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The Lincoln MKC, which is the “First Lincoln to entirely go through the Lincoln Design Studio, according to Matt Van Dyke, director, Global Lincoln. This is a crossover that is meant to resonate both in the U.S. and Chinese markets.

The tailgate is hydroformed, not stamped. As a result, note how it flows around the side of the vehicle, and fully contains the taillamps. The forming process was used because Lincoln wants to work toward attaining design leadership and distinction in the luxury market.

Soo Kang, Lincoln interior design chief, and her colleagues worked to provide the interior of the MKC with authenticity, in the form of real wood, real leather and real metal.

Looking at the 2015 Lincoln MKC

Lincoln has promised four all-new vehicles in four years. The MKC, C-segment crossver, is the second. And it is likely to be the best seller of all due to keen attention to design and engineering.

The importance of the 2015 MKC to the rejuvenation of the Lincoln brand on a global basis—or at least with the globe, in this context, being largely encompassed by the U.S. and China—is probably hard to overstate. Scott Tobin, Lincoln Product Development director, says that after the MKZ sedan was selected to be the first of four all-new products that would be brought to Lincoln dealerships, there was a spirited debate as to what vehicles, in what order, would be the next three that the company would put in the development pipeline.

Tobin says that there were those who were convinced that Lincoln needed a large rear-drive platform, as that setup is generally considered to be the price of entry to the luxury market. Large, because that signifies lux; rear-drive because that provides stately proportions that can’t be achieved by front-drive configurations.

As it turns out, that will actually be the last of the cars that Lincoln will bring to market, targeted for a release date sometime in 2016.

Clearly, the C-segment crossover got the nod to go into product development.

Someone could make a compelling case that going for a small, premium utility is really a no-brainer, based on how the market has been doing. Lincoln cites IHS figures that show that the segment has grown by more than 600% since 2008, and that it should grow an additional 288% by 2018. The large vehicle segment will be lucky to grow by double digits.*

(What’s between the MKC and the MKLargeSedan? A replacement for the 
MKX. There will also be a major facelift for the Navigator, which will not become the MKN.)

The importance of making sure that the 2015 MKC does well in the segment—where it is up against the class leader, the Acura RDX, as well as the Mercedes GLK and the Audi Q5—is indicated by a process that is used to form the tailgate: hydroforming. When it comes to things like body panels—as compared to, say, frame rails for pickup trucks—hydroforming is a comparatively low-volume process. That is, instead of stamping out panels with a typical hydraulic press, hydroforming uses hydraulic pressure in the form of water compressed in a bladder that essentially stretches a metal blank into a female mold. This allows the creation, in the case of the MKC, of a large, uninterrupted by cutlines, single-piece tailgate that is large, fully encompassing the long, horizontal taillamps.

So I put it to Matt Van Dyke, director, Global Lincoln: Why did they decide to go with hydroforming, arguably more expensive than straightforward stamping (male die, female die, insert metal, apply tons of pressure in a matter of seconds, and voilá! a panel, albeit one that will be subsequently attached to other metal pieces made in a similarly expeditious manner)? Why did they decide to spend more money on creating that massive, voluptuously formed panel rather than putting the money elsewhere in the vehicle?

“Because we know that we need to compete on the basis of our design,” Van Dyke answers. “And this gives us a better, unique design.”

At this point, it is probably important to acknowledge the fact that the Lincoln MKC and the Ford Escape share the same platform. What’s more, both cars are built at the Louisville, Kentucky, Assembly Plant.

While platform sharing isn’t anything new, as it is done by every sensible mass manufacturer of vehicles, there is something of a stigma associated with it, as in some cases, especially in the past, “platform sharing” was synonymous with “badge engineering.”

But that’s not the case with the MKC/Escape, as these are, essentially, entirely different crossovers.

Soo Kang, who heads up Lincoln Interior Design, points to an MKC and notes that there is a lower roofline, a higher belt line, and a raised rear shoulder on the car exterior. Which makes for a more attractive exterior look. But for the interior designers, “it was a nightmare.”

