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A cacophony of sirens and honking and shouting accompanies a busy night in downtown Los Angeles. But as I slide into the 2019 Lincoln MKC, closing the door results in an immediate hush. I'm able to hold a conversation while barely speaking louder than a whisper. And man, these seats are really comfortable.
The MKC likely won't set an enthusiast's heart aflame quite like an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but let's be honest: It really doesn't have to. Slogging through stop-and-go traffic on the 10 Freeway, heading west toward Santa Monica, it's not horsepower or torque or handling characteristics that impress me. Instead, it's the Lincoln's great forward visibility. It's the easy-to-modulate action of the throttle and brake. It's the bright Sync 3 infotainment display showing me real-time traffic information. And yes, that quiet cabin shines here, too.
Of course, that's not to say it won't get up and go when traffic finally clears. You can buy an MKC with the Ford Motor Company's ubiquitous 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, but my version has the optional 2.3-liter EcoBoost motor -- the same one used in the Mustang -- with a more-than-ample 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque.
Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.3T is a strong engine, able to move the 4,000-pound MKC with appropriate gusto as I climb the canyon grades north of Malibu. Lighter, more efficient 2.0-liter models can be had with front- or all-wheel drive, but if you want the more potent 2.3, it's an exclusively all-wheels-driven affair. The front-based system only sends power to the rear wheels when needed, so the MKC will still produce a teensy bit of torque steer under hard acceleration. This powertrain is EPA-estimated to achieve fuel economy ratings of 18 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined, which is only segment-average at best.
As I wind along Mulholland Drive, the MKC exhibits great overall balance, with predictable amounts of body roll while cornering and respectable grip from the 255/40-series Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. The optional 20-inch wheels of this top-spec Black Label trim look great, though the occasionally harsh impacts over broken pavement make me think I'd prefer the smaller 19s, if only for their added sidewall cushion. (My colleagues in Detroit will likely agree.) Steering feel is pretty much absent, though there's decent weight to the action of the wheel.
The MKC doesn't exhibit any sporty characteristics, nor does it purport to. It's a crossover that's very refined in its actions, and one that's easy to drive smoothly. It's a little bit better looking for 2019, as well, with a restyled front fascia that incorporates Lincoln's new corporate grille design.
That easy-going nature extends to the interior, where vehicle controls are neatly and logically arranged on the center stack. Lincoln's usual buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Sport are arranged to the left of an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, which runs Ford's latest Sync 3 software, albeit with a Lincoln-specific color palette. Physical buttons for audio and climate controls are found below, and the brightwork around the volume and tuner knobs have nice detail to their design, not to mention a satisfying weight to their action.
Sync 3 works just as well in the MKC as it does in any other Ford or Lincoln vehicle. Swiping through menu screens is a quick process, and the system responds immediately to touch commands. Embedded navigation is optional on base MKCs and standard on higher trims, though every version of Sync 3 comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Good as Sync 3 is, it can't match the cool factor of the Audi Q5's optional Virtual Cockpit, and other luxury offerings like the Acura RDX, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC offer sharper displays with better graphics. Lincoln does stand toe-to-toe with the best in terms of driver assistance tech, though, with features like precollision assist, active park assist, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist available on higher trims. Starting next year, the MKC will come standard with the Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 suite of tech that includes automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, a backup camera, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert.
From a functionality standpoint, the MKC offers usable space for luggage -- not to mention a wide load-in aperture thanks to its clamshell hatch design -- but still falls short of its key rivals. The MKC offers a maximum of 53.1 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded, which is a few cubes shy of the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Buick Envision and Mercedes GLC.
Really, nothing's changed inside the MKC for 2019, save for a couple of color and trim options. Lincoln's trio of Black Label schemes are once again available, in Modern Heritage (black and white) and Center Stage (red and black) themes, as well as the rich, brown Indulgence spec pictured here. With its Alcantara headliner, supple leather and soft-touch surface materials, the Black Label cabin looks and feels exquisite, right down to the detail stitching on the seats and door inserts. Just remember, you pay for the privilege: a Black Label MKC can't be had for less than $48,125, including $925 for destination, and the fully loaded, 2.3-liter, all-wheel drive version you see here costs $55,730.
Nice as the Black Label treatment is -- which, don't forget, includes several complimentary care and concierge services -- you're better off with lesser MKC trims, which range from $33,995 for the base model to $40,625 for the Reserve, not including destination, and before options. A nicely optioned Reserve 2.3T AWD with 19-inch wheels and the trick park assist system will set you back around $49,000, or about as much as a very lightly optioned, less-powerful, mid-level Audi Q5 Premium Plus. The MKC's closest competitor, as far as I'm concerned, is the new-for-2019 Acura RDX which, loaded up in Advance SH-AWD trim, costs about the same.
Aside from the improved front fascia, the 2019 MKC isn't so different from its predecessor. It feels markedly more upscale and luxurious than the Ford Escape on which it's based, and offers a quiet, premium cabin that's as good as or better than many of its more well-established rivals. It's a sensible choice among compact luxury crossovers and competently conveys Lincoln's ethos of "quiet luxury." The MKC might not be the first vehicle that comes to mind in this highly competitive segment, but it certainly checks all the right boxes.
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