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Top 12 Things to Know Before You Buy a 2015 Lincoln MKC

1. What’s new for 2015?

The dawn of a new era…hopes Lincoln’s corporate parent, Ford. It needs this new premium-compact crossover to attract younger buyers to the struggling luxury brand. That’s a tall order, given a segment chock full of well-established entries and a host of attractive new ones, too.

MKC borrows elements of its basic design from the Ford Escape, but boasts a number of unique elements that elevate it beyond its mainstream sibling. It’s smaller than the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, and BMW X1, slightly larger than the Audi Q3, and more or less equal to the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Its closest rival in terms of size, drivetrains, features, and price is probably the new-for-2015 Lexus NX 200t. Every MKC has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?

Between $33,995 and around $53,500 – but juicy discounts should be available. The lineup is built around two models, the entry-level Base and the top-line Black Label. Each is available with a number of packaged and standalone options.

With front-wheel drive, the Base starts at $33,995 and the Black Label at $47,100 (all base prices include Ford’s $895 destination fee). AWD adds an additional $2,495. Fully equipped, and with AWD, a Base model tops out around $47,500, the Black Label around $53,500. We’ll get into what makes the Black Label so much more costly later; it’s actually pretty interesting.

The MKC actually got off to a decent sales start, but a flood of new entries in the premium-compact-crossover segment means Lincoln dealers must be flexible. Indeed, pricing service TrueCar.com reports MKC transaction prices trending more than 7 percent below base prices, which means you could potentially save thousands. By comparison, transaction prices were trending 6 percent below base price for the RDX and just 4 percent for the NX 200t. In addition, Lincoln was offering qualified buyers financing at 0-6.9 percent during the second quarter of 2015.

3. When will the next big change be?

Probably not for a while on a vehicle that’s just been introduced. One thing that could come in the near future is a replacement for the controversial SYNC with MyLincoln Touch. Ford plans to dump its Microsoft-powered infotainment system in favor of one developed by Panasonic and BlackBerry, the same companies that created Chrysler’s user-friendly (and more importantly bug-free) Uconnect system. Otherwise, don’t expect any major styling and or feature enhancements before model-year 2019.

4. What options or trim level is best for me?

Most buyers are likely to choose the Base trim, which comes pretty well equipped out of the gate. Standard amenities include heated power front seats, nine-speaker audio system, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch, push-button engine start, active noise cancellation, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote engine start, rearview camera, rear-obstacle detection, and more. Standard on AWD models and optional on front-drive versions is an electronic adaptive suspension.

We’d recommend the attractively priced $3,410 Select Group. It adds leather upholstery, 10-way power passenger seat (up from power 4-way adjustment), power-folding exterior side mirrors, unique wheels, and other features. Another $1,100 well spent would be for the Select Plus Package with navigation system and blind-spot alert.

The $7,110 Reserve Group includes all Select features plus cooled front seats, panoramic sunroof, voice-activated navigation system, hands-free power liftgate, blind-spot alert, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and unique wheels. Choosing either of these packages allows access to the $580 Climate Package, which adds heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, auto high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.

Unfortunately, you have to get the Reserve Group to qualify for the desirable $2,295 Technology Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, and hands-free parallel parking. An enhanced audio system designed by THX is another $995. Some paint colors add $495-$695.

To get the most from any crossover, we recommend AWD. And for another $1,140, you can upgrade an AWD MKC to a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine (details below).

From a nuts and bolts perspective, the Black Label is similar to a Base with the Reserve Group. The Technology and Climate packages remain optional at the same prices as on the Base.

Making Black Label unique, however, is its role in Lincoln’s effort to dial up the luxury factor on the vehicle and the shopping experience. Black Labels are available in a choice of four “themes,” each with unique upholstery and trim, including an assortment of genuine wood and Alcantara-brand faux suede.

Buyers interested in purchasing one of these gilded MKCs make an appointment with a specially trained “liaison” who acts as a single point of contact from interest registered, to option selection, to delivery, and beyond. The liason brings a “mobile showroom” to the interested party to highlight different Black Label “themes” around which the vehicle is built. Buyers can then visit a specially designated “fitting room” at the dealership or elect to have their new MKC delivered directly to them (provided they live within 30 miles of the dealer).

Included on each Black Label model is a 4-year/50,000-mile scheduled maintenance program with no-charge replacement of wear-and-tear items, similar to what BMW offers on its vehicles. MKCs needing service can be picked up where the buyer is, with a complimentary loaner provided. Owners can also gain access to the “Culinary Collection,” a select group of restaurants that will provide Black Label owners a unique dining experience. As of this writing, Black Label vehicles are only available through 32 select Lincoln dealers in California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

This is an interesting sales concept, with a level of attention one wouldn’t ordinarily expect from Lincoln. If such an experience is important, and you live near one of the specially appointed dealers, it might well be worth your time.

For everyone else, a “standard” MKC will have to do. It’s a shame you have to purchase the most expensive option package in order to have access to safety features such as blind-spot alert and forward-collision warning. Still, so equipped, MKC’s prices are not out of line with the competition.

