The 2020 Lincoln Corsair shares its platform – the hardware under the skin – with the 2020 Ford Escape. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a raft of reasons.
First, platform-sharing is basic to the car business. Most Audis start as Volkswagens, for instance. Moreover, in today’s car game, styling and electronics are the key differentiators, not brake design or engine output.
Increasingly, it seems, today’s car buyer is far less interested in horsepower than in fuel economy, sexy shapes and whether or not it’s possible to use one’s smartphone as a key (possible in the Corsair) and the user-friendliness of the voice activation system (outstanding in the Corsair). Subtle but important bits like elegant and entertaining warning chimes, seat comfort, electrification (a plug-in Corsair is coming) and the clever use of technology to reduce ride and wind noise are all now perceived as luxurious elements.
Brands matter, too.
At the top of the heap among old-style automakers are the Germans – Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, specifically. Jaguar Land Rover has carved out its own British/German niche, though it’s a work in progress – progress which for the moment appears stalled. The Lexus brand is solid and distinct, apart from its Toyota roots, thanks to sparking quality, the odd dabble is incredible performance, and bold if not always appealing designs. Tesla is a unique luxury brand all its own.
Acura remains a second-tier premium brand, one too closely tied to parent Honda. Infiniti has tried to position itself as the Japanese BMW, but rigid cost-cutting within Nissan has long prevented Infiniti from breaking out and carving its own space.
As for the Detroit automakers, Fiat Chrysler let’s its European brands do luxury – Alfa Romeo and such. Ford with Lincoln and Cadillac with General Motors remain generally lost in the wilderness. Why, for instance, would you buy a Lincoln Corsair Reserve for $50,000, when you can get the most basic version of BMW’s X3 sold in Canada for around $52,000? Or a loaded BMW X1 M Sport Line for around $50,000?
This is all about the brand, of course. When you buy a BMW, your neighbour understands what you’ve done. When you buy a Lincoln, at least a few people will wonder if you’ve lost your mind. Lincoln? Who buys a Lincoln? Only a few thousand Canadians a year, in fact, out of the 1.91 million Canadians who bought a new vehicle in 2019. Meanwhile, about 116,000 Canadians bought an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz model last year.
If I were running Lincoln, I would immediately take $5,000 off the sticker of the Corsair. That would bring the base model down below $40,000, while the Reserve version would then be mid-$40,000s. That would give the Corsair a healthy advantage over its German rivals.
Second, I would invest in a stand-alone chain of Lincoln-only dealerships – stores as far away from Ford stores as possible. If I’m going to buy a luxury car, I want a luxury brand experience and it needs to be as remote from an F-Series or Ranger pickup as possible.
As a luxury buyer, I want to Lincoln to give me special treatment, separate from the 223,000 who bought some Ford or another in 2019. Right now, if you pay for a Lincoln, you do so with a Ford showrooms in your eyeline.
And then go to town on selling the Corsair itself. Because the Corsair is a very, very nice little luxury crossover. Surprisingly so.
I expected to find myself in a version of the Escape. But no. This wagon looks nothing like a boxy Escape. The fast-falling roofline, the sculpted S-curves and sides, the strong but not overdone grille… This Lincoln turns heads. I saw it do so in parking lots, again and again.
“That’s a Lincoln?” I heard. “You’re too young to drive a Lincoln, but this one, I don’t know.”
The Corsair is a looker. Indeed, the X1 and X3 come off as slightly stodgy designs by comparison. Inside, the Corsair is even better.
The Beyond Blue cabin with its vivid blue and white colours is brilliant. The materials throughout are rich and well-put-together. The cantilevered console is handsome AND useful and the infotainment experience, including a decently-sized, eight-inch touchscreen, is very, very good. SYNC 3 with AppLink users can access mobile phone apps easily enough.
Electronic Active Noise Control works, by the way. The cabin is quiet at all speeds. Driver alerts come via symphonic chimes, not irritating buzzers and bells. The best 14-speaker Revel audio system is a delight. There’s wireless charging for your phone, 60/40, fold-flat rear seats and more rear seat legroom than you’ll find in a Mercedes GLS.
Alas, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, while powerful enough (250 or 280 horsepower depending on trim level), is a raspy thing when pushed. Sounds too much like an Escape for me. If you want the more powerful 2.3-litre four, then also need to add a few other bits and pieces that take the price to nearly $58,000. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is fine, but hardly special, either. Lincoln should just make the 2.3-litre standard on a sub-$50,000 Corsair and be done with it.
The point is, Lincoln, I believe, could make something of a breakthrough with the Corsair. The elements in the product itself are there. All that’s necessary is a price deduction that gives the Corsair a really big advantage over the Germans. That and a dealer/sales experience that at least matches the Germans in Canada.
Your welcome, Lincoln.
2020 Lincoln Corsair
Price range: $44,200-$50,000.
Engine: 2.0-litre I4, turbocharged; 2.3-litre I4, turbocharged (250 horsepower/275 lb-ft of torque; 280 hp/310 lb-ft).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.1 city/8.1 hwy.