2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring first drive review: Speak softly and carry a big battery

The addition of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain makes the compact Corsair far more efficient, if not necessarily more engaging.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
6 min read

The 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring is a compact luxury SUV, one that also happens to be a plug-in hybrid. A little old-school yet still plenty new, this half-and-half drivetrain gives the Corsair -- and other plug-in hybrids -- unique benefits, like the option of emitting zero tailpipe emissions or being able to make cross-country treks without needing to recharge. The addition of a partially electrified drivetrain makes this Lincoln far more efficient, though not necessarily better overall.

Regardless of its powertrain, the Corsair does an admirable job emulating larger Lincolns like the and Navigator, two SUVs Roadshow editors love. The brand's elegant exterior design scales down nicely, as this utility vehicle looks cleaner and more sophisticated than some of its rivals, which are slathered in much showier styling. Mimicking its siblings, the Corsair's dashboard is strongly horizontal and punctuated by a freestanding touchscreen. Crisp and colorful, this 8-inch display with its chunky bezels looks a few sizes too small, even in the compact Corsair. But hey, at least the Sync 3 infotainment system is speedy and as straightforward to use as ever, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported, though not wirelessly.

Unlike its larger siblings, extra-swanky Black Label versions of the Corsair are not offered, though aside from a couple minor quibbles, the standard interior is still plenty nice. The design is handsome, the materials used are mostly excellent and nearly everything is tightly assembled and feels like quality -- aside from the dials and buttons for the audio and climate-control systems, which are sloppy and trimmed in blinding chrome. This interior's smudge-prone piano black trim doesn't elevate the experience, either.

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring: Unassuming elegance

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Making up lost points, the Corsair can be had with lovely Perfect Position front seats that move in 24 ways. This $1,100 option is worth every penny in my book, though folks with broader torsos might find them a little restrictive. These leather-wrapped thrones are super comfortable, provided you take the time to fine-tune their myriad adjustments. Massage functionality is also included, which does a great job keeping fatigue at bay on longer drives.

Moving rearward, this SUV's backseat is merely good. The split bench slides fore and aft and the backrests are adjustable, but this area is not particularly spacious. As for cargo space, it checks out at 26.9 cubic feet, a tiny bit more than you get in an Audi Q5, but a whisker less than the .

The Grand Touring's hybrid powertrain is anchored by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine. Working in conjunction with a few electric motors, this vehicle is endowed with a respectable 266 horsepower, which is more than you get with the Corsair's base 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Lincoln has not, however, shared a torque figure because the math with hybrids is often fuzzy.

The performance this drivetrain delivers is good, though acceleration is undoubtedly blunted by the Corsair's portly 4,532-pound curb weight. Befitting the brand's quiet luxury ethos, this Lincoln's mechanicals are smooth running and hushed, though the engine sounds sickly, emitting a strangely hoarse moan under load.

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring
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2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring

You can replenish the battery in just three to four hours on a Level 2 charger.

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An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is part of the powertrain mix, too, helping this small SUV return a combined 78 mpge when running on a mixture of gasoline and electricity. Operate it solely on the former, and you can expect a still-thrifty 33 mpg, not bad for an SUV with standard all-wheel drive (the rear wheels are electrically powered) and better than plug-in hybrid versions of the and . In mixed, real-world use, I'm getting nearly 49 mpg, an impressive figure to be certain, though your efficiency is entirely dependent on how you use the Corsair Grand Touring's available electric range. Make only around-town trips while accelerating lightly and you may never burn any gasoline at all.

This Lincoln features a 14.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. That's large enough to endow it with 28 miles of electric-only range. In comparison, the larger and much more potent Aviator Grand Touring offers 21 miles' worth of juice in its battery. As for charging times, when hooked to a standard household outlet, this Lincoln can completely replenish its electron reservoir in 10 to 11 hours. Tap into a 240-volt Level 2 charger and the battery can be topped off in just three or four hours.

Like most modern vehicles, this Lincoln offers a variety of driving modes. When switching between them, lovely little animations splash across the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to make it immediately obvious what you've selected. Changing over to the Pure EV driving mode allows you to silently glide along using only energy stored in the battery pack. Acceleration in this setting is, unfortunately, extremely slow, and pressing the pedal past about three-quarters starts the engine to provide an extra shot of giddy-up. The Preserve EV setting allows you to save battery power for later or recharge the vehicle to about a 75% state of charge while driving.

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring
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2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring

The 8-inch central screen looks small in the Corsair's otherwise luxurious interior.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

When it's time to slow things up, the Grand Touring's brakes are totally seamless. The pedal's weighting, feel and positioning are nearly perfect, and the transition from energy-recuperating regenerative braking to the friction binders is imperceptible.

Even though the Corsair is smaller than its stablemates, it still drives like a Lincoln. This means it's smooth without being sloppy, intuitive but not insipid and comfortable despite being a little cramped. The steering is light but surprisingly crisp and despite rolling on optional 20-inch wheels with machined faces, the ride quality is excellent, gliding but well controlled -- you hear the tires clopping over roadway irregularities more than you feel them. On the highway, wind noise is slightly pronounced, which is a bit surprising for a brand that emphasizes silence.

When you're bombing down stretches of interstate, you're going to want adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane centering and traffic jam assist. Unfortunately, this, along with other highly desirable goodies like a 360-degree camera system, automatic parking and windshield wiper de-icers, are bundled in the $4,200 Grand Touring 1 Package. For the most part, this vehicle's adaptive cruise control works well, accelerating and braking adeptly, and keeping the vehicle in the center of its lane. The problem is, when this system is engaged the steering wheel is constantly in motion, turning left and right in small increments. This makes it less enjoyable (and confidence inspiring) than competing systems offered by other automakers.

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring
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2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring

Ceramic Pearl paint is a $695 option.

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The 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring is an easygoing, refined and, in many ways, compelling compact luxury SUV. But it's let down a bit by the powertrain, which is plenty efficient but uninspiring. This vehicle's electric-only performance is also lackluster and the internal-combustion engine sounds unwell.

The Corsair is not a bargain, either. The base price for the Grand Touring trim, the range-topping model, is about $51,500 -- roughly $4,000 more than an entry-level plug-in Q5. Of course, this example checks out for more: $61,730 including $1,095 in destination fees. That figure includes about 11 grand in options like the $4,200 Grand Touring 1 Package, the $3,000 Technology Package, $2,000 for 20-inch wheels and $1,100 for those Perfect Position seats. I'm almost never a fan of white cars, but this Lincoln's pale-gray Ceramic Pearl paint job is extraordinarily fetching and just $695 more.

If you're shopping for a vehicle in this class, something like a BMW X3 or , you should absolutely consider the Corsair Grand Touring. It may not necessarily be better than these or other plug-in hybrid rivals, but it's still an excellent option, and you might even prefer its elegance and unpretentious charm. For the most part, this is an exceedingly pleasant compact luxury utility vehicle, one that's also super-efficient.