Long-struggling Lincoln is betting big on the crossover market, hoping to rebuild its once-lofty image with a wave of new and updated crossovers and more traditional SUVs. Following the rebirth of its biggest ute, the Navigator, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand is giving a significant refresh to its smallest model, the MKC.
Set to roll into showrooms next summer, the 2019 Lincoln MKC picks up on some of the brand’s latest design cues – starting with a Continental-style grille – while adding a number of more upscale details and an array of the latest in safety and convenience technologies.
“We recognize it takes a lot to attract a buyer from other luxury competitors, but the Lincoln MKC has that kind of appeal,” said Kumar Galhotra, president of the Lincoln Motor Co. “We believe that the new MKC will capture even more luxury clients.”
First introduced in concept form at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, the MKC turned into a solid hit for Lincoln when the production model rolled out a year later as a 2015 model. It slotted in at the bottom of the Lincoln spectrum, beneath the traditional, truck-based Navigator SUV and car-based MKX and MKT crossovers.
(Management shake up at Ford continues at Galhotra takes over at Lincoln. For the story, Click Here.)
When it first reached the market it was a bit of a risk, not many luxury buyers looking for utility vehicles that small. But the MKC has benefited from a dramatic shift in the U.S. market where, overall, utility vehicles now account for about half of all sales. Demand has been spiking in the luxury market, and compact models like the MKC have been gaining momentum at an especially rapid pace.
“That small SUV segment is really the heart now, the volume segment, of the market,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s head of global operations, said during a meeting at Goldman Sachs this month.
In an otherwise down U.S. automotive market, MKC sales rose 8.7% for the first 10 months of the year, and fully half of its customers are being conquested from other luxury brands, including Mercedes-Benz. The MKC has also proved one of Lincoln’s most popular models in China, sales there rising 45% through the end of October.
But, with an assortment of alternatives flooding the market, Lincoln has recognized the need to up its game with the 2019 mid-cycle refresh.
Visually, the update will immediately stand out with its new grille; lifted from the Continental, it is made up of dozens of chromed Lincoln emblems. The grille is framed, meanwhile, with new LED headlamps, something quickly becoming a must in the current luxury market. The taillights go LED, as well, and the 2019 MKC will add the illuminated “welcome mat” found on other recent Lincoln models.
(Click Here to see more about Lincoln possibly electrifying its line-up.)
Inside, Lincoln adds some more highline accents to the 2019 MKC, bringing it more into sync with the rest of the line-up and giving the crossover a more premium feel.
An array of new technology will also be added, including onboard 4G LTE WiFi, the updated Sync 3 infotainment system – which now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – and plenty of USB ports.
There are also a number of new safety features, including advanced driver assistance systems like forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and emergency auto braking, blind-spot alert, lane departure warning and parallel parking assistance.
Buyers will also have the chance to add some more customized features through Lincoln’s Black Label program. That includes more premium trim and color packages, such as the one the marque dubs “Indulgence.” It adds details like Venetian leather, suede-like Alcantara and Ziricote wood accents.
Black Label buyers also get a variety of perks, such as free carwashes and annual detailing, even access to a list of upscale restaurants offering special dinners.
But even those buying a more mainstream version of the MKC will have access to the customized ownership program Lincoln has set up to differentiate itself from competitors. That includes free pickup and delivery for service and repairs, as well as a loaner vehicle while the vehicle is in the shop.
In terms of mechanical components, there are no major changes for 2019, the Lincoln MKC is still to be offered with either a twin-turbo 2.0-liter inline-four making 245 horsepower or the upgrade, a 285-horsepower twin-turbo displacing 2.3 liters.
(To see more about Ford raising MKC production levels, Click Here.)
Pricing for the 2019 Lincoln MKC won’t be announced until closer to the on-sale date next summer, but the current version starts at just over $33,000.