Since its introduction for the 2020 model year, Lincoln’s compact crossover SUV is its most popular model, much like the unmemorable MKC that it replaced. Now in its second season, the Corsair gets a new plug-in-hybrid model dubbed the Corsair Grand Touring.
Other updates for 2021 are cosmetic. There’s a Monochromatic Package with black wheels, and exterior trim, while the Sport Appearance adds polished wheels, body-colored bumpers, a black mesh grille insert, and illuminated scuff plates. Finally, Lincoln is adding a towing package, so you can yank your favorite lifestyle plaything behind you.
Corsair is Lincoln’s most refined vision of where the brand is heading, designed by the same team that created the Navigator and the Aviator. Its personality is distinctly American, with a quiet ride, powerful – yet fuel efficient – engines and beautifully lush interiors. Lincoln calls its approach Quiet Flight.
The Corsair shares its architecture with the Ford Escape, but there’s far more differentiation than there was between the Escape and MKC. Longer and wider than its Ford cousin, the Corsair is the sportiest interpretation of Lincoln’s new SUV style, offered in Standard and Reserve trim levels. Lincoln supplied a Reserve for a week-long test.
If you’ve seen its larger siblings, the Corsair’s exterior style will strike a familiar chord. Yet this is not merely an Aviator that’s been left in the dryer too long.
While boasting familial styling cues, they’re executed appropriately for the Corsair’s smaller scale, lending it a sportier appearance. But it retains its allure of modern classic style, capped by Lincolns distinctive new grille and horizontal tail lamps — a Lincoln hallmark.
“… Corsair indulges its occupants with a resplendent lavishness … a rebuke of the European austerity design aesthetic that automakers use as an excuse to cut costs …”
Given the parsimonious starkness that defined the MKC’s interior, the Corsair’s cabin is a revelation. Like its larger Navigator and Aviator siblings, the Corsair indulges its occupants with a resplendent lavishness, lined in soft leather.
It evokes a modern classicism, one that’s up-to-date yet timeless. It’s a rebuke of the European austerity design aesthetic that automakers use as an excuse to cut costs.
The front seats are roomy and comfortable, being soft enough to coddle, yet firm enough to offer support. The rear seat is surprisingly comfy as well, and able to slide forward or back six inches, so you can prioritize room for people or stuff.
Other indulgences include 24-way power-adjustable massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats and rain sensing wipers.
Corsair is powered by a turbocharged 250-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4, or a turbocharged 280-hp 2.3-liter inline-4 powerplant. Both mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front- or all-wheel drive is offered on 2.0-liter models; all-wheel drive is standard with the 2.3-liter engine.
Five driving modes are standard, including Normal, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions, and Conserve. Lincoln also offers the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid, with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, a continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and an all-electric driving range of 28 miles.
It’s rated by the EPA at 33 mpg in combined city/highway driving, as compared to 24-25 mpg in combined fuel economy for the other models.
Safety and Technology
All Corsairs come with such driver assistance safety systems such as forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot alert, cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a rearview camera and automatic high beams.
It can be upgraded with optional adaptive cruise control with lane centering and speed sign recognition, 360-degree camera with front washer, front sensing system, evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist, all of which are offered in an option package. The Corsair scored a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA, and it earned a Top Safety Pick designation from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Better yet, Lincoln has packed the Corsair with true high-tech touches. An 8-inch touchscreen with Sync 3, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard; a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is optional.
The Reserve test vehicle indulged its driver with a head-up display, an impressive 14-speaker Revel audio system, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and a vertical wireless charging pad tucked inside the center console, which keeps your smartphone hidden and out of the way. Smart? This is even smarter: Lincoln’s new app lets you use your smartphone instead of the vehicle’s key fob.
Driving a Reserve with the Corsair’s larger 2.3-liter engine, you’ll find it furnishes effortless yet graceful power. Authoritative yet refined, it seems appropriate given this vehicle’s class.
However, the 2.0-liter seems more than sufficient at moving the Corsair with authority, particularly with front-wheel drive.
The all-wheel-drive system is rear biased, and can send 100% of the engine’s power to the rear wheels if needed, adding an element of sportiness to its character.
Trading some sportiness for serenity, the Corsair’s ambience is best described by their marketing slogan: quiet flight. This is very much the grand tourer, with a quiet, composed driving experience that’s sporty enough to keep things interesting, with accurate steering and little body roll in corners, although that’s not its milieu. Be sure to try the optional adaptive damping package; it significantly improves the Corsair’s overall deportment.
Unlike every diminutive Lincoln that preceded it, the 2021 Lincoln Corsair lives large despite its small size. Its technology, safety, performance and interiors deliver a different driving experience.
Yes, it can hustle, but that’s not its intent. The Corsair delivers the quiet, comfortable, opulent experience one demands of a luxury vehicle regardless of size. And it does to in a very American fashion, something that seems to be foreign to other domestic automakers, and a few foreign ones as well.