Corsair

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2021 Lincoln Corsair Test Drive Review

The Corsair gives Lincoln a serious contender among the highly competitive compact luxury SUV segment.

7.8 /10
Overall Score

If you’re in the market for a compact luxury SUV, you may notice the lack of domestic options. The Cadillac XT4 and XT5 are classified as a subcompact and midsize, respectively. The Buick Envision is more realistically a “near-luxury” compact SUV. That just leaves the 2021 Lincoln Corsair. Considering how underwhelming Lincoln's small SUVs were in the past, the Corsair is an unlikely contender. But you’d be surprised what a name change and a new platform will do for your prospects. For 2021, the Corsair adds a range-topping plug-in hybrid to the mix, giving it a leg-up on some of its rivals.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

The Corsair was introduced last year as a replacement for the tired Lincoln MKC. The MKC was introduced in 2014 as a 2015-model-year vehicle, based on the same platform as the Ford Escape. The MKC just never had the athleticism of the Escape, however, and even after a 2019 facelift, it still had a dated cabin.

The Corsair rides on the new C2 platform that underpins the new Escape. This follows the relationship of Lincoln-to-Ford models, with the Aviator/Explorer and Navigator/Expedition. And like these models, Lincoln has succeeded in making the Corsair feel different from its Ford counterpart. This level of differentiation is something that General Motors has yet to achieve. The Cadillac XT4 and XT5 crossovers are largely forgettable, and part of that is thanks to the naming convention. The Corsair represents the final move away from the lettered naming of vehicles within the Lincoln lineup, and the move is a refreshing one.

In a segment with many aggressive-looking vehicles, the Corsair is refreshingly refined. It features slab sides, blacked-out rear pillars, and belt- and rooflines that carry straight all the way to the back. These design cues are shared with the Aviator and Navigator, and as a result, these details make the Corsair present larger than it really is from some angles.

That shared design language carries into the Corsair’s cabin, which features the flowing dash, floating center touchscreen, and signature “Piano Key” shifter buttons. Though it shares the same overall look as the more expensive Lincoln SUVs, it doesn’t seem to have the same fit and finish. There are more hard-touch materials found in the Corsair. The black leather with dark wood on our test model seems to be geared towards older buyers. Younger buyers will like the lighter pallets in here with tan leather.

Trims for the 2021 Corsair are Standard, Reserve, and the newly added Grand Touring plug-in hybrid. The Standard comes equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, a power rear liftgate, a 10-speaker premium stereo, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, and synthetic leather upholstery. The Standard also comes equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also a Standard I sub-trim of the Standard. It adds features like ambient cabin lighting, power-folding rear seats, and voice-activated navigation.

We drove the Reserve trim. It adds 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument panel, and a 14-speaker Revel premium stereo system. It also adds genuine leather upholstery, a hands-free power liftgate, and a large panoramic moonroof.

Our test model also featured the Elements package, which adds heated-and-ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, a 360-degree camera, and active park assist. Finally, our test model featured the terrific 24-way multi-contour seats with massaging function.

The Grand Touring adds most of the features that are optional on the Standard and Reserve trim, along with the plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Performance

8/ 10

The base engine in the Corsair is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder unit that puts out 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This engine is fine enough and has enough power to get out of its own way, but we really appreciated the power found in the optional 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 295 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on tap, it makes strong acceleration. Power for both engines is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter routes power to front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), while the 2.3-liter is exclusively paired to AWD.

Rather than “Sport” or other drive modes, the Corsair offers drive modes like “Conserve” and “Excite.” While Excite is akin to Sport mode, Lincoln has taken the right path with these unique drive mode names. No one is looking for the Corsair to be a hot rod, so alternative drive mode names are more in line with the reality of the driving experience.

Even when in Normal drive mode, the 2.3-liter Corsair can move. It’s brisk of the line and gets up to highway speeds quickly. Even in Excite, there’s a bit of body roll in turns and the steering is light. But the Corsair is still confident in cornering, even at high speeds, and provides strong braking.

The suspension feels very “American,” in that it can handle well, but is designed to absorb deeper potholes a higher speeds. There is a good amount of road noise when encountering those potholes, but better to hear them than to feel them.

