Five years ago, Lincoln was a brand that seemed to be on its last legs. The products felt uninspired and no one seemed to know why Ford was still pouring money into its last premium brand. Despite that, Ford recommitted to the brand, appointing Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln and the resurgence began. That continues under current Lincoln president Joy Falotico with this week’s reveal of the 2020 Corsair. Lincoln has fleshed out its SUV lineup with new or revamped products from bottom to top, leaving the MKZ and MKT for as long as they last as the only remnants of the old product lineup.
Lincoln has found itself a comfortable niche with its theme of quiet luxury that seems to pick up a sector that Lexus once created but seems to have largely abandoned. The brand has emphasized the customer experience through concierge services. Despite not having the dedicated platforms of some of its competitors, Lincoln has managed to make each of its new vehicles feel completely distinct from its Ford brand siblings. Case in point is the Corsair which shares its bones with the new Escape that we saw just a couple of weeks ago.
Like the Aviator/Explorer, Navigator/Expedition and Nautilus/Edge, none of what you can feel or see in the Corsair is shared with the Escape. In fact, the Corsair diverges more from the Escape than the other pairings in some important ways.
The Corsair certainly looks like it belongs in the Lincoln family with the signature grille design, slim horizontal taillamps and blacked out pillars. However, the design team has taken the opportunity to craft a shape that is more than just a scaled down Aviator. The proportions have been adapted to work better on this smaller form factor, giving it a somewhat sportier appearance that looks better balanced at this scale.
Compared to the Escape, the Corsair’s roof sits 4.5-inches lower at 64.1-inches while the width has been increased by 2.1-inches to 76.2 resulting in a more balanced, aggressive stance. When the Escape was revealed, Ford crossover design chief Joel Piaskowski emphasized the lowered beltline compared to its predecessor. At first glance the Corsair appears to have a higher beltline, but as Lincoln design director David Woodhouse explained, this is an illusion created by the lowered roofline. From inside the cabin, the lower beltline is more apparent, providing better outward visibility.
In describing the form of the Corsair, design manager Rob Gelardi used the term anti-wedge line. When looking at many designs over the past couple of decades, the core lines along the flanks have tended to sweep up toward the rear creating a wedge-like profile.
“It’s not a high belt line and what we wanted was the harmony from from nose to tail, that it’s like one line all the way through the car, that stays stays pretty level,” explained Woodhouse. “The Aviator has more anti-wedge, we deliberately designed that with a more tail-down gesture. For smaller product it’s got to look a little bit more sporty. There isn’t as much anti-wedge (on the Corsair) as the Aviator, but the roof slopes more.”
“If you line them up, the roof is more dramatic, the backlight angle is more dramatic.”
Among the many attractive details on the exterior of the Corsair, one of the most striking is the sunburst effect executed in the tail lamp clusters. When lit, the slim horizontal clusters display internal structures that seem to emanate from the center. Another detail unique to the Corsair is the continuation of the clamshell tailgate that originated on the MKC. Like the Audi Q5, this design incorporates the taillamp clusters without any cutlines that could cause gaps and alignment issues and also provides a larger opening on this smaller vehicle.
The overall effect on the profile is not entirely dissimilar from the Range Rover Evoque although with somewhat less of a chopped greenhouse look and that’s not a bad thing at all. The Corsair is every bit a modern Lincoln.
Moving inside, Gelardi described the Corsair’s sanctuary interior which is wholly in keeping the overall quiet flight theme. Given the more compact dimensions compared to the other members of the family, the designers focused on maximizing the available space and creating a visual impression of width. The dashboard emphasizes horizontal elements including the ventilation registers which meld in with the lines separating the upper and lower segments.
In contrast to the larger Aviator, Lincoln designers have deemphasized the center console to create a more open space. The main controls for climate, infotainment and other features sit on a cantilevered console area that projects out from the dashboard and floats above the lowered main console. Many cars today feature puddle lamps under the side mirrors that project a brand logo on the ground when you step out. Lincoln has added a little easter egg inside with its logo projected from the cantilever panel onto the lid over the storage bin beneath.
Like the Escape, the second row seats can slide fore-aft six inches to provide the optimum balance between cargo and passenger space as needed. The driver and front passenger can also get 24-way power adjustable seats with multiple massage modes for long road trips.
Further aiding that feeling of sanctuary, the Corsair features a double-wall bulkhead similar to the Explorer and Aviator to filter out engine noise. It eschews any sort of exhaust note enhancement, instead maintaining a quiet space where you can here the same alert sounds that were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the Aviator.
The Corsair is the first product from Lincoln to offer phone as a key functionality. Using the My Lincoln app, a digital key can be downloaded that enables the vehicle to be unlocked and started via Bluetooth low energy connectivity. Multiple personal profiles can be enabled that preset the seats, mirrors, steering wheel and favorite radio stations as you approach. Temporary keys can be sent to a friend if you are loaning them your vehicle or to a valet without handing them a physical key. The keys can be revoked at anytime through the app.
The Corsair shares its new transverse engine, unibody platform with the new Escape we saw a couple of weeks ago as well as the highly regarded new Focus that debuted last year in markets outside of North America. That means that like all new Lincoln and Ford vehicles, the engineers have package protected the platform to make sure that there is plenty of room to stuff in batteries without intruding on cargo capacity. The Escape offers both hybrid electric (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants.
Interestingly when it goes on sale this fall, the Corsair will not have any electrified options. Those will come sometime later in 2020. Instead, Corsair customers will choose between updated versions of the 2.0-liter and 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinders currently offered in the MKC. The smaller engine produces 250-hp and 275 lb-ft of torque while the 2.3 produces 280 hp and 310 lb-ft.
Both are now paired with Ford’s latest 8-speed automatic transaxle. The 2.0-liter is available with either front or all-wheel-drive while the more powerful engine gets all-wheel-drive as standard. The new intelligent all-wheel-drive system can send all drive torque to either axle as needed under the conditions.
Surprisingly, electrification was left out of the discussion until we specifically asked about it. When the Aviator debuted last November, Lincoln made a big deal about the plug-in hybrid Grand Touring model. Despite the Escape getting both hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants, the Corsair won’t launch with this capability. A plug-in hybrid with 30 miles of range will arrive, probably some time in 2020. Chief engineer John Jraiche did hint that the Corsair powertrain would differ from the Escape, so it may be getting a more powerful engine than the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter used in the Escape to follow the performance path of the Aviator.
Like other new Lincoln and Ford products, the Corsair gets the CoPilot 360 driver assist package as standard equipment. A forward looking camera enables collision alert, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and lane keeping assist. Rear corner radars enable blindspot and cross traffic alerts while automatic lights with auto high beams and the back up camera are also included.
CoPilot 360 Plus adds a radar sensor for adaptive cruise control while automatic lane centering, evasive steer assist and backup assist with automatic braking are also added. In contrast, the Cadillac XT4 doesn’t even offer the basic forward camera functions on the base Luxury model and they are optional on the premium trims.
In addition to production in Louisville, Kentucky, the Corsair will be the first Lincoln produced in China for the local market there and it is likely to play a key role in continuing to expand the brand’s presence. Like the Escape, the Corsair will be available starting this fall with pricing and other details to be announced closer to the on-sale date.
Lincoln paid for travel and lodging for the author to participate in this unveiling.