2021 Lincoln Corsair Review

The Ford Escape is a very popular little crossover SUV, but what if you want more engine or a plug? And AWD? Maybe a 14 speaker Revel ultra-premium audio rig, too?

Head on over to a Lincoln store.

There you’ll find the Corsair, which is based on the Escape but more than a Ford. It offers a more robust version of the Escape’s strongest optional engine and the option to roll faster without any engine at all for about 28 miles or so—depending on how you roll.

What It Is

The Corsair is the smallest crossover Lincoln sells. It is also the most affordable, with its base price of $35,945, which is slightly higher than a loaded Ford Escape ($33,300). You also cannot buy it with the 295 horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged engine that’s available in its Lincoln-suited brother.

A plug-in hybrid version of the Corsair is also now available, and stickers for $50,230.

Ford also sells a plug-in version of the Escape, but with less engine and without AWD.

It does, however, offer more range—up to 37 miles.

What’s New

The Grand Touring plug-in hybrid version, which packs 268 horsepower, a 14.4kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and three electric motors, is the main addition to Corsair’s options list for the 2021 model year.

A monochromatic appearance package is also available.

It includes a special 20-inch wheel/tire package, another not-available-with-Escape enticement to go Lincoln rather than Ford.

What’s Good

  • A posher, more powerful Escape.
  • Electric operation without the electric wait.
  • Extremely competitive price vs. similar compact-sized crossovers like the BMW X3 ($48,895 to start) and Mercedes-Benz GLC ($47,910 to start).

What’s Not So Good

  • A bit less backseat leg/head and cargo room than in the Escape.
  • It costs a lot to drive without using any gas.
  • Stop-start “technology” (non-hybrid versions) is difficult to turn off.

Under The Hood

The Corsair comes standard with one more cylinder and a lot more power than what comes standard in an Escape. The latter is equipped with a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that manages (remarkably, given how small it is) to go up 181 horsepower through the miracle of pressurization, i.e., via turbocharging it.

Still, it’s not much engine, even for a small crossover.

The base trim Corsair comes standard with a more size-appropriate 2.0-liter, much stronger 250 horsepower engine (also turbocharged) that is the same engine as the Escape’s strongest available engine. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic (not a CVT) and either front-wheel-drive or (optionally) all-wheel-drive.

Lincoln gives you another option, too–one that is not available with the Escape.

You can upgrade to a 295 horsepower 2.3-liter engine; also turbo’d. This engine is available in all trims, too.

It is paired exclusively with AWD to spread out the power over four rather than just two wheels. This gets the Corsair to 60 in just over six seconds, a more-than-fractional difference vs. the Escape equipped with its strongest (2.0-liter) engine, which takes about 7.7 seconds to make the same run.

The catch is the bundle.

You can’t just a la carte the 2.3-liter engine. It is only available as part of an options package that boosts this little crossover’s MSRP by several thousand bucks. You also get amenities such as heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and Lincoln’s “CoPilot” 360 suite of driver “assistance” tech as part of the deal.

If you want to burn less gas, a brand-new hybrid drivetrain option also comes standard with a plug.

This means you can recharge the batteries without running the engine. But it also means you don’t have to stop driving to plug in when you use up the hybrid’s roughly 28-mile range on battery power. The gas engine will come on to keep you moving and recharge the batteries as you drive.

You can plug in at home or work, but you don’t have to.

That’s the significant everyday advantage of the plug-in hybrid layout. There’s no range anxiety, and there’s no mandatory waiting. The significant disadvantage is the cost, which you may never make up in gas savings.

This hybrid is also robust, which helps to offset the cost.

It has the largest gas engine (2.5-liters) available in a Corsair, paired with three electric motors—one of which summons up a mighty 110 ft.-lbs. of torque all by itself. This one drives the rear wheels while the other two power the front wheels, with the power split determined according to wheel-slip, as is usually the case in all-wheel-drive-equipped vehicles.

Curiously, the plug-in version of the Escape is front-drive only. It is also less powerful, packing 221 horses (combined output), while the Corsair offers up 268 horses. This is sufficient to make the hybrid Corsair about as quick by the numbers as a non-hybrid (250 horsepower) Corsair while also averaging about 33 MPG vs. the non-hybrid 2.0-equipped’s 21 city, 29 highway, which works out to about 24 on average.

However, it cannot travel as far as the hybrid Escape, which can go almost 40 miles on battery power alone.

But you cannot get it with AWD, which comes standard with the Corsair hybrid.

The big question, of course, is whether the hybrid’s buy-in cost—about $12K above the asking price of the non-hybrid with AWD—will pencil out in gas savings over time.

Probably not even with the available federal EV tax credit of almost $7K to sweeten the deal. That is unless gas prices shoot up to $5 or more gallon, which is certainly possible.