For 2021, Lincoln has added the Grand Touring trim with its plug-in hybrid powertrain. It combines a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), battery power, and a pair of electric motors. The setup makes a combined 266 hp. It is officially rated for 28 miles of pure EV driving, with an efficiency rating of 78 MPGe in electric mode, plus 33 mpg combined fuel economy in hybrid mode.

Form and Function

6/ 10

The Corsair has a spacious cabin with comfortable seats and plenty of storage space. But there are downsides to getting every square inch out of a platform. The most notable is the large lip when you step in or out of the Corsair. The floor actually sinks below the doorframe, and it’s so pronounced, occupants actually run the risk of tripping while getting in and out. By the end of our week with the Corsair, we had gotten used to the lip, and we suspect owners will as well. But it is pronounced enough that you will have to constantly alert others while getting in or out.

Our test model featured reclining and sliding rear seats, which made the second row a very comfortable place to sit. Both rows feature plenty of head and legroom, and the second-row legroom was impressive for a compact SUV. No matter where you sit, this will be a fine vehicle for a road trip.

The Corsair features 27.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded, the Corsair provides 57.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Both of these figures are about average for the compact luxury SUV set. The Corsair comes standard with a power liftgate and is available with a hands-free power liftgate.

Tech Level

8/ 10

The Corsair comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. There is actually no larger, high-feature touchscreen above this, and that’s perfectly fine. The screen is easy to use and runs the SYNC 3 infotainment system. It has a logical menu layout thanks to a dock of buttons at the bottom of the screen. It also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Corsair’s steering wheel could be considered cluttered, were it not for the fact Lincoln moved the voice control button higher up to the actual wheel, as opposed to the stock. This allows the driver to easily depress the button with his or her thumb.

Our Reserve test model also came with the optional wireless device charging, 14-speaker Revel premium audio system, and head-up display (HUD). The latter was fantastic and provided crisp graphics that were very easy to read.

Safety

9/ 10

The Corsair comes standard with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection. It also comes with lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors. This is in addition to features such as traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and a full array of front-and-side-impact airbags.

Our test model featured Lincoln CoPilot360 Plus. This suite of additional driver aids included the aforementioned HUD and rain-sensing wipers. It also includes, adaptive LED headlights, surround-view parking cameras, front parking sensors, speed-limit sign recognition, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic braking, and automatic parking assist. The 360-degree parking camera was among the most helpful from this suite of features. The forward collision and lane departure sensors provide subtle status updates on the dash when they identify a vehicle in front of the Corsair or that they are in the lane lines.

The Lincoln Corsair is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Plus. This accolade applies when equipped with the high-feature headlights in the Reserve II package.

Cost-Effectiveness

8/ 10

The most efficient version of the 2021 Lincoln Corsair is the FWD version with the 2.0-liter engine. It returns fuel economy of 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 25 combined. The AWD version of the 2.0-liter-equipped Corsair returns 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. Our AWD 2.3-liter EcoBoost model returns fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. In our week of combined city and highway driving, we observed fuel economy of 23.6 mpg.

Base MSRP for the 2021 Lincoln Corsair is $35,945 for the FWD Standard trim. A Standard AWD trim starts at $38,145. The Reserve FWD starts at $42,890 and the Reserve AWD starts at $45,090. The Grand Touring AWD trim starts at $50,230. Our Reserve AWD trim with the Sport Package, Technology Package, 24-way seats, and other options clocks in at $56,740.

There’s certainly a delta between the base price and our test model. And frankly, when spec’d out like our test model the Corsair is very attractive. Without some of the optional creature comforts, a base-trim Corsair could potentially be a bit underwhelming. It would be hard for us to opt for the 2.0-liter engine knowing the 2.3-liter EcoBoost was available. Still, the Corsair has the standard tech and safety features that shoppers are looking for. Not only that, the actual technology is easier to use than that of some import rivals.

The compact luxury SUV market might be dominated by imports, but many of them are more expensive. Options like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC class offer higher-performance variants, but even the base models are more expensive. The Lincoln Corsair is finally giving a domestic a worthwhile (and more affordable) option to seriously consider.

Updated by George Kennedy

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