Test driving the Lincoln Corsair

Not too long ago we did a review on the Lincoln Nautilus, with the “TLDR” version being that it was a fine vehicle, but lacked the polish of Lincoln’s newer rides. And now it faces even stiffer competition, again from within Lincoln itself, with the introduction of the all-new 2020 Lincoln Corsair. 

The Corsair is designed to round out Lincoln’s SUV portfolio, offering a more compact alternative to land yachts like the Navigator and Aviator. And if you don’t need three rows (and very few people do), the Corsair makes a compelling case for Lincoln’s uniquely American take on luxury. 

This uniqueness manifests itself in two key ways: the name, and the ride. Where seemingly every other car that plays in the luxury space is embracing alphanumeric naming conventions and lap times, Lincoln is going old school. That means names you can pronounce, and cars that ride like clouds. In other words: Lincoln is throwing punches at brands like Bentley and Rolls-Royce, rather than try and chase Audi or BMW around the Nurburgring. 

So does that mean that the Lincoln Corsair is on par with something like the Bentley Bentayga? Well, no. But with an as-tested price over $110,000 cheaper than the Bentley, it’s a cosseting luxury cocoon you can actually afford.

And part of the reason the Corsair is so much cheaper is that it rides on the same platform as the Ford Escape. Now, we actually drove the Corsair and Escape back to back, and while the new Escape looks good, it feels cheap. It is generously loaded with lots of cheap plastics, and it’s breathtakingly slow. The Corsair, on the other hand, is the complete opposite.

Let’s talk interior. It’s decidedly upscale, with an abundance of soft leather wrapping most major touch points. Those surfaces not wrapped in cowhide are mostly finished in a robust-feeling plastic, with the occasional metal surface thrown in as an accent piece. Controls are seamlessly integrated into the simple, elegant lines of the minimalist design, and overall are easy to use. 

But the comfort is really what captures you. Our tester, spec’ed out in Reserve trim, features Lincoln’s 24-way power adjustable Perfect Position seats, complete with integrated massage feature. Traditional warning bells and chimes have been replaced with sounds performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and make can make even a reminder to fasten your seatbelt feel like a fancy night out. Materials you can’t see, including a double-walled firewall and active noise cancellation technology help ensure that the cabin stays whisper quiet. But if you need a soundtrack to your drive, the 14-speaker Revel sound system does a good job bringing your favorite songs or podcasts to life.

Performance is commendable as well. Our 2020 Corsair Reserve is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four that is rated at 280 horsepower. Its transmission is a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic, and with this engine choice, all-wheel drive comes standard. This engine is fantastic, and is a perfect match for this vehicle. It’s not overtly powerful, but offers plenty of mid-range torque and feels plenty quick off the line. Yes, other vehicles in this segment may offer a faster 0-60 time, but again, the Corsair is built for comfort, not lap times.

And this philosophy extends to the suspension and handling as well. Is it race-car responsive? Of course not. The Corsair delivers a supple ride that absorbs most road imperfections, while keeping things feeling planted and confident when those straight roads turn twisty. There’s not much in the way of communication coming from the steering wheel, but it’s accurate, and that’s what you want when buying a luxury cruiser.

But not all is perfect, as there are a few missteps with the Corsair. Let’s take some of the rotary dial controls, like the volume or drive mode select knobs. They look like they’re made of knurled metal, but they’re just cheap plastic. And when you twist them, it feels like a bunch of cheap plastic surfaces scraping across each other. The panel that hosts the climate controls doesn’t feel robust, and sometimes the tech that connects your phone refuses to work. We get that these are all small details, but when you buy a luxury vehicle, you’re buying it for the attention to said small details.

So to summarize, the 2020 Lincoln Corsair isn’t perfect, but it has a lot going for it. If we had to give it a grade, we give it a solid B. Or maybe even a B+. It’s a stunning machine, and it’s one of the more comfortable vehicles you can buy today. It still has a way to go before it can be a true rival to proclaimed rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLS or Tesla Model X, but if you’re looking for a distinct, old-school take on luxury, it’s definitely a vehicle worth checking out.

Justin Kaehler
Justin Kaehler is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, and auto enthusiast who has been sharing his passion for cars for over 15 years.