5. What engine do you recommend?

MKC borrows its standard engine from one available in the Escape: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Unique to the MKC and optional on AWD models is a 2.3-liter turbo four with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. Both engines pair with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The standard engine is more than up to the task for most any driving situation, furnishing decent scoot from a stop and during highway passing and merging. With its quick reaction to throttle inputs, speed demons will find the 2.3-liter engine a delight. AWD is absolutely necessary with this engine: all that power could overwhelm a front-drive-only configuration. Wither either engine, some turbo lag (a delay in response prior to engagement of the turbocharger) is evident, but it’s no worse than in any other turbocharged rival.

6. How is the fuel economy?

Not great for a compact crossover with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Credit (or not) portly curb weights of 3,791-3,989 pounds for lackluster EPA fuel-economy ratings: 23 mpg city/highway combined for front-drive models; 22 mpg with AWD and the 2.0-liter engine; and 21 mpg with AWD and the 2.3-liter.

Most rivals rate at least 24 mpg combined. Some, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLA250, are capable of 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive.

On the upside, this is one of the few luxury-class crossovers that does not require premium-grade (91-93 octane) gasoline. Lincoln says buyers can use less expensive 87-octane with a slight, yet imperceptible, decrease in horsepower and no risk of damage to the engine.

7. How does the MKC handle?

Though not as dynamically accomplished as an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, the MKC can more than hold its own in ways most owners are likely to drive it. There’s some body lean in fast turns, but the steering is direct and responsive. Its slightly top-heavy nature results in some nosedive during panic stops. If it shed a couple hundred pounds, MKC could better challenge its European rivals.

8. Are the controls easy to use?

The instruments are clear, easy to read, and can be customized via a pair of four-way directional buttons on the steering wheel. MKC has no gearshift lever. Instead, drivers make their selections via buttons located on the central dashboard stack to the left of the audio/climate/navigation touchscreen.

Speaking of the central stack, it employs a “waterfall” design, with the touchscreen, CD player, and climate controls cascading down to a point above the center console. It’s a logical layout that’s easy to reach and visually interesting. Models tested did not suffer from any bugs or glitches that have been known to plague the MyFord/Lincoln Touch system. Recent software updates have improved the interface’s response time as well.

9. Is it comfortable?

Only AWD models have been made available for evaluation, and they come standard with an adaptive suspension, which dynamically analyzes the terrain and adjust damping accordingly. The system works well, delivering a controlled, comfortable ride, even on the optional 19-inch tires (18s are standard).

The available leather upholstery is supple and designed more for comfort than sporty bolstering. Headroom and legroom are sufficient up front, though the former shrinks quite a bit when the optional panoramic sunroof is added. Rear-seat passengers will find legroom in short supply.

Interior materials quality is quite good on the Base with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. No Black Label models have been made available for testing, but the use of Alcantara and genuine wood suggests that these MKCs will be another step above their Base counterparts.

Maximum cargo volume of 53.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded is less than the Audi Q5 but greater than the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. As it lacks a traditional console-mounted shift lever, Lincoln is able to expand MKC’s in-cabin storage with generously sized center-console bins and cubbies.

10. What about safety?

MKC earned a four-star (out of five) overall rating under the government’s 5-Star Safety Ratings system. It received four stars in frontal and rollover crashes and five in the side-impact test. The insurance-industry sponsored Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave MKC its top “Good” score in all its tests. Blind-spot alert, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning are optional. The forward-collision-warning system does not include an automatic braking function.

11. How’s the reliability and resale value?

Jury’s out. And not promising. While the MKC is too new to have a reliability record, Lincoln customers rate the brand favorably. Consumer research firm J.D. Power ranks it an impressive fourth among luxury brands for customer satisfaction and gives it above-average marks for reliability.

As for resale, residual-tracking firm ALG predicts the MKC will retain just 30 percent of its value after five years. This puts it near the back of the pack among compact luxury crossovers, behind the Acura RDX (39 percent), Audi Q5 (29-35 percent), BMW X1 (35-36 percent), and four-door Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (36-41 percent).

12. Is it better than the competition?

Competition among premium-compact crossovers is fierce, but this new Lincoln makes a compelling case with handsome styling, decent performance, and opulent cabin appointments. It doesn’t handle as well as European rivals, but most buyers will likely never put this vehicle through rigorous paces anyway.

Its cramped rear seat and small-for-the-class cargo area do work against it. And we’re disappointed certain important safety features require the addition of pricey packaged options, even on the high-end Black Label model.

But we’re also intrigued by the Black Label initiative. Though by far the most costly MKC, Black Label editions have notably richer interior appointments than mainstream MKCs. Add to that the personalized shopping experience with extra perks such as complimentary scheduled maintenance, and a Black Label MKC is an intriguing proposition that allows Lincoln to offer something rivals don’t.

Too bad it’s only available in a limited number of markets right now. But even if you can’t get your hands on a Black Label, the 2015 Lincoln MKC is still well worth your consideration if you’re in the market for an upscale small crossover.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]