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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 side The 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 wheels The 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 Reserve The 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 Key Owners 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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Production of the Volkswagen ID.4 will mark the automaker's first all-electric SUV launch. The ID.4 will have about 310 miles of range, depending on the drive package.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is investing heavily into electric vehicles (EVs), even in the U.S. where the models make up a smidgeon of the sales each year. The company has already begun expanding its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory to build a North American center for the engineering and assembly of EVs.

That doesn't mean that they're just working on cars. They're working on the design of the "things" that go into cars as well. Much of this will happen at the Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga. Breaking ground on the center is set to happen soon with the expectation of it being fully operational by spring 2021.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant Volkswagen is investing $800 million and adding 1,000 jobs at its Tennessee plant. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The EPC will feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory that is designed to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. These cells and packs are slated to be assembled in the U.S. before being inserted into vehicles.

"There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries," said Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering at Volkswagen of America. "A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter."

The lab will include pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and – perhaps the most unique – a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.

According to Volkswagen, most automotive labs have MASTs, "but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries". EV batteries present their own set of testing challenges because of their size and weight. They typically weight hundreds of pounds each, making them the heaviest component in an EV.

"The battery is not only shaking; it is going through a series of harsh conditions to test its durability in a variety of possible environments, from the South Pole to the Sahara," said Jason Swager, the Director of Electrical Development. "We needed to build a MAST that could withstand the immense force and frequency that we need to test these batteries."

Volkswagen describes the process:

"To run a MAST at such high frequencies, Volkswagen had to design its own tool rather than using an outside supplier. The supports for the MAST will be buried 12 feet under the lab's floor and buttressed with concrete to help withstand the forces in use. Volkswagen's new lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of this size."

Volkswagen is building the lab to LEED standards. "This lab was planned to be as sustainable as possible," said Maluche.

The production version of the Volkswagen ID.4 EV is expected to be revealed soon. It will be produced at the factory. The company recently celebrated the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off the line at the plant.

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