By Shari Prymak

Over the past number of years, Lincoln has done a commendable job of revamping its image and lineup. The storied American brand has transitioned from a lineup of confusingly named, lightly rebadged Fords with airport limo status to a lineup of properly-named, attractive, appealing, luxury vehicles. It may still be a far cry from its market-dominating competitors, but Lincoln’s efforts are slowly showing signs of promise. Like many of its competitors, Lincoln is now focusing its efforts on SUVs, and the model charged with serving as the entry-point to the SUV lineup is the Corsair.

Like its MKC predecessor, the Corsair is a compact crossover built on the same platform as the Ford Escape. Despite its rather humble bones, the Corsair is convincingly distinct and rather upscale in its execution. The exterior design is quite elegant with plenty of eye-catching details from the sophisticated grill design to the attractive LED lighting. It looks like a scaled-down Aviator, which is easily one of the more attractive large crossovers on the market. Not only does it look the part, Lincoln has included a few impressive features for added touches of luxury. Soft LED lighting illuminates in a very welcoming fashion as you approach the vehicle. A Lincoln Way app can even be used to lock, enter, and start the vehicle with your phone in place of the traditional key fob.

The theme of luxury continues into the interior with an extensive use of high quality materials and attractive finishes. The available 24-way adjustable Perfect Position seats are ultra-comfortable, offer satisfying massage modes, and come upholstered in soft Bridge of Weir leather. The touchscreen infotainment system is well-designed, easy to use, and is complimented by user-friendly buttons and knobs for audio and climate controls. Other impressive options include an attractive digital gauge cluster, a comprehensive head-up display, and an audiophile-worthy Revel sound system. The rear seats are suitable for a pair of adults and can slide or fold for added passenger room or cargo space depending on the need. The spacious cargo area comes with handy pull tabs which fold the back seats for added convenience.

Getting moving takes some getting used to due to the unusual, but sharp-looking, row of buttons used to select gears which Lincoln calls the piano key shifter. Once underway, however, the Corsair rewards its occupants with a smooth and serene ride befitting a luxury vehicle. Adaptive suspension is available; however, the standard suspension does a fine job of absorbing road imperfections. The Corsair is offered with several thoughtful active safety features, including a 360 degree camera, reverse brake assist, active park assist plus, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam and lane centering assist. The safety tech work well, however, the steering wheel controls for the adaptive cruise are difficult to decipher, especially at night.

Powering the Corsair is a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. Producing 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the engine allows for effortless acceleration matched with an impressive level of refinement. A slightly more powerful 2.3L engine is available on higher trims, however, the extra performance it provides really isn’t necessary or likely that noticeable. Of slightly more interest is the available plug-in hybrid drivetrain which comes on the Grand Touring model. The system produces 266 horsepower from a naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine matched to electric motors which power all four wheels. The hybrid offers up to 40 kilometres of electric range along with far better fuel economy than the standard Corsair’s 9.8L/100km combined city/highway rating.

Overall, the Corsair is a well-designed luxury crossover that excels in many areas buyers will appreciate. One area, however, where the Corsair lags is value. The starting MSRP of $44,200 sounds reasonable, but desirable options inflate the price tag in a hurry. Though richly equipped, a heavily optioned Corsair Reserve far exceeds the price of a comparable Acura RDX or Lexus NX 300 while just about matching a BMW X3 or Mercedes GLC 300. Historically, Lincoln models also tend to suffer from greater depreciation likely due to a lower brand image. Although a loaded model is a bit of a tough sell, a carefully optioned model, combined with good purchase incentives, makes a compelling choice. It may not be perceived in the same light as a few top tier brands, but the Corsair stands as an attractive alternative to the best the segment has to offer.