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The Lincoln Motor Company has been more of a methodical underdog while they bring us several crossover/SUV offerings that do a lot to not only depart far from its Ford counterpart, but they exude a welcomed level of real automotive luxury even in the compact Corsair that I had a chance to review this week.
In the compact luxury crossover segment, there’s a need to appease buyers as they tend to know exactly what they want in such a vehicle because it does something unique – they combine luxury in a rather smallish package. Bundling up luxury in a compact package isn’t always an easy feat and, in the past, I commended Cadillac for their XT4 along with other notable compact luxury crossovers like the Lexus NX, Infiniti QX50, and even the Mercedes-Benz GLC at its base trim levels.
Lincoln has done well in the past couple of years with gaining a new luxury footing in the automotive market, and they’ve done it with new SUVs, mainly being the new Aviator, refreshed Nautilus and Navigator, and the newly introduced Corsair. With a quick glance, the Corsair looks the part of the new Aviator, only smaller in just about every measurable dimension. That’s not a bad thing considering how the Aviator has won over many and has been at the forefront of changing the Lincoln brand for the better as we know it.
The new 2021 Corsair, a year after its introduction as a 2020 model year, remains mostly unchanged except for a new Monochromatic appearance package, a change-up of feature package options, and the introduction of a new Grand Touring plug-in hybrid trim. My loaded-up Corsair Reserve trim with the new Monochromatic appearance package attempts to elevate the classiness of the Corsair and potentially attract a wider gamut of buyers, an area that Lincoln has made some headway with vehicles like the new Aviator. My Corsair features unique new looks with the darkened 20-inch wheels, body-color-painted front grille, and full body-colored bumpers and badges.
Powered by the 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, one of two engine choices, the Corsair Reserve is quite the surprising performer where it has a good midrange of grunt power making smart use of its 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque sent through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system keeps things planted without any surprising front-wheel-drive spin on the front-wheel-drive-based platform. The adaptive dampers do good to keep the body composed in all the drive modes except Excite, fundamentally a Sport drive mode. In those modes outside of Excite the dampers tend to allow a bit of reverberation in the suspension travel even though the subtle float isn’t excessive. Otherwise, the Excite drive mode tightens up the dampers for a firmer ride but is not overly harsh by any stretch of the imagination. Basically, the Corsair is plush and soft in its driving character and never attempts to trick the driver into thinking they are piloting something sporty.
Acceleration is strong for the compact crossover and 60 mph ticks off in about 6 seconds. In my recommendation for anyone shopping the Corsair, I would pick the more powerful 2.3-liter engine over the standard 2.0-liter turbo, which is down 45 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque over the 2.3-turbo.
Apart from the respected and sometimes surprising drivetrain and decent handling abilities of the Corsair, there’s an inviting cabin that exudes luxury that’s mostly tamed by the addition of plastics in some areas. Otherwise, there are plentiful soft-touch surfaces along with exceptionally comfortable 24-way power-adjustable seats up front with heating, ventilation, and massage settings. The seats are almost what is found in the larger Aviator and Navigator sans a few upper torso and power headrest adjustments.
Seating space and the cargo area are surprisingly accommodating where the Corsair appears to cleverly utilize all its available space even for its compact size category. In some ways, it feels as if the Corsair is attempting hit well above its segment but doing so on its own terms not to replicate or copy the homework of its competition.
In my summation in driving the new 2020 Corsair last year in the top-level Reserve trim, I was also enamored by all that it has to offer in the confines of a small platform. The highlighted issues I found with the Corsair are more reserved for the infotainment unit that is sometimes hindered by poor software programming and slow load times for its 8-inch touchscreen. The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is nice, but with the system not responding quickly to your inputs things can get a little frustrating. This is an area it seems Ford and Lincoln continue to struggle with on some models and build versions of their sync 3 systems. However, when the system works and responds quickly to inputs, it’s great! There’s a welcomed user-friendliness and ease of understanding with the infotainment system, which is basically mimicked from the other Lincoln vehicles only on a smaller 8-inch screen versus 10-plus inch screens in the Aviator and Navigator, and a new 13-inch unit on the Nautilus.
Overall, the 2020 Lincoln Corsair is an excellent vehicle that doesn’t compromise much for its quest to give the driver and up to four other passengers an enjoyable luxury crossover that happens to be in a smaller form factor.
Pricing for the new Corsair starts small at $36,105 for the base 2.0-liter turbocharged Standard trim and reaches as much as $59,000 for my Reserve I test vehicle that checks most boxes for optional packages and equipment, which falls in line with a comparable Cadillac XT4. If you opt for the new-for-2021 Grand Touring plug-in hybrid trim, you’ll be looking at paying at least $3,000 more for the same features as my test vehicle.
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