Lincoln, like Cadillac, has been taking steps recently to make its machinery a more relevant member of the luxury segment.
Certainly, the efforts to bump up the sales of products from the newly named Lincoln Motor Co. won't be hurt by the latest J.D. Power initial quality study. That influential report has Lincoln in the top 10 - and ahead of Lexus.
The healthy sales of the MKC, Lincoln's new-for-2015 compact crossover, haven't hurt, either. Indeed, the MKC is a principal reason for Lincoln's recent sales increases, said Sam Locricchio, the automaker's product spokesman.
This new addition to the Lincoln line is an attempt to harvest some of the fruit from the small luxury crossover tree, one of the fastest growing in the auto orchard.
The MKC is aimed at those Gens near the end of the alphabet - the Xers. More precisely, these are well-paid folks in their 30s and 40s, people about the vintage of Matthew McConaughey, the film star in the MKC television ads.
The MKC I tested proved a nicely realized, satisfying automobile. It was handsome inside and out, and offered good driving dynamics and a lively turbo. It was also comfortable, provided reasonable passenger and cargo space for a small car, and seemed quite well-made.
And with a starting price of $33,100 in front-drive form, and $35,595 for the all-wheel-drive version I drove, it struck me as a good value. (Of course, when you load it to the gills, as was the case with the tester, you can tickle 50 large.)
The MKC shares its platform with the Ford Escape, a cost-saving tactic hardly unique to Lincoln. (Audi and Volkswagen, for example, also share platforms and mechanicals.) The MKC distinguishes itself with fresh sheet metal, more upmarket accoutrements, and more engine choice.
The base power plant in the MKC is the two-liter, 240-horsepower EcoBoost - Ford's name for its family of turbocharged, direct-injected engines. This engine is standard in both the FWD and AWD models.
But, as in the case of the tester, you can also get the AWD car with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost, a $1,140 option. This 285-horse four-banger is a somewhat detuned version of the 310-horsepower Ford Mustang engine. It gets the MKC from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 6.5 seconds, about a second faster than the 2-liter four. In short, the 2-liter's performance is respectable, while the 2.3's is energetic enough to be fun.
The bigger engine exacts a modest mileage penalty for its additional capability. While the 2-liter all-wheel-driver manages EPA mileage ratings of 19 m.p.g. city and 26m.p.g. highway, the 2.3 delivers 18 m.p.g. and 26 m.p.g. (The most economical MKC is the 2-liter front driver: 20 m.p.g. and 29 m.p.g.)
The MKC's styling is clean, graceful, and arresting and is diminished only by the car's front end. While affably steeped in Lincoln tradition, it has a profusion of passages that takes it to the brink of busy.
The tester's interior was the beneficiary of first-rate workmanship and fresh design. The rather dramatic dash was dominated by a center stack that included a novel push-button gear selector and ignition switch on its left edge. The leather on the comfortable, supportive seats was soft and supple, and the striated, blond veneer trim on the doors and dash was appealing.
The backseat provided sufficient legroom for adults, although a fairly tall person would find the headroom on the shoulders of the recessed panoramic sunroof rather tight. The front seat afforded more headroom.
The rear cargo compartment was generous for a compact. Access to it on the tester was via an optional, hands-free lift gate activated by placing your foot under the rear bumper.
2015 Lincoln MKC (AWD)
As tested: $49,465.
Standard equipment: 2-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, and a luxury litany ranging from heated front seats and mirrors to hill start assist and remote start.
Options: Include the 2.3-liter engine, panoramic sunroof, navigation with voice recognition, cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, and blind spot alert.
18 city and
Engine performance: Lively.
Ride comfort: Quite good.
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.