Lincoln may be a little late in joining the booming compact luxury utility club, but the MKC is certainly an impressively well put-together new member and it’s priced to sell…

Santa Barbara, California.

The MKC is the first (luxury) compact utility vehicle from Lincoln, and while related, is very different, from the Ford Escape.

Development of both vehicles started with Ford’s global “C” platform, but other than its base 2.0 litre, turbo-engine the MKC has little else in common with its Ford counterpart.

All-wheel-drive is standard (in Canada) on all three editions of the MKC and a start price just under $40,000 is also inviting compared to other luxury CUVs such as the Acura RDX ($41,390) and BMW X3 ($42,800). (A top-line Ford Escape, by the way, is listed at $35,699).

The MKC is the second of four all-new product launches intended to redefine Lincoln. The first being the Lincoln MKZ last year, an all-new MKX is expected next year and a, so-far unnamed, full-sized sedan will follow. The new Lincoln styling theme includes smooth clean lines, a slick shape (described as “graceful athleticism”) and up front, there’s a contemporary take on the traditional Lincoln split-wing grille.

Another eye-catching feature of the MKC is around back, a huge wraparound lift gate includes full-width LED rear lighting assemblies. This unique one-piece hydro-formed steel door opens like a clamshell and allows complete access to the cargo area. An optional hands-free feature also allows it to open with a kicking motion below the rear bumper.

The MKC also has a roomy feel to its interior, particularly for front seat occupants. A dash that slants away, towards the windshield, adds to its airy ambiance. It’s also a much quieter cabin than its stable mate, with numerous built-in sound deadening features that include a noise control system that eliminates unwanted sound waves and enhances others.

Available inside accent trims include brushed aluminum or open-pore Zebrano and Santos Rosewood that can be matched with standard, made in Scotland, Bridge of Weir “Deepsoft” leather upholstery. The premium car experience actually starts as you approach the MKC with an accent welcoming lighting feature that’s automatically activated (by the key fob) when an owner is within 2.4 metres (8-ft).

Our 320-kilometre-plus route took us away from the coast along the scenic Jacento Reyes Byway. This lightly travelled twisty two-lane road gets narrow in sections. It also presented some spectacular vistas along the way and some intimidating cliff faces and rock formations.

I was impressed with the MKC’s predictable handling characteristics through the twisty sections. It was stable, very forgiving at higher speeds and generally more agile than expected for a utility vehicle – especially after I finally figured out how to set-up the driving modes, called Lincoln Drive Control.

The normal, comfort and sport settings for the suspension and steering are preset (via vehicle settings on the instrument panel and customizable to a limited extent) by a driver to function with “D” and “S” transmission selections. It’s a different and somewhat complex way of providing this feature.

Push-button transmission selection is another feature that I wouldn’t get excited about. I get the space-saving functionality and the historic connection to Lincoln, but still prefer a shift lever. Manual operation of the transmission’s six speeds can be done via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The shifts, however, could be crisper and the system tends to be very protective of the engine (over-revving) on downshifts.

Only MKC vehicles with the new 2.3-litre twin-scroll turbo engine were available to drive at this US event, which would price tag them close to $50,000 in Canada. An impressively smooth and quiet performer (in this application) this engine can produce 285-horsepower compared to the base 2.0-litre’s 240-horsepower, which is the top engine in an Escape.

As you might expect, the 2.0L engine gets better fuel economy, but the difference is minimal and both can run on regular grade fuel.

All the latest driver-assist technologies are available with MKC including, adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system, blind-sport alert, cross-traffic alert and park assist, with a unique new wrinkle … park-out assist. This added feature can now autonomously steer that MKC out of that tight parallel parking spot into which it put the MKC!

Lincoln may be a little late in joining the booming compact luxury utility club, but the MKC is certainly an impressively well put-together new member and it’s priced to sell.

Quick Specs and Pricing:

Lincoln MKC Premiere (2.0L): $39,940

Lincoln MKC Select (2.0L): $42,200

Lincoln MKC Reserve (2.3L): $47,700

2.0-litre I4 turbo, 16-valve, DOHC with variable timing: 240 horsepower @ 5500 rpm

2.0-litre city/highway fuel economy: 12.4/9.0 L/100km (EPA estimated)

2.3-litre I4 turbo, 16-valve, DOHC with variable timing: 285 horsepower @ 5500 rpm

2.3-litre city/highway fuel economy: 12.9/9.2 L/100km (EPA estimated)

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