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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2020 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve Review

Mark Savage
The 2020 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve has gone all in on power with its 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 engine.

With a name like Corsair the history buffs among us might expect Lincoln’s new compact luxury SUV/crossover to fly, and it does.

Well, it flies as in it rockets away from stoplights. Lincoln has ditched its MKC model in favor of Corsair and put the emphasis on power and handling, but less on luxurious ride. This sharp-looking ute in the tested AWD Reserve trim rocks out with a 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 that pounds out 295 horsepower. Boom!

That mark exceeds the power curve on many of its competitors, such as Cadillac’s XT4, Acura’s RDX and Lexus NX, to name a few.

READ: 2020 Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport Review

Press the pedal and off you go, oomph! Adjust from any of the four other drive modes up to Excite mode (others call this Sport) and power jumps to another level of great while the steering firms along with the suspension to create a more “exciting” ride. Even in Normal mode the Corsair is quick and handles well. Excite simply turns the wick up and creates cornering that feels like a sports sedan. Nothing wrong with any of that.

On the other side of the equation is comfort. In Excite, the ute feels much stiffer and the ride becomes firmer than our pot-hole riddled streets deserve. In Normal mode the ride is still firmer than I’d like, but more tolerable.

Credit Mark Savage
The Corsair engine comes with five driving modes: conserve, normal, excite, slippery, and deep.

Lincoln uses an 8-speed automatic transmission to deliver the power to the wheels and this one has all-wheel-drive, a premium in all trim levels. Font-drive is standard. The transmission is smooth enough to exude a luxury feel. And those drive modes include Slippery and Deep settings to help you manage icy or deep snow conditions.

If power is not your thing (but you know it is), Corsair also comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbo I4 that makes a strong 250 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. Funny though, the smaller engine is rated just slightly better on gas mileage at 22 mpg city and 29 highway vs. 21/29 for the beefier 2.3-liter turbo. I got 24.1 mpg in about an even mix of city and highway driving. With such a small penalty I’d opt for more power and bet you will too.

Obviously looks are subjective, but I found Corsair particularly sharply styled, especially in its Burgundy Velvet paint job. That’s a dark wine-colored metallic red ($695 extra) that absolutely pops on a sunny day. I also like the ute’s grille, nose and full-width taillights, all creating a low and wide look that somehow says Lincoln to me.

Inside, Corsair looks luxurious too with thick tan leather seats and a black dash. That tan leather also trims the mid-dash and the power tilt/telescope wheel is a black and tan leather too. Classy! Meanwhile the center stack is trimmed in black gloss with chrome screen surround and a lined black trim is featured atop the console and in the door panels.

Credit Mark Savage
The Corsair's interior may look good, but the small buttons on both the steering wheel and the control panel make it difficult to manage while driving.

Dash layout looks good, but honestly the buttons and knobs are mostly too small for easy use. I don’t care for the thumb pads on the steering wheel, one of which is meant to engage the OK button to shut off various dash warnings. These buttons are awkward to use, not always working as you’d expect.

And don’t get me started on the push-button transmission system. It’s simple to use, once you find it. But the P-R-N-D buttons are tucked up somewhat under the air vents mid-dash and for my week-long drive I kept forgetting where they were. Took me a couple minutes to even locate them when I started the car on day one. What’s wrong with a small shift lever or dial on the console?

And while I’m whining, consider too how the door release inside artistically blends into the door trim so you don’t see it easily and (sorry one more) the cruise control buttons on the wheel’s hub are invisible until the driver presses another button on the wheel to light them up. Not a good system for night driving and again, more complex than is needed.

The good news is there is smart cruise control here, along with many other safety features standard. Those include automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot detection, a pre-collision assist system and an SOS safety system.

Lincoln also offers something it calls “Phone as Key,” which cleverly allows you to use your smart phone as a key for the Corsair. Interesting, but remember if you misplace or lose your phone someone may make off with your ute.

Credit Mark Savage
The Group 202A package for the Corsair provides safety features such as, Co-Pilot360 plus, 360-degree camera, active park assist plus, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive suspension.

However, the test unit also loaded itself with goodies that pushed the price up by an astronomical $10,290 (including a discount). There is a lot in the package though, including heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, rain-sensing wipers, active park assist, remote start, the adaptive suspension, and Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus.

I could not get the remote start to function, but the rest of this worked well and puts the Corsair on par with other luxury makes. Some include a few of these items standard, while others charge for these safety and comfort items. Still, at $46,000 I’d expect at least a few more of these options to be standard.

From a comfort standpoint, Corsair’s interior is quiet, thanks to Lincoln employing a dual firewall to muffle engine noise. The cockpit also is roomy and the rear seat has plenty of leg and headroom. Yet, I found the front seat cushions a bit hard and the butt pocket too tight. But these are powered and include three-memory driver’s seat settings, and like Mercedes, Lincoln puts the power seat controls on the door panels so they’re easy to find and adjust.

I like too that the steering wheel is a powered tilt/telescope model and that the test car added a head-up display, but that boosts the price by $1,700. Corsair also has a panoramic sunroof and its hatch is powered.

Credit Mark Savage
The base price of the Corsair is $45,825 with few features included. The price quickly jumps up to $59,660 to get the full line up of add-ons.

This model also comes with a wireless phone charger, 4G modem and WIFI capability and the infotainment screen is an 8-incher, so easy to see.

Other than the seats and somewhat cumbersome tiny dash buttons, my main concern with the Corsair (and yes, Navy guys, it comes in Flight Blue) is its price. The base price for this model ($45,825 with delivery) and the $36,940 for a base front-drive model or $39,140 for a base AWD model seem reasonable for the marketplace. Yet including its big Equipment Group 202A that has a lot of popular features, the test ute hit $59,660.

That my friends is mid-size to large luxury SUV territory. So, unless you’re happy with the base models here or with just adding a few options, the Lincoln quickly can jump to premium SUV prices that you’d normally expect to pay for a larger vehicle.

Overview: 2020 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve

Hits: Sharp looker, strong power, good handling plus AWD. Heated wheel and heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, 3-memory driver seat, five drive modes, roomy interior, power hatch, full safety system lineup, power seat controls on door, wireless charger.

Misses: Price, too many small buttons, odd thumb controls on wheel, push-button tranny location not optimal, cruise buttons invisible unless first engaged, hard seat cushions and tight butt pockets in front.

Made In: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4, 295 horsepower

Transmission: 8-speed, automatic

Weight: N.A.

Length: 180.6 in.

Wheelbase: 106.7 in.

Tow: 3,000 lbs.

MPG: 21/28, 24.1 (tested)

Base Price: $45,825 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $43,359

Major Options: Group 202A, (heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, elements package, rain-sensing wipers, wiper de-icer, Co-Pilot360 plus, 360-degree camera, active park assist plus, adaptive cruise control, tech package, remote start, adaptive suspension), $10,290 (discounted)

Burgundy Velvet Metallic paint, $695

Head-up display, $1,700

20-inch ultra-bright aluminum wheels, $1,150

Test Vehicle: $59,660

Sources: Lincoln, Kelley Blue Book

Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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