But there are other ways it might pencil out, depending on how events play out. If gas becomes scarce, a vehicle you can plug in at home will keep you rolling; unless, of course, there are rolling blackouts—another possibility.

One can also foresee this because one can see this already, in Europe—areas where anything with a running gas engine is not allowed to roll. If such electric-only zones pop up here, owning a plug-in hybrid will also mean you can keep rolling.

So long as it is within range.

On the Road

The hybrid Corsair can’t go as far as its Ford-badged brother. Still, it has considerably more potential electric-only range than hybrid versions of pricier luxury-brand small crossovers like the BMM X3 and Audi Q5, which max out around 20 miles (or less).

How far you can go on the batteries alone depends greatly on how fast and how hard you drive.

It takes power to move anything and more power to move it quickly, whether the source of power is hydrocarbons or kilowatts. If you accelerate gently, easing up to speed, and keep your speed closer to 55 than 75, you may well get as far as the touted 28 miles before you run out of electric power. But if you need to go faster or the road you’re on isn’t flat (or headed downhill), the distance you can travel before the gas engine kicks back on will probably be less.

Still, you can travel a respectable distance and at viable road speeds without the gas engine kicking on, which you want in a hybrid, plus not having to plug the thing in helps. It is handy to be able to, of course, but unlike a purely electric car, you have the option to not to if it isn’t handy.

Though hybrids do cost more than their non-hybrid equivalents, they cost less than purely electric cars, and they do not cost you anything in time or hassle, and that’s of value, too.

The non-hybrid versions of the Corsair are what they ought to be—as Lincolns rather than Fords. Meaning they step up in terms of both refinement and power—you get what you pay for, of course.

The Escape is a nice little crossover. Its little 1.5-liter engine, though powerful for its size, isn’t as smooth or as quiet—probably a function of its odd number of cylinders and probably not as balanced as a four’s even number of cylinders (with two going up while two go down).

To its credit, the Corsair (and the Escape) are also not afflicted with continuously variable (CVT) automatics. The Corsair is also owner-friendly.

It doesn’t feel or sound like it has transmission trouble. It is also a Lincoln, in fact, as well as in badge. If you drive one after driving an Escape, you will feel (and not hear) the difference. The Lincoln rides softer and quiet even without the hybrid drivetrain that you wonder whether the engine is on.

Until it shuts off every time you stop moving. You feel and hear the automated stop/start technology (ASS). You also feel and hear the engine restarting over and over again.

You can shut the ASS off to keep the engine running. But a button is lacking, so you will need to check out the setting in the systems folder, within the apps, which can be a pain.

At The Curb

The Corsair looks larger and longer than it is—just 180.6 inches. This can be credited to the visual effect of its lower, more rakish roofline (vs. the Escape), which is about two inches down from the Ford’s. The downside of this is a bit less backseat headroom and total cargo capacity—57.6 cubic feet vs. 65.4 cubic feet in the Ford.

Still, the Corsair is capable of getting eight-foot-long boards home, with the rear liftgate closed. Just drop (electrically) the second-row seatbacks and slide them down the center aisle. Use a floormat on the center console to keep from scuffing anything. Like the Escape, the Corsair is large enough on the inside to be a family’s primary vehicle, which a car with the same or even a much larger footprint on the outside isn’t.

The full-size Continental sedan had just 16.7 cubic feet of trunk, despite being 201.4 inches end to end (nearly two feet longer) than the Corsair.

This probably explains why Lincoln and many other former car brands no longer sell cars like the Connie, RIP.

Crossovers and SUVs rule the roost.

In addition to more engine, the Corsair, being a Lincoln, also comes with and offers more amenities than you can get in the Escape. These include that excellent 14-speaker Revel premium audio rig (a 10-speaker system is standard) as well as massaging seats for the driver and front-seat passenger, a digital instrument cluster (Reserve trims) and a much larger (8-inch vs. 4.4-inch) secondary LCD touchscreen for the various apps, mounted on a stylish floating shelf that projects outward from the dashboard, making additional space for storage underneath.

Another thing this Lincoln comes with is an external keypad entry system mounted on the B pillar.  If you forget your key, you can still get in. You can also let someone else get in who hasn’t got a key, or you can use your phone as your key. This Lincoln offers that option as well.

The Rest

If you do some cross-shopping, you’ll discover that the non-hybrid version of the Corsair is a deal relative to what it would cost you to buy a BMW X3, a Benz GLC or an Audi Q5—all of which are similar in size/features/amenities and power.

However, the hybrid Corsair is priced about the same or slightly higher than the plug-in hybrid versions of the X3 ($49,600) and Q5 ($51,900).

But you can go about 10 miles farther on the batteries than they can (Though not as far as the Ford can).

Unless it snows.

The Bottom Line

Lincoln isn’t selling cars anymore, but that doesn’t mean Lincolns aren’t selling. This Corsair is an example of why.

Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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