Driven: 2015 Lincoln MKC

Driven: 2015 Lincoln MKC

I’m really tempted to suggest that Ford simply drop its Lincoln brand.

2015 Lincoln MKC takes a bold stance | Larry Edsall photos

2015 Lincoln MKC takes a bold stance | Larry Edsall photos

I’m really tempted to suggest that Ford simply drop its Lincoln brand. But I cannot. Such a move would deny and belie the heritage of the Model K and Zephyr of the 1930s, of Edsel’s own original Continental, of William Clay’s Continental in the mid-’50s, of the Marks III, IV and V, of the elegant suicide-doored Continentals of the early to mid-‘60s and… well… and even of the designer-series cars of the ‘70s and the limo’ed Town Cars that followed.

When Ford Motor Company owned the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, it could afford to, or at least could justify, ignoring its long-held luxury brand.

But now that it’s borrowed Volvo’s safety technology and Land Rover’s all-terrain technology and Aston Martin’s grille — and benefited from the influence of Jaguar and Aston designer — and then sold off all of those companies, it’s time to do more for its own Lincoln brand than to hire a flavor-of-the-moment actor to do a series of stream-of-consciousness television commercials.

Full-width tail lamp distinguishes 2015 MKC design

Full-width tail lamp distinguishes 2015 MKC design

A Lincoln needs to be more than a gussied-up, warmed-over, mildly modified Ford. And, as it turns out, trying to disguise a Ford with a Lincoln badge is about as effective as turning a Chevrolet into a Cadillac. It didn’t work in the 1980s and it really doesn’t work in the 20-teens.

Which isn’t to say that the Fords that underlie the current Lincolns aren’t excellent cars. In fact, I think you could make a very good case for arguing that the current Ford lineup — from Fiesta, Focus and Fusion to Edge, Escape and Explorer, rom F-150 to Transits, and don’t forget Mustang — is the best in the company’s century-plus history.

You also could make a strong case that that Ford lineup could be even stronger if it shut down Lincoln and put whatever money it spends on the brand into the development of new versions of the Ranger, Bronco and Thunderbird.

Though wouldn’t a new Thunderbird-style personal luxury car, built on the Mustang’s rear-drive chassis but with dramatic and contemporary, even futuristic styling and the sort of interior level of luxury we used to anticipate from Lincoln make a great flagship for Lincoln dealerships? Do it correctly and you could even bring it to market as the new Continental.

But pondering, speculating, wishing for what might be isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. What I’m supposed to be doing is writing about my week in a 2015 Lincoln MKC. Except that’s precisely what launched the words you’ve been reading.

In profile

In profile

So the MKC arrives, all pretty in its Ruby Red metallic-tinted paint (a $495 option) and 19-inch 5-spoke wheels (a $395 option). The first thing I do is to unlock the car, actually, it’s a crossover utility vehicle, and open the front passenger’s-side door, though for some reason instead of pulling the door open by the handle, I grabbed it by the trim at the trailing edge of the window.

Not only did that trim squeak, but it flexed without much effort from my fingers.

I thought it strange so I went to the driver’s side and tried the same maneuver and again, the panels that comprised the window frame/door trim not only flexed, but squeaked while flexing. I’ve driven hundreds, thousands of car in my career and I don’t remember having quite this same experience.

Next I climbed in behind the steering wheel, immediately noticed how comfortable I found the (Ebony Premium, it says on the Monroney pricing sheet) leather-covered driver’s seat and saw the nicely grained wood interior trim, though it looks like real veneer, not plastic, and tapped it with a finger to see how it felt.

How it felt was like real wood, except it also felt and sounded hollow beneath the veneer. Years ago I toured the workshops in England where Jaguar does its leather and woodwork, saw the care it goes through in using only leather from Sweden (because there are no barb-wire fences to damage the hides) and uses wood only from Missouri walnut trees, as I recall, and then carefully slices the veneers to match the grains and then glues those veneers to solid if lesser-wood panels for placement in its cars. Tap one and it’s solid, no hollow tones.

Gear changing is by pushing large, vertically positioned buttons

Gear changing is by pushing large, vertically positioned buttons

On the other hand, driving the MKC was a delight. Well, it was once you got used to the unusual placement of the gear-shift selector. There’s no lever or even a dial. Instead, cascading vertically along the left edge of the center section of the instrument panel is a series of large buttons. You press the top one to start or stop the engine, and beneath it are P, R, N, D and S (S for Sport, though Sport and crossover still strike me as oxymoronic).

On the other hand, driving the 2015 Lincoln MKC is a positive experience. As I said, the driver’s seat is not too soft and not too firm, the all-wheel-drive system makes the trucklet sure-footed and the 2.3-liter Eco-Boost turbocharged four-cylinder engine is delightfully spunky, with its full 305 pound-feet of torque available at 2,750 rpm. In fact, it’s surprisingly quick off the line.

The engine is a $1,140 option. The standard powerplant is a Eco-Boosted 2.0-liter with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.

While the four-banger in our test car was powerful, it also was a lot less fuel-efficient than I’d expect, rated at only 18 mpg in town and at 26 on the highway. But even with the smaller engine the fuel economy isn’t very impressive: 20/29 with front-wheel drive and 19/26 with AWD. A review of the specs sheet shows the AWD adds only 172 pounds to the curb weight, and the larger engine seems to weigh only 26 pounds more than the smaller one.

That same sheet reveals that both of the engines are produced in Valencia, Spain, although the MKC is built a Ford assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky, where it also builds the Escape., the MKC’s very close cousin.

Lincoln says the MKC is an all-new model added to the lineup for 2015, a “small premium utility vehicle” and one of four such all-new Lincolns that will “fuel the brand’s reinvention.”

Driver's cockpit is comfy

Driver’s cockpit is comfy

Still, I wonder, should the brand be reinvented or would the merciful thing to just allow it to die a quiet death at age 95. On the other hand, if Ford finds a way to keep its luxury brand going, wouldn’t a new Mustang-based, Thunderbird-style Lincoln Continental be a great way to celebrate the brand’s centennial in 2020?

2015 Lincoln MKC
Vehicle type: 5-passenger crossover, all-wheel drive
Base price: $35,695 Price as tested: $49,265
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 285-horsepower @ 5,500 rpm, 305 pound-feet of torque @ 2,750 rpm Transmission: 6-speed whatever
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches Overall length/width: 179.2 inches / 84.1 inches (including mirrors)
Curb weight: 3,989 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 18 city / 26 highway /21 combined
Assembled in: Louisville KY

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