One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Lincoln Corsair is a quiet, zippy ride with elegant styling

Lincoln is adding the Corsair compact crossover to its lineup for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company.

"Quiet flight". These calming words are the design and engineering mantra for the all-new 2020 Lincoln Corsair. The Corsair name pays homage to the Latin word "cursus", meaning journey, and was previously used in the 1950s and 60s on the easily-forgotten Edsel Corsair coupe and Ford Corsair sedan.

The Corsair is the smallest SUV in Lincoln's portfolio sitting below the Navigator, Aviator, and Nautilus in the Lincoln lineup. It replaces the MKC and reflects not only the rebranding and retooling of a model, but also the rejuvenation of this luxury marque. The Corsair is targeted at culturally-curious consumers with an active lifestyle seeking a premium sanctuary-on-wheels in the highly competitive, top-selling segment of the market. Key rivals include the BMW X3, Acura RDX, Audi Q5, and Lexus NX.

2020 Lincoln Corsair rear sideThe Corsair is built on the same platform as the 2020 Ford Escape.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Corsair shares its bones with the new Ford Escape, differentiated by styling, materials, chassis tuning and wheels. Its designers were inspired by images and the aura of glider aircraft and ballet, along with visual references to grace in motion. The Corsair bears some family resemblance to its siblings.

Exterior styling is accented by a blinged-but-tasteful chrome grille that punctuates the front, a fast-falling roofline that smooths the top, and sculpted S-curves that add dimension to the body. Jeweled LED headlamps add glam and use smart technology to monitor and react to the road for better lighting functionality. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels, with 19-and 20-inchers available.

Two turbocharged four-cylinder engine options include the standard 2.0-liter that produces 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and a 2.3-liter with 295 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Each is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. "Quiet flight" attributes are imbued in exterior and interior details, under the hood, and with sound-dampening technologies that let drivers "feel the power rather than hear the engine".

Both engines have adequate power to move the Corsair through city traffic and on the highway. The 2.0 is perfect for urban dwellers and quiet-mannered drivers who will benefit from slightly higher fuel economy. The 2.3 will appeal to buyers who take longer jaunts and like a bit more spirit when they push the pedal or if they plan to tow.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve wheelsThe Corsair is available in three trim levels: Standard, Standard AWD, and Reserve.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

A plug-in hybrid version of the Corsair will be available in the spring.

Corsair comes in Standard, Standard AWD, and Reserve trim levels. The Corsair Reserve also has standard all-wheel drive, despite it not being in the trim level name. Lincoln's AWD system seamlessly transitions traction from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive depending on road conditions, vehicle speed, and weather. Driving response can be customized with Normal, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions, and Conserve modes. It can tow up to 3,000 lbs.

The compact crossover's exterior and interior styling, as well as up-level features and innovative technology, will appeal to independent and sophisticated buyers looking to seat up to five riders for short jaunts, carry up to four sets of golf clubs, and save time with personalized concierge services. Take note: not all materials are of lux-level quality and rear elbow room makes it a better choice for young couples and empty-nesters that need to ferry only one or two passengers in back.

2020 Lincoln Corsair interior wheel infotainment ReserveThe interior of the Corsair is luxe in its highest grade models.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

The Corsair has more interior space and flexibility than the MKC and has similar seating functionality to the Escape including sliding second-row seats with up to six inches of travel that are available with a 60/40 fold-flat or split-bench option.

The rear cargo area can accommodate four large suitcases and has under-floor storage, a package tray and an available hands-free liftgate.

Its collection of standard and available features includes a head-up display, a 12.3-inch driver display, an 8-inch infotainment touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 14-speaker Revel premium audio system, Wi-Fi, two USB ports, wireless charging, and a heated steering wheel. New Phone As A Key allows owners to lock, unlock, and program features from a smart phone; the Corsair App brings up to 80 features that can be dialed in.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Phone As A KeyOwners can use their smartphone to lock, unlock, and program their Corsair.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Each Corsair comes standard with the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assistance and safety technology. It includes blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, lane keeping, pre-collision assist with emergency braking, auto hold, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go. The compact crossover is available with Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus, which adds a 360-degree camera, active park assist, evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and stop-and-go, lane centering, and speed sign recognition.

Corsair goes on sale this fall starting at $36,940 and topping out near $46,000. Base prices are competitive, while packages stretch into higher luxe-level territory

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The Hemi Orange package brings unqiue style to the Durango.

Dodge

The Dodge Durango isnt the newest or most refined SUV on the market, but it offers great comfort, good tech, and a handful of raucous powertrian options. The long-running family hauler is due for an update, but in the meantime, Dodge has given it a new Hemi Orange package with unique styling touches.

Dodge already offers the Hemi Orange package fo the Challenger and Charger, and now it's available for the three-row Durango. The package is available for the R/T trim, which comes with a 5.7-liter V8.

Dodge Durango Hemi OrangeDodge offers four exterior colors with the package. Dodge

Much of the Orange package's content comes on the outside, where Dodge adds orange and gunmetal hod stripes, black taillights, and grey/orange badging. The SUV rides on black 20-inch wheels, and Dodge offers different black "Lights Out" 20-inch wheels. Four exterior colors are available: Destroyer Grey, Diamond Black, Octane Red, and White Knuckle. Inside, the Durango gets orange sticthing and unique patterns in the upholstery. Dodge says the stitching extends throughout the interior, including to the gauge cluster, armrests, console lid, and steering wheel.

Two upgrades are available for the Hemi Orange Durango. The first is the Orange Plus Package, which adds a power sunroof, a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a load of driver aids. The Tow N Go package is available for four-wheel drive models, and brings the 20-inch Lights Out wheels, orange brake calipers, and a Bilstein high-performance suspension system.

The Durango R/T Hemi Orange is available now. It carries a price tag of $1,995. The Orange Plus package costs $4,500 and the Tow N Go package costs $5,095.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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