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Corsair will be first Lincoln with output in China
NEW YORK — Lincoln Motor Co., aiming to build on the momentum from a revamp to the larger end of its utility-vehicle lineup, is now making a big bet on its smallest crossover — particularly in a key market, China.
The 2020 Corsair, which replaces the MKC, rides on a new Ford Motor Co. front-wheel-drive platform to better compete in one of the industry's fastest-growing segments. The compact luxury crossover features a new suspension, loads of driver-assist features and a plug-in hybrid option, although that variant won't be ready when the Corsair launches this fall.
The MKC has been the brand's second-best seller in the U.S., where it also draws the most customers from rival brands compared with any other Lincoln vehicle. But the compact crossover is even more vital in China, where it's Lincoln's top seller.
That's why the Corsair will be the first Lincoln built in China for that market, beginning late this year.
By localizing Chinese production, as well as continuing to build the U.S. version in Louisville, Ky., Lincoln is further leaning into utility vehicles as it continues its climb back to relevancy.
"Slow and steady wins the race, and cranking out a stable of stylish SUVs with actual names shoppers can identify isn't a bad way to build a brand right now," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. "If Lincoln continues to build the types of vehicles shoppers want with a focus on style and quality, it has a real shot at a comeback."
Lincoln's first-quarter U.S. sales jumped 11 percent, including double-digit gains for all four of the brand's utility vehicles. It's hoping the compact Corsair, unveiled ahead of the New York auto show, will continue that trend, targeting younger buyers as well as defectors from other brands.
"It's unapologetically Lincoln," said Joy Falotico, Lincoln's president. "Corsair's addition to the portfolio means Lincoln now has a full family of SUVs to exceed the needs of our luxury clients."
The vehicle sits on the same fwd platform that underpins the recently retooled Escape, but Corsair has a unique rear integral bush suspension. It's lower, wider and longer than the outgoing MKC, and it features what officials call the "most dramatic expression" of Lincoln's design language.
"It is virtually sculpture in motion, a vehicle definitely meant to seduce," said David Woodhouse, Lincoln's design director.
Corsair buyers can choose from two four-cylinder engines: a standard 2.0-liter with an estimated 250 hp and 275 pound-feet of torque and an optional 2.3-liter with a targeted 280 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. While the engines are carryovers from the outgoing model, they're mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
All-wheel drive is available with both engines. The vehicle can switch automatically from fwd to awd in response to road, speed, temperature and other conditions, Lincoln said.
The Corsair continues Lincoln's rollout out of five distinct drive modes for use in varying conditions: Normal, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions and Conserve.
It also features a dual-wall dashboard in the engine compartment to reduce vibrations and sound.
Officials declined to discuss pricing and details of the upcoming plug-in hybrid variant.
The Corsair has "phone as a key" technology, which Lincoln plans to debut on the Aviaitor crossover this summer. Owners can download the Lincoln Way app and use their smartphone to lock, unlock and start their vehicle. If the phone's battery dies, a backup passcode can be entered on the exterior keypad to enter the vehicle, and the center touch screen can be used to start the engine.
The vehicle also features Lincoln's suite of standard driver-assist technology: pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind spot information system, a lane-keeping system, a rear backup camera, and auto high-beam lighting.
Optional safety features include the company's second-generation active park assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and evasive steering assist. A head-up display is optional.
The Corsair will launch in a hyper-competitive compact luxury crossover segment that jumped 30 percent in the U.S. last year, according to the Automotive News Data Center. MKC sales, in contrast, fell 3 percent.
But through the first three months of 2019, MKC sales are up 18 percent, helping the brand to its best first quarter in more than a decade.
The Corsair's arrival will follow that of the new Aviator large crossover this summer, which comes on the heels of updates to the Nautilus midsize crossover and the Navigator full-size SUV.
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