Lots of mass-market automakers have their own luxury brands, but the jury is out about whether or not those brands are on par with the luxury brands from here and Europe. The comparison also begs the question: is it better to pay less for a luxury model from a mass-market brand or more for a true luxury brand? Will you get what you pay for? Let's investigate further by comparing the 2018 Lincoln MKC with the ever-popular Ford Escape, two models that share a parent manufacturer.
While some models from related brands built on the same platform can look like twins, few people would look at the MKC and assume it's a close relative of the Ford Escape. The overall profile of the MKC is fairly standard SUV fare, but the impressively designed wing-like chrome front end and the sophisticated, refined design of the back end feels more luxurious than you might expect from an SUV. You can tell this is a Lincoln, from one side or the other, and that's purposeful and effective.
Let's get one thing straight: the Escape is a good-looking vehicle. The problem is that the design feels a bit confused. The Escape looks and feels sporty and athletic-looking, as you'd expect an SUV to look, but it's also looking more and more like a tall Focus than a smaller version of the Edge.
Everything about the interior of the Lincoln MKC screams luxury. The materials range from very nice to completely decadent, wood is used throughout the cabin, active noise cancellation keeps out unwanted sound, and the comfort is unquestionable. Back seat head and leg room could be considered a little cramped, but you shouldn't expect more from a compact crossover.
The Escape has similar rear seat space issues as the Lincoln, an expected criticism of any compact SUV, but the Ford unfortunately carries that cramped feeling to the front with an overly deep, contoured, and space-robbing dash. The slim seats are a little lacking in the comfort department too, so it's no surprise the Lincoln takes the honors here.
The base engine in the MKC is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that puts out 240 horsepower, more than enough for the majority of buyers. But if you do want more power, the optional 2.3-liter turbo-four, which this time puts 285 horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque at your disposal, may be to your liking. Six-speed automatic transmissions are standard with both, and all-wheel drive is an available option for any trim.
A non-turbo 2.5-liter inline-four developing 168 horsepower is the standard engine in the Escape, but more buyers gravitate to the 179 horsepower 1.5-liter turbo-four. At the top of the class is a 2.0-liter turbo-four, which this time puts 245 horsepower at your disposal. The power disparity here is pretty big and, though you get more engine choices in the Escape, the MKC has the power contest locked up.
Of course, having extra power on tap inevitably impacts on fuel economy, although the MKC is not a gas-guzzler by any means. The EPA gives the highest ratings to the base model with front-wheel drive, which come out at 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive also takes its toll on fuel economy, something to consider when you're choosing your options.
You could be forgiven for assuming the Escape with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine would be much more frugal than the MKC. The Escape is more economical, but the difference isn't as big as you might think. It is a difference, though, with an average of 3 more mpg than the MKC.
The moral of the story of the Lincoln MKC is that you get what you pay for, a luxury SUV that proves that it's far more impressive than you might think. Compared to its mass-market cousin, the Ford Escape, the Lincoln offers a better design, more sophisticated cabin, more impressive power and performance--and even doesn't far too badly in fuel economy either. The price difference between these two models, of course, is the real story. The starting MSRP of the 2018 Ford Escape is $23,800, while the starting price of the 2018 Lincoln MKC is nearly $10,000 more, at $33,355. The difference in quality is clear--we recommend the Lincoln MKC.