC...

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Response from mkaresh

6:38 pm November 14, 2014

I agree that the plastic on the center stack in both the MKC and the MKZ looks overly cheap. I'm not sure what they could have done differently with it, but something.

I didn't really buy the rationale for the push button shifter. But I had a friend who owns an Escape go test drive one, and he really liked the additional storage space located shere a shifter would normally be.

The BMW X3 actually costs about $5,500 moreeven comparing the 2.3 (which adds $1,100 to the Lincoln's price). If the two cars you drove were close in price, the BMW had far fewer options on it.

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Response from zcd1

8:34 am November 17, 2014

The prices of the 2 vehicles I drove were within $3K of each other. I didn't compare the window sticker details, but both cars had all the stuff I'd want - the BMW even had the M-Sport treatment, whose wheels were gorgeous.

I'd postulate that $3K isn't a significant difference when spending $50K on a car. The Lincoln's pricing struck me as similar to Cadillac's strategy, which isn't working that well for them - ask the same amount or more than the established (often German) competitors, despite no track record or resale value history to support that pricing....

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Response from mkaresh

8:56 am November 17, 2014

I suspect that the Lincoln had a few k of options on it that you could drop without noticing, since you didn't notice their absence on the BMW.

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Response from zcd1

10:36 am November 17, 2014

Could well be, but with the MKC's limited headroom and cheap finish in places, I'd spend the $ to get the BMW regardless.

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Response from sthomasdakota

4:39 pm December 16, 2014

Does the Lincoln have the same dual-clutch transmission as the Focus built on the same platform? Or is it a regular torque converter transmission? If so, do you know who makes it? I'd prefer to avoid the DCT this time around.

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Response from mkaresh

5:09 pm December 18, 2014

Response from Tassos

2:38 pm December 19, 2014

Until Lincoln begins to finally build cars worthy of its onetime glory, and ceases to rebadge good-looking Ford models by giving them that weird grille, I will not give it the time of day. As for the names of its vehicles, they are truly ludicrous. Alphanumerics should have a clear and widely known meaning, as the Germans USED to do them (even they have gotten worse, recently). WTH does "MKC" mean? "MK", 2/3rds of the name, is 100% wasted, it just means "mark", a meaningless Lincoln trademark. and "C"? utterly meaningless even to afficionados.

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Response from Tassos

2:41 pm December 19, 2014

I guess "C" inm MKC stands for "Crossover"... in other words, a re-badged escape. Does Lincoln have a re-badged Explorer any more? (they had one, used to call it the... "Aviator"! What a clueless name for a fat, rollover-prone cow!) No. If they decide to bring it back, what will they call it, if they stick to their idiotic alphanumerics? MKCb?

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Response from mkaresh

6:51 pm December 23, 2014

Lincoln no longer has a version of the Explorer. But they do have a version of the Edge.

The "names" are awful.

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Response from Member6455

3:07 am May 30, 2015

We just recently shopped for a compact crossover. We looked at the Q5, X3 and NX as well as the MKC. We never set out to include the MKC, we came across it while doing research and thew it into the mix because we liked the exterior styling, and we ended up buying one :)

We eliminted the NX due to the poorest driving performance and back seat room out of the bunch - plus the exterior styling we just didn't like. I really liked the Q5 2.0t overall, but we had to consider the design is getting tired/old (new one 2017?) and they are all over the road. The X3 28i is OK, but I didn't like the plain looking dash-plus configured the same as the Q5 and MKC the X3 was the most expensive (up to $5,000 more!) and it (& Q5) didn't handle or accelerate much better than the base AWD MKC. Overall we considered the MKC and Q5 interiors nicer than the X3. Our test X3 had cheap looking imitation leather seats - which may have skewed us. The MKC had the nicest leather, while the BMW/Audi front seats had slightly better support :)

"If you really want a high-performance compact crossover, there are better options, most notably the Audi SQ5 and BMW X3. Or the Porsche Macan Turbo, which easily out-scoots them all."

I have seen this mentioned before in a couple other reviews and just don't get it. The 354hp SQ5 and 340hp Macan S both START at nearly 53k -the 400hp Macan Turbo at 74k!!! Even the 300hp X3 35i starts around 47k..all these compared to a 40k 285hp MKC...! So they are not really on a level playing field... I'm sure if Lincoln added 8-13k+ to the base price they could turn out a higher performance MKC!

I agree that Lincoln should:

1) offer a hybrid version soon

2) stretch the length by 2-3 inches to provide a little more space in the back. Although at 6' and 230 lbs I find the MKC rear seats adequate (not as bad as the NX, Q3 & GLA) it could use some more room, if for comparison stats only. haha

3) Improve the transmission program or add an 8 speed? - to improve performance and mileage of the current engines (new 2.0 twinscroll turbo coming)

I think Lincoln did a good job with the MKC. Although built on the same platform as the escape, you can't tell without knowledge of the fact - it shares no exterior sheetmetal, the interior is completely different and it has upgraded suspension. They did just as good a job as Lexus in differentiating the NX from the Prius/RAV4 platform it is built on..and Audi with their Q3 (golf/tiguan platform).

Cheers.

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Response from mkaresh

6:39 am May 30, 2015

This is such an outstanding comment, I hope you'll use it as the starting point for a review.

I have the Lexus NX this week, and plan to drive the MKC again so I can directly compare them. I hadn't thought that the NX's rear seat was any tighter than the MKC's, but will be sure to closely examine this owing to your comment.

On performance, quite true that the others cost more. But if someone absolutely wants more performance, they'll have to pay the price for it.

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Response from Member2534

7:26 pm October 17, 2015

Well...I finally found this review!

I guess what seems odd is the inclusion of the XC60. It seems a category higher than thie MKC or Escape.

Given the choice, I would get the Volvo as the superchgrger/turbo combo just seems rediculously awesome. Can I say that and make sense?

And as much as I love the leather of the new Lincolns, getting an even smaller cuv than my Escape seems weird. I should get a better cargo area than this.

What a shame that it was going so well until you moved to the rear seat and also compared the V6 of the Acura against even the top 2.3. I had such hope for this engine and it seems great in the Edge. That MPG is just unacceptable these days. I think, however, those that do not understand how to drive turbos will never get the most from them. For instance, my MKS after all these years, is averaging (with a 40 city/60 hwy) 24.4 mpg... not bad. But you must learn the feel and touch of the turbo and not get addicted to the power.

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Response from mkaresh

9:36 pm October 17, 2015

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