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2020 Lincoln Corsair First Drive


By Gary Witzenburg, Truck Trend

"This car is 'sweet,'" one of our group enthused to Lincoln marketing, sales and service director Michael Sprague after our day-long sojourn over the mountains and down the California coast from San Francisco to Carmel. He seemed about ready to buy one.

Remember not that long ago when Cadillac was cool and Lincoln was lame? Caddy was getting good at pursuing upscale imports with a stable of crisply styled, agile-handling, fine-performing cars while Lincoln was pushing mostly poshed-up, rebadged Fords. Then, just as American buyers have been going SUV/CUV (crossover) crazy, new Lincoln leadership has launched an impressive quartet of new and nearly new premium utilities -- Nautilus, Navigator, Aviator and now this Corsair - all handsomely designed and cleverly crafted inside and out.


Classified as a "small premium utility," this new compact luxury two-row CUV offers a standard 250-hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder and an available (along with intelligent AWD only in top-trim Reserve II models) substantially stronger 295-hp 2.3L turbo four, both driving through a new eight-speed automatic transmission. And it packs the expected passel of standard and available safety and driver-assist features and a few less common perks including anticipative headlamps that read the road and aim where you're about to go, steering wheel control icons that illuminate when you're using them, 24-way adjustable front seats with massage, easy to download (to Apple or Android) "Phone As A Key" capability, 14-speaker Revel premium audio and "symphonic crystalline" chimes (recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) that inform you of everything from an unbuckled seatbelt to an open fuel-filler door.


My co-driver handled the long first leg out of urban San Fran to the coast, then (for some reason) through some neighborhoods, back to the ocean, south to Half Moon Bay, east up the mountain to twisty two-lane CA-35, then back west to a driver-change stop at Pomponio State Beach. Observations from the passenger seat: the cabin is so quiet that Lincoln bills it as a "sanctuary for the senses," the infotainment screen is easy and intuitive to use with large touch icons, the radio happily offers both volume and tune/scroll knobs, plus handy hard buttons for Source and Seek.


My turn to drive took us back up to CA-35, then south to lunch at a mountaintop winery with a gorgeous view, then back down to the coast, and the Corsair proved delightful to drive even fairly aggressively. Its torquey 2.3L turbo-four was great for taking advantage of rare and brief passing zones, and its twisty road handling was surprisingly good in Normal and substantially better in Excite mode, which tightened the active suspension and enhanced both throttle and steering response. And as hard as we used them, its strong, linear brakes never felt stressed or even slightly heat-faded. Above all that, its lane-centering and adaptive cruise (with auto braking) functions were highly effective in freeway traffic, my co-driver tried her massaging seat and liked it, and our test run averaged a respectable 19.7 mpg.


There was little to fault, in fact, but I wanted more driver's-seat travel for long-legged comfort, the ride turned bouncy at times (especially in Excite mode), and we were not fond of the little joy-stick controls on the steering wheel spokes, though we eventually learned how to use them to call up the functions and displays we wanted. One annoyance was the auto-hold function that keeps brakes on at rest until you push the go-pedal hard enough to disengage them. But that plus Lane-Keeping and other at-times unwanted driver-aid features were easily disabled through a center-dash "hot" button that calls them all up for easy setting adjustments.

Styling is subjective, but we judged the Corsair a fine-looking, cleanly sculpted CUV that strikes exactly the right visual balance between luxury and function. Our top-rung Reserve II tester's interior was beautifully crafted with premium materials throughout, its second-row roominess was better than most in its class, and so was its cargo capacity behind those second-row seats, which slide six inches fore-aft with a 60/40 fold-flat or split-bench option. And switching to a lower-trim 2.0L Turbo Corsair for our final drive-route legs sacrificed some engine performance, but its striking "Beyond Blue" interior was nearly as nice.


The Corsair's standard drive modes are Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions, and its intelligent AWD -- standard with the Reserve II's 2.3L engine, available with the standard 2.0L -- seamlessly disconnects from the rear axles to optimize efficiency when unneeded. Its standard "Co-Pilot360" package includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping, Rear View Camera and Auto High Beam Headlamps, while an available Co-Pilot360-Plus option adds:

Adaptive Cruise Control with traffic jam assist that uses stop-and-go, lane-centering technology and speed sign recognition.

Evasive Steering Assist that can help avoid collisions by adding steering when it judges that a collision can't be avoided with brakes alone.

Reverse Brake Assist that helps stop when backing up when its rear sensors detect an obstacle behind you.


Active Park Assist Plus that takes over steering, shifting, braking and acceleration to navigate in and out of both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.

We thankfully didn't need the middle two features, and we didn't take time to try the latter, though we know from past experience that Lincoln's system works very well.


Starting at just under $37K and extending to about $56K for the top-line Reserve II trim with its 2.3L turbo four, Adaptive Suspension, Technology Package, Head-Up Display and 24-Way "Perfect Position" Seats, this very likeable new entry from Ford's fast-emerging luxury Lincoln brand should earn success in its increasingly competitive compact premium CUV segment. But Cadillac's recently launched competing compact XT4 is pretty good as well, so the age-old Caddy vs. Lincoln battle for domestic luxury dominance is newly reinvigorated.


2020 Lincoln Corsair

Vehicle type: Compact Luxury CUV

Base price: Standard 2.0L Turbo FWD: $36,940, including $995 destination

Price as tested: Reserve II 2.3L Turbo AWD: $56,115, including $1995 Destination

Engines: 2.0L Turbo 4-cyl; 2.3L 4-cyl.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 2.0L Turbo 4-cyl: 250; 2.3L Turbo 4-cyl.: 295

Torque (lb.-ft. ): 2.0L Turbo 4-cyl: 280; 2.3L Turbo 4-cyl.: 210

Curb weight: FWD 3,702 lb.; AWD 3,842 lb.; Reserve II 3,848 lb.

Towing capacity: Up to 3,000 lb.

EPA mileage ratings: FWD: 22/29/25 mpg; AWD: 21/29/24 mpg; Reserve II: 21/28/24

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