Farewell Mercury... Hello Lincoln Motor Company.
Mercury Automobiles, launched during the economically sluggish 1930s, was originally conceived to fill a marketing gap between Ford's price-sensitive audience and luxury-minded clientele served by Ford Motor Company's upmarket Lincoln nameplate. Once a stand-alone division within the Blue Oval automaker, Mercury merged with Lincoln near the end of World War II. The Great Recession's beginnings some 60 years hence WW II served as Mercury's ultimate dagger.
With Mercury's U.S. market share anemically stuck in the one percent range, Ford announced in 2010 its once mighty builder of Zephyrs and Grand Marquees would join other American nameplates destined for automotive graveyard mortality this millennia including Plymouth, Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn.
Mercury's demise actually bodes well for Lincoln as it absorbs much-needed R&D investment dollars once tapped for Mercury. Lincoln, a company named after the 16th U.S. President, could benefit from Super PAC coughers stuffed with campaign contributions. Not only do U.S. sales lag behind domestic rival Cadillac, but also a number of Asian and European upscale names as well.
Lincoln itself has survived the test of time as a centennial celebration looms around the corner. Founded by Henry Leland in 1917, one of Cadillac's early investors, he encountered financial difficulties early and often, eventually selling to rival maverick Henry Ford in 1922. Soon after Mercury's subtle 2010 farewell, Ford Motor Company rebadged its sole remaining U.S. division "The Lincoln Motor Company."
Lincoln employs a tri-letter designate for all lineup models sans the full-size Navigator sport utility vehicle. The first two letters of each vehicle (MK) remain identical with only the suffix letter changing. MKZ and MKS boast sedan body styles while MKC and MKX employee crossover exteriors. It's all a bit exhausting to those in the automotive community, even more so with the general public; especially if aging ears more than 50 years find difficulty differentiating 'C' and "Z' sounds.
An all-new vehicle for 2015, MKC measures in as the brand's smallest five-door crossover. Front-wheel drive comes standard in this compact-sized entry with available all-wheel drive. Two four-cylinder 'Ecoboost' engines include a standard 2.0-liter generating a lively 240 horses and an upgraded 2.3-liter Ecoboost lifting horsepower to 285. Both work with a six-cylinder automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters and utilize regular, 87-octane fuel. The optional 2.3-liter engine teams exclusively with all-wheel drive.
EcoBoost is Lincoln and Ford's marriage between turbocharging and gas direct injection technologies working in tandem to maximize fuel efficiency. Turbocharging pressurizes air prior to the engine's intake stroke via a turbine compressor driven by recycled exhaust gasses. This volatile air creates a bigger horsepower bang when mixed with the directly injected gas.
MKC is Lincoln's only four-cylinder crossover. Both the mid-size MKX and full-size three-row MKT crossovers feature V-6 Ecoboost engines.
Three MKC trim levels include Premier, Select and Reserve. Premier features the 2.0-liter engine exclusively while Select and Reserve offer the 2.3-liter as an option. The top-trim Reserve includes long panoramic roof, heated and cooled front seats, navigation with voice recognition and cross traffic alert useful when backing out of tight parking spots.
Built in Louisville Kentucky, MKC shares a production line and many underbody similarities with Ford's popular and competent Escape compact crossover.
Our tester, an all-wheel drive Reserve included a base price of $42,530 with a $49,265 bottom line with optional technology package (lane departure warning, radar cruise control, forward parking sensors) and $895 destination charge. Entry price point starts at $33,995 for a front-drive Select with 2.0-liter four cylinder.
Braking remains predictable, with no grab tendencies when gently pumping the pedal. Wind noise, at speeds up to 75 miles per hour, remains muffled and eerily silent while optional adaptive suspension smooths out road imperfections; an engaging highway vehicle.
The all-new MKC includes the Lincoln family's sizeable wing-like twin-port front grille featuring vertical shafts with the brand's iconic horizontal-like cross separating sides. The rear hatch includes a narrow string of smallish, inline LED lights traversing the door width which loop up at each end creating a lasso look. Chrome trim surrounds narrow side windows and dual exhausts adorn all trims.
Need a lift? Lincoln's MKC's top-hinged power hatchback rises and falls with a push of a key fob button. But if one finds hands and arms occupied, a gentle foot wave under the back bumper summons the door into action; a Reserve trim exclusive.
Once inside, don't expect a traditional transmission shifter between front bucket seats. Many upscale automakers have made the switch from mechanical to electronic shifts. Land Rover's LR4 includes a chrome twist circular dial between buckets while MKC utilizes large inline push buttons (PRNDS) framing the left side of the center dash multi-function screen; Lincoln's 'push-button shift.' Topping the column is the electronic push-button start/stop button, a wise location not impeded by the steering wheel.
Brushed aluminum frames the dashboard center region while wood-like trim extends from the dash to all four side doors. Soft-touch cushioning extends not just to the dash and front side doors, but rear doors as well. The three-dimensional instrument panel includes two circular gauges with interior animated factoids.
Our Reserve's shotgun bucket seat included power height adjustments, assisting a World War II octogenarian with egress and ingress during a covert supply mission to the Glen Ellyn Walmart. Back seats provide good comfort for two 95-percentile-sized lieutenants. Rear backrests fold semi-flat onto cushions via outboard, side cushion seat levers if large Government Issue provisions need transporting.
Lincoln's current generation of SYNC connectivity is a welcome upgrade from a 2008 debut effort, which left more than a few befuddled. SYNC connects applicable portable electronics wirelessly with Ford/Lincoln audio and voice command efforts. This latest effort teams the easy-view eight-inch color touch screen with welcome rows of secondary audio and ventilation tactile buttons, touch bars and twist knobs interacting separately or in tandem with the four-quadrant (Audio, Navigation, Climate, Phone) touch screen. A tap of a specific quad broadens that choice full screen. Information and home icons remain available allong the screen's bottom. With upgrades, information icons can summon movie show times at nearby nickelodeons and display current fuel prices of area gas stations.
Below the ventilation area resides a storage nook with sliding top-side cover housing a 12-volt outlet and portable electronic plug-in ports. In-line dual beverage holders connect the nook with a covered arm rest/storage bin.
Cadillac, Lincoln's long-time domestic rival, currently offers little direct competition in the compact crossover segment. Change is coming though, as GM's luxury division looks to expand its current crossover/SUV collection including the mid-size, V-6 motivated SRX and full-size body-on-frame Escalade sport utility.
Nicely equipped with oodles of standard equipment, MKC premiers a strong first effort while a growing list of rivals including Audi's Q3 and Lexus' new NX provide competent compact crossover competition.
At a Glance
2015 Lincoln MKC
Price as tested: $49,265
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 179.2 inches
Width: 73.4 inches
Engine: 2.3-liter four cylinder
Curb weight: 3,989 pounds
City/Highway economy: 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Six years/70,000 miles
Assembly: Louisville, Kentucky