Right, let’s get this out of the way nice and early: the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring is not particularly comfortable.
It does pain me to say that, as a … well, while not a devout ‘fan’ of Lincoln, certainly an ‘admirer’ of the Ford Motor Company’s premium arm, given the venerable likes of the Zephyr, the Continental, and the MKZ among others that have donned the Lincoln name over the last century. It’s also slightly awkward, given that Lincoln’s primary selling points for the successor to its now discontinued MKC SUV, and only the second plug-in hybrid model on its line-up, are “sanctuary” and “luxury.”
Examples? Well, while the SUV’s underpinnings are much the same as you would find on a Ford Escape, albeit with Lincoln-first designed ‘rear integral bush suspension’ – said to reduce road harshness more thoroughly – and a dual-wall that reduces noise from the engine bay. Even the distinctive chimes registering an open door or a car in the blind spot were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Not too long into our test drive however, the ride is already starting to grate. Far from “a sensation of gliding,” this two-plus-ton SUV feels stiff and unyielding over most road surfaces, and even borderline jolting over some of the more jutted tarmac.
It’s a situation not aided, it must be said, by the ironically-named ‘Perfect Position’, leather-backed seats available on the Corsair’s highest trim package. Each may be 24-way adjustable, and this particular writer will admit the individual leg adjustment for the passenger and the massagers are a neat touch. But even on their lushest setting, the seats grip too tightly and the lumbar support is never quite where you need it.
Granted, part of this may come down to the optional 20-inch Bright-Machined aluminium wheels, which admittedly look the part and can be swapped out for more compliant 18- or 19-inch counterparts. But this is not a great start from the ‘Corsair,’ which quite literally translates as ‘journey’ from Latin.
Matters do improve in the cabin, but Lincoln’s mid-sized newboy isn’t completely out of the woods just yet. Like the Burgundy Velvet paint on the outside for example, the ‘Sandstone’ interior, complete with admittedly well-crafted leather and faux-wood trim, feels a little antiquated. Admittedly, Lincoln hasn’t skimped on the alternatives: examples we saw in Infinite Black looked less conservative, suitably more imposing, and will cost you $900 less. Though a little ‘snug’ at the helm, given the sheer size of the transmission tunnel, generous amounts of shoulder and headroom mean the Corsair gets a slightly-begrudged thumbs up.
Then there’s the centre console: yes, it’s perhaps a little cluttered and not as sleek as one would expect of a “luxury” SUV, but the multitude of switchgear for the climate control, heated and ventilated seats – which, bizarrely for a green vehicle, re-activate when the engine is switched back on – and the infotainment system is both intelligently laid-out and easy to use. Much the same can be said of the 8-inch touchscreen.
I must admit too that the P-R-D-S’ gearshift buttons on the dash have rather taken my fancy in a “remember when the DB9 used to have that?!” kind of way. They’re perhaps a little too concealed beneath the dashboard, but it’s a minor quibble.
Ditto the Vision Steering Wheel. The four-way toggle joysticks will go down very nicely with the Playstation era, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the ‘Push-to-Talk’ button for the Bluetooth: located at 10 o’clock on the steering wheel, I spend more time trying to avoid accidentally touching it than using the bloody thing!
It should also be mentioned that $12K-worth of optional extras on our top of the range test model have booted the MSRP to over $71,000.
Still it’s a decent showing for the cabin. Rear passengers will certainly think so, with 38 inches of rear legroom available – more than you’ll get in Mercedes’ rivalling GLC without denting the cavernous, 763-litre trunk space – plus a less-ergonomically-focused though ultimately more comfortable bench seat. Call dibs if there’s a long-distance journey.
And that, Lincoln lovers will be pleased to hear, is it for the pile-on. For while the “luxury” element of the Corsair is questionable, and a few cracks can be seen in the cabin’s “sanctuary,” the Grand Touring’s party-piece is, without, question, that hybrid powertrain.
