A few weeks ago, at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, Lincoln unveiled its new mid-size crossover: the MKC. As we’ve covered in these pages, the new model was warmly received by the public and the media alike: its sharp styling, upscale interior trim and savvy packaging seemed to have hit bulls-eye.
Over this three-part article, we will be covering this new Lincoln at greater lengths and see what makes it a turning point in Lincoln’s strategy of self-reinvention. We’ll start from the outside, check out its interior furnishings and finish with its mechanical packaging and place in the Lincoln line-up.
The Face of Things to Come
The Lincoln MKC is the second car to sport Lincoln’s new identity and assuredly the first one to be supervised from start to finish by the brand’s new team of dedicated designers headed by Max Wolff. As such, it decidedly shows more maturity and appears more cohesive than, for instance, the face-lifted MKS and MKT.
Overall, it’s important to note that there is hardly any resemblance to the Ford Escape, with which it shares its basic underpinnings and hard points. While the Escape got a slightly over-styled body, marked by a wedge-shaped profile and lots of ornamentation (not unlike what is found across its segment, at Hyundai or Kia for instance), the MKC displays a more assured stance, with strong horizontal lines all around, as well as very detailed yet restrained ornamentation.
Up front is probably where the 2012+ grille reaches its full potential: the height and width of a crossover allow the grille to be big enough to show off its detailing, while remaining restrained enough that it does not overpower the front-end; a problem that designs like the 2010 MKT full-size crossover had to face in their time and unfortunately remain a problem to Lincoln’s image. Speaking of detailing, the three-dimensional five bars that make up the grille appear even more intricately designed than on the MKZ sedan.
The bars flow into the headlights, to form two distinct ensembles, each outlined in chrome. That’s probably the biggest difference between the MKZ and the MKC front-ends: while the sedan sports smaller headlights that emphasize the grille’s “wing span”, the crossover’s squared-off lamps help weigh the design down and give the vehicle a solid stance. Inside, headlamp design appears intricate as well: a darkened bezzle hosts a chromed assembly highlighted by two Plexiglas-like tubes that flow from the grille and split to divide the main projectors and marker lamps. The design of those lights is actually pretty unusual, halfway between the usual jewel-like reflector and the shattered-glass effect that has become quite popular in tables and glass doors.
Take a step back, and you realize that the twin grille openings frame the Lincoln logo perfectly and dictate the shape of the bumper: the shape of the lower air intake seems to mirror the main grille, while both remain connected by some very subtle folds in the sheet metal. Fog lamp housings are particularly close to that of the Concept, adorned by simple yet stylish LED lights that manage not to look like an add-on.
A taut-looking crossover
If you take a step to the side, new cues appear that will be probably become staples of Lincoln designs to come, if we are to believe the rumors and spy shots: two very strong character lines highlight the front and rear fenders, giving once again a stronger stance to the vehicle, emphasizing the idea of a wider track that was a very interesting feature on the Concept.
They also help make the doors and passenger compartment seem lighter to the eye than what is expected from a mid-size crossover. This impression of lightness is also reinforced by the contrasted wheel well and discreet lower body cladding, the latter of which is itself made more pleasant by a sporty character line akin to side skirts, and a sculpted chrome insert: it’s a welcome difference from what can be seen on many competitors which often use a big “chunk” of oddly shaped black plastic to gain some off-road credentials (and the Ford Escape is no exception). This more subdued approach to protective body cladding is what can be found on the German competition, which is again good company for the MKC to be with.
Comparatively, the window treatment is pretty traditional, which also allows the strong character lines on the sides of the car to really catch your eye. Also of note, the free-standing rear view mirrors that worked wonders on the MKZ and MKC Concept also made it to the MKC’s production version and once again help differentiate it from the Escape.
A racy design
Out back, Lincoln designers have also upped the ante with a bold and striking design that will surely return on upcoming cars such as the new MKS full-size sedan. Several elements stand out but one engineering feature needs to be mentioned first: in keeping with the German crossovers the MKC obviously bench-marked (and with good reason and good success), the MKC comes with a unique clam-shell tailgate not unlike what can be found at Audi. This allows for practical access to the cargo area but also makes it possible to have a rich-looking one-piece, uninterrupted tail light assembly.
This full-width, looped tail light design, often referred to as a “racetrack” (the way Dodge named it when it brought it back on the Charger, Dart and Durango) gives the sleeker, thinner light-bar design of the MKZ the kind of dimension it needs on the MKC’s obviously higher and wider tailgate. It also showcases the Lincoln name, spelt out in detached script in replacement of the Lincoln logo; this method, recently rediscovered by Jaguar, is undoubtedly classy and has apparently been shown to improve brand appeal (to the people following you in traffic, I suppose) by sidetracking negative cliches that can be attached to a brand’s logo. Not that Lincoln would need that!
Finally, the lower rear bumper is probably the closest tie the naked eye can find to the Ford Escape, but it does work on the MKC. Additional rear lights lodged near the rear wheel wells allow for the main light’s slim design, while a sculpted rear valence with a silver insert hold sporty dual exhaust tips.
Overall, a well-heeled contender
Overall, the MKC’s design appears from the get-go to be unique, distinctive and right on target: exactly what the Lincoln line-up needs to convey to its prospects. Its curb appeal assuredly puts it square against its luxury competition, mostly made of German models that retail for much more than the MKC’s asking price.
It seems that, for the first-time to that extent, Lincoln has managed to take the advantages of shared mechanicals and underpinnings (such as reliability and economies of scale) and combine them with the unique image and packaging required on the luxury market.
In the next part of this blog post, we will see that this impression gets confirmed inside and ultimately we will see how this crossover compares to the competition and the market when it comes to mechanicals and marketing.
- Media round-up: Lincoln MKC revealed to enthusiastic reviews (themarkonline.wordpress.com)
- Production Lincoln MKC to stay true to concept form (themarkonline.wordpress.com)