That is, she explains that the real challenge was to provide the driver and passengers with a sense of spaciousness in the cabin, despite the lower roof and comparatively smaller greenhouse. Which was accomplished through the use of a sweeping, cross-car instrument panel that flows from door to door, and a single-piece center console that starts from below the center-stack on the IP, just below the 8-in. screen that is the interface for SYNC with MyLincolnTouch connectivity system. The MKC has not only a push-button start system, but a push-button shift system for the six-speed automatic, with the PRNDL being a vertical stack of buttons flanking the left side of the center stack. The elimination of a conventional center mounted shifter helps open up space in the vehicle.

Another differentiator, this related to the chassis, is Lincoln Drive Control, which includes a continuously controlled damping, which adjusts the suspension predicated on feedback from sensors that monitor the driving surface 46 times every two milliseconds. Drivers can select one of three drive modes—normal, comfort or sport—and the damping is adjusted accordingly. There is active noise control (based on a control unit, microphones and speakers, which work to capture, analyze, and cancel or refine sound waves), and electric power steering. While, for example, the Escape has electric power steering, it is the combination of technologies that sets the MKC apart.

Another similarity is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4 engine that is available for both cars, but while in the Escape it is the top choice, in the MKC, the engine, which produces 240 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm, is the base engine. The optional engine for the MKC is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost I4. The 2.0-liter engine is available with either front- or all-wheel drive; the 2.3 is for all-wheel drive applications.

The all-new engine, which produces 285 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 305 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750 rpm, features a three-port integrated exhaust manifold cylinder head and a twin-scroll turbocharger. What this means is that the exhaust flows from the inner and outer pairs of cylinders are kept separate as they flow though the three ports into the two scrolls of the turbocharger, thereby minimizing backflow into adjacent cylinders and concentrating the energy to drive the turbo. One consequence of the setup: reduced turbo lag.

Other features of the engine are a high-pressure diecast aluminum block, a deep-sump structural diecast aluminum oil pan with baffles, and a forged steel crankshaft.

What’s interesting to note about the direct-injected 2.3-liter EcoBoost is that it is going to be made available in the 2015 Ford Mustang, so the performance orientation is no mistake.

One of the characteristics of a vehicle in this category is that there has to be a considerable technology quotient as well as the deployment of such things as exclusive Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather on the seats and a Wollsdorf leather-wrapped steering wheel. So the Lincoln engineers bring the tech.

Approach the MKC with the keyfob, and when coming within 8 ft, the vehicle’s ECU is alerted and activates interior and exterior lighting (with the exterior lighting including a “welcome mat” that’s visible at night, a lozenge-shaped spread of light with the Lincoln cross logo in the middle). The afore-mentioned tailgate can be opened by kicking below the rear bumper (there are two capacitive sensors located in the rear fascia).

There is lane-keeping assist that uses a rearview mirror-mounted camera that IDs lane markers and should the vehicle begin to move out of the parallel lines, there is a vibration in the steering wheel. The camera is also used as the basis of information for a driver alert system: should there be excessive lane-departing excursions, a chime and an alert in the gauge cluster are activated. There is adaptive cruise control using radar sensors, and collision warning with brake support that alerts the driver if there is a potential front end collision and precharges the brakes should the collision become imminent. There is blind-spot detection using radar sensors in the side-view mirrors. There is cross traffic alert, using sensors to detect traffic behind the vehicle in low-speed situations like backing out of a parking spot, as well as a rear backup camera that is activated when the transmission is put into reverse.

One of the more clever sensor-based systems is “park out assist.” This is based on the same ultrasonic sensors that are in the front and rear fascias that are used for active park assist. The active park assist is used for parallel parking. When activated, the sensors determine whether a parking spot is of sufficient length to accommodate the vehicle**, then takes over the steering while the driver is in control of the accelerator and brake pedals (coached by the system). This is something that a number of vehicles are available with, so for the MKC there is some-thing extra, the park out assist. This comes into play when the parallel parked MKC is boxed in and the driver is not sufficiently comfortable trying to maneuver out of the tight spot. Again, the ultrasonic sensors come into play and the vehicle, with the assistance of the driver, who controls the pedals and the gear selection, will steer itself out of the tight spots. Clearly useful for urban settings, where the MKC is likely to tread.