Peer behind the mesh front grille – which, in a neat touch, features a blue-accented Lincoln crown – and you’ll find a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder. One that’s upwards of 200cc larger than the solely-ICE version you’ll find on the ‘Standard’ and ‘Reserve,’ and one that’s also paired with an electric motor and a CVT transmission that send 266 hp to all four wheels.
Yes, it’s not as powerful as the 280 hp 2.3-litre turbocharged model. And yes, it hikes the Corsair’s curb weight up and over the 2,000 kg line. And, for some reason, Lincoln won’t tell us how much torque that hybrid engine produces.
But good Lord, it’s quick!
Press the right pedal firmly but not overly aggressively, and you’re met with an immediate surge of forward momentum that belies that 2,055 kg weight. One that builds momentum steadily rather than sharply: attack the right pedal with impatience, and the 2.5-litre engine, elbows the permanent magnet synchronous motor aside with relish, keen to take the credit in a more boisterous and less dignified fashion; build speed with a degree of finesse though and you’ll be amazed how gracefully the Grand Touring will get up on its toes and run. There’s the “gliding” sensation we were promised earlier!
And this, it should be mentioned is in ‘Normal’ driving mode, one of five available on the Grand Touring. Switch to the grammatically displeasing ‘Excite,’ and there’s an almost tangible pulse through the pedal, coupled with higher revs. The electric motor is still there in the background to keep throttle response as alert as possible – in a neat touch, the driver display screen shows how much electric energy is being used or preserved as you play with the throttle – but the four-cylinder is now doing most of the heavy lifting.
And that’s fine. Commendable even. There’s a renewed energy to the hybrid engine’s pick-up and mid-range acceleration, aided by the battery cooling system operating now working overtime to keep the powertrain in its optimum window.
But again, the “luxury” is dampened as the suspension gets stiffer for increased road holding, and a muted growl from the engine interjects the “sanctuary” in the cabin. Granted, for a vehicle of this girth and size – the Grand Touring stands 5.5 ft tall, 15 ft long, and just under 7 ft wide – there’s a composure at the front end one could almost call ‘planted’ with a degree of generosity.
But dynamic? Enthralling? Not really. You could grab the Corsair by the lapels on a twisting road – and in fairness, decent front-end grip means you can nudge the nose into corners at higher speeds than expected before a modicum of bodyroll interjects – but the Lincoln never feels particularly nimble. And while there’s decent heft, the overly-assisted steering means you can’t really trust the front end.
There are other options, of course. Fire up ‘Pure EV’ and you can sideline the four-cylinder altogether, though bear in mind the motor offers just 50 km of electric range. Plug in for four to five hours though, even with AC current, and you’re pretty much topped up, or you could select ‘Preserve’ drive mode, which lets the four-cylinder do most of the work but keeps the electric motor on standby, and can even recharge the battery back up to 75 per cent while you’re on the move. Plus, in fairness, we found that with a degree of considerate though not overly conservative driving, one could easily ratchet that range up to 65, maybe 70 km, thanks to the Lincoln’s smooth regen capabilities.
This then is a tricky road test on which to draw a conclusion. In terms of offering a “sanctuary,” Lincoln has done a reasonable job with the Corsair: there’s plenty of space, given or take a slightly overwhelming centre console, an intuitive infotainment setup, and, while not completely devoid of road roar, the hushed atmosphere is a pleasant one. As a “luxury” vehicle meanwhile, the Corsair falls short thanks to its unforgivably stiff ride, not something prospective customers willing to fork over upwards of $58K will look favourably upon.
Even as a ‘Grand Touring’ hybrid, the need to offer a ‘dynamic’ drive mode feels unnecessary, given that the chassis can only just contain that ‘performance,’ and that the smooth yet decisive nature of the electric motor is easily the powertrain’s finest quality.
As an ‘admirer’ of the brand then, I will admit to feeling a bit underwhelmed by the Corsair, a model introduced as “unapologetically Lincoln” just three years ago. But as an example of the brand’s electrified future? Well… there may well be sanctuary to come.