The compact SUV market continues to grow, particularly among young families in Canada. Long gone are the days of the old family station wagon and many parents are fighting tooth and nail against the “uncool” factor of the minivan. With a smaller SUV, you gain tons of space and utility without having to sacrifice too much in terms fuel economy and driveability.
But can a Lincoln be cool? Isn’t it the old man’s brand that grandpa likes? I took the 2016 Lincoln MKC out for a week to find out for myself.
The Comfort of Quiet Luxury
A mantra that was repeated during our little tour at the Vancouver Auto Show last month was that Lincoln stood for “quiet luxury” across its model range. Its vehicles are meant to be comfortable, they’re meant to be quiet, and they’re meant to be luxurious. And there is no shortage of creature comforts on the MKC to achieve this “quiet luxury” objective.
The power seats, which are available with heating and cooling too, are adjustable in just about every way. You get the usual tilt of the back and the height of the seat itself, but even adjustment of the lumbar support is powered. The seats are quite comfortable, even for longer drives on the highway. And just about every surface you can reach is covered in soft-touch materials, including a particularly “plush” leather-wrapped steering wheel.
One curiosity I encountered is that while the Lincoln MKC boasts three driving modes — Comfort, Normal and Sport — you cannot switch between them on the fly. Instead, you have to dig through the menu on the instrument cluster using the steering wheel-mounted controls and assign the driving mode (both for ride comfort and performance) to Drive and to Sport. Naturally, you’d likely assign sport to Sport (that only makes sense), but Drive can only be “normal” or “comfort” at any given time.
The good news is that even in Comfort mode, I didn’t feel like I was driving a big, floaty boat. It was just smooth and comfortable. Despite boasting a turbo-charged EcoBoost engine, the MKC did feel a little lacking in power, even in Sport Mode. It’s fine once you get going, but getting up to speed takes more of an effort. Pedal feel is firm, if a little disconnected from the road.
Toying with Technology
If Lincoln is an “old man’s brand,” then Grandpa is going to be overwhelmed by all the buttons and touchscreens on the Lincoln MKC. Even as a younger technophile, it took me a little while to familiarize myself with where everything was and how I could go about customizing the ride to suit my preferences.
One of the first things that will strike many drivers is the absence of a traditional shift knob. It’s not on the steering column either. Instead, you get a series of buttons to the left of the touchscreen display for shifting between park, reverse, drive and so on. Above that is the engine start/stop button. It’s a very strange experience at first, but you get used to it after a while.
The new Ford Sync 3 infotainment system is worlds better than what we tested on the 2012 Ford Focus just a few years back. It’s far faster and much more intuitive. I particularly like the “home” view where I can see the GPS navigation, the audio system, and the Bluetooth-connected phone at the same time.
The big touchscreen in the middle is hardly the only display. There’s also one in the middle of the instrument cluster, which can shift between all sorts of information, plus more displays in the middle of the speedometer and the tachometer, both of which can be further customized to show additonal information. For instance, you get the current speed limit at a glance, plus the lane-keeping system monitors if you’re starting to drift.
Distracted driving is a very real concern and as convenient as some of these systems may be, you are well advised to avoid bumbling through the multi-level nested menus on any of these screens while behind the wheel. That said, I really did like how I could adjust the adaptive cruise control through the display in the speedometer, setting my speed and how closely I wanted to follow the car in front of me.
The technology found in the MKC isn’t just about comfort and convenience. A lot of safety features have also been put in and this is very important for any mom or dad carting their children around for soccer practice and piano recitals. The blind spot monitoring system illuminates an amber light on the side mirror. This was really useful; when I had the child seat in the center of the back row, I couldn’t really shoulder-check to my right.
There are warnings about imminent collisions, including auto-braking if necessary. If the vehicle detects that you’re wavering around in your lane too much, the driver fatigue warning will pop up, telling you take a break and grab a coffee. Yes, the warning icon actually is a piping hot cup of coffee.
Other niceties include the power liftgate, the backup camera (though no all-around camera like you see in some other SUVs), and the active park assist that’ll parallel park your MKC for you.
An Extra Special Experience
Why would someone choose to spend the extra money on a Lincoln MKC when they can get a very similar vehicle in the more affordable Ford Escape? After all, both vehicles share the same platform and might appear very similar at first glance. Part of the answer comes from the “quiet luxury” described above and this is further capped off with more “upscale” elements. A great example of this is the Vista Roof.
The panoramic sunroof lets in plenty of natural light. It extends almost completely to the rear of the vehicle, meaning the kids in the backseat can stare up to the heavens as you make your way to grandma’s house. The “tilt” function for the front part of the sunroof doesn’t tilt very much, so you will need to retract it back if you’re looking for some fresh air.
At night, you can also take advantage of the ambient lighting system, which illuminates the footwells and door handles in a color of your choosing. I remember installing aftermarket underdash neons on my old Acura Integra and now they’re regular options in a more family-oriented vehicle like this. Funny how things come full circle.
And speaking of lighting, one of the more unique features is what Lincoln calls the Welcome Mat. Using “Approach Detection,” the illuminated Lincoln logo appears on the ground next to the two front doors. This is without you having to press the unlock button on your key fob. Other parts of the lighting system also illuminate to “welcome” you back to your MKC. That’s classy!
An MKC SUV for a Growing Family?
“I didn’t do it to be cool. I didn’t do it to make a statement. I just liked it.”
While I’m still not convinced that the family man with spitup on his shoulder and a baby in his arms will necessarily look all that “cool” standing next to his silver Lincoln MKC, I will say that there are many reasons to like this vehicle. It’s a very comfortable ride and the technology integration has been well executed.
The MKC is not without its shortcomings. Due to the way it is designed, the trunk isn’t quite as spacious as I would have liked. In particular, I couldn’t fit my umbrella stroller horizontally (as I can in my Nissan Rogue), having to place it diagonally instead. This affects how much cargo I can stuff in there. The higher entry point can also be a little problematic for shorter drivers and passengers. I did like the option of having the driver’s seat and steering wheel retract to make for an easier entry.
Pricing on the 2016 Lincoln MKC starts in the $38,000 range. The model as tested, with optional upgrades like the heated and cooled front seats, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting and hands-free liftgate, creeps up much closer to $50,000. Considering that more entry-level compact SUVs can be found for much less, it’s debatable whether the “quiet luxury” of the MKC is worth the premium price tag.
Disclosure: The Lincoln MKC was loaned by Ford Canada at no cost to me. I was not otherwise compensated in any way. Opinions are entirely my own.