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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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The Lincoln Nautilus has gotten a substantial interior upgrade as part of a mid-cycle refresh.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln replaced the MKX with the Nautilus in 2019 and now, at the three-model year mark, the SUV is undergoing a refresh that aims to up the ante on the elegance inside the two-row midsize SUV.

"Nautilus plays a critical role in bringing new clients to the brand, especially those who are looking for the flexibility of a larger midsize SUV and appreciate the luxurious features and design that set Lincoln apart," said Michael Sprague, North America director, Lincoln. "The intent for the new Nautilus was refinement, rounding out our distinct lineup of SUVs – truly creating sanctuary."

2021 Lincoln Nautilus The Nautilus now offers the largest infotainment screen in its segment.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

The new interior is designed to draw the eye side-to-side, emphasizing the wide proportions of the SUV. At the center of the dashboard is a 13.2-inch infotainment screen, the largest available across the Lincoln lineup and the largest in its segment. Below that are the SUV's piano key shifters, a feature carried over from the Lincoln Navigator.

The screen is the home to the SYNC 4 operating system, making the Nautilus the first Lincoln vehicle to adopt the tech. Phone is Key comes to the SUV as well, a technology Hyundai has also marketed this year that allows drivers to use their phones to start and drive the vehicle for a designated period of time, without the physical key present.

SYNC 4 will operate with a Lincoln-exclusive Constellation appearance theme that is inspired by the night sky. The scheme features blue tones with pops of orange.

The system allows for wireless communications and over-the-air updates. SiriusXM with 360L and a digital owner's manual are offered as well.

2021 Lincoln Nautilus

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln is giving buyers an additional Black Label themes to choose from for 2021 - Flight. It joins Chalet, Thoroughbred, and Gala in the Black Label theme lineup.

Buyers are able to get their 2021 Nautilus with the new Sandstone color family inside, featuring high color contrasts from light to dark. The Black Ebony interior returns for 2021, but with added Roast accents on the seats, doors, and console armrests.

Lincoln has refreshed the Nautilus's exterior color options as well. Asher Gray is a new choice and is available with the Monochromatic Package. Green Gem and Lincoln Flight Blue round out the new paint options.

Lincoln will continue to offer the Nautilus with a 335-horspower, twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 or a standard 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Lincoln Co-Pilot360 comes standard on the SUV and Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus is available. The Plus version adds a 360-degree camera with front sensing system, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, distance alert, enhanced part assist, and evasive steering. This technology is the rebranded version of Ford's Co-Pilot360 tech.

Nautilus will continue to be built in Oakville, Ontario, for North America and will arrive in dealerships in early 2021.

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The Chevrolet Suburban is just one of the models caught up in the recall.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

No automaker wants to have to recall its vehicles. But, they do so willingly (most of the time) in order to prevent a larger problem from presenting itself. Sometimes the repairs are immediately needed, like when there's an imminent fire risk, while other times they seem like they can be put off a bit, like when a sticker needs to be replaced on a door jamb. No matter the recall, buyers should act as soon as they receive notice of a recall on their vehicle.

Today, it was announced that approximately 7 million SUVs and trucks would be part of a recall regarding Takata airbag inflators. GM has been fighting the recall for four years.

In a statement, General Motors said:

"The safety and trust of those who drive our vehicles is at the forefront of everything we do at General Motors. Although we believe a recall of these vehicles is not warranted based on the factual and scientific record, NHTSA has directed that we replace the airbag inflators in the vehicles in question. Based on data generated through independent scientific evaluation conducted over several years, we disagree with NHTSA's position. However, we will abide by NHTSA's decision and begin taking the necessary steps."

The recall is part of a larger Takata airbag recall that has affected over 60 million Takata air bag inflators in tens of millions of vehicles in the United States alone.

To date, 18 people have been killed by rupturing Takata inflators in the U.S. The inflators have also caused hundreds of injuries, including lacerations and other serious injuries to occupants' face, neck, and chest areas.

The Takata airbag recall was initiated in 2015 when the company entered into a Consent Order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizing there was an issue with inflators installed in vehicles across 12 different automakers. A Coordinated Remedy was initiated that prioritized and phased the Takata recalls by vehicles most at risk to least at risk.

The automaker has been fighting the recall since shortly after the defect information report (DIR) was submitted, in May 2016. At that time, GM asked that the NHTSA defer its decision on the inconsequentiality of the inflators used by the company until GM was able to complete its testing and engineering analysis in August 2017. That request was granted due to the extraordinary circumstances of the recall.

GM and the NHTSA went back and forth with testing results and clarifications through 2018. A second DIR was filed by Takata in 2017, which triggered another filing by GM, this time a petition for exemption. The process repeated in 2018 and 2019, with GM looking to exempt all but a few of their models from the recall.

Those vehicles are "GMT900" models that contain "SPI YP" and "PSPI-L YD" inflator variants. The GMT900 is a General Motors-specific platform that underpins a number of light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks and SUVs including: Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500, GMC Sierra 2500/3500, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Avalanche, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac Escalade ESV, and Cadillac Escalade EXT. The petition involves approximately 5.9 million model year 2007–2014 vehicles.

GM undertook a number of weathering, aging, and safety tests as part of its research into the recall. Those results were then submitted to the NHTSA.

According to the filing released this week regarding the petitions, a manufacturer does not have a "statutory obligation to conduct a recall for a defect unless and until it 'learns the vehicle or equipment contains a defect and decides in good faith that the defect is related to motor vehicle safety,' or NHTSA orders a recall by making a 'final decision that a motor vehicle or replacement equipment contains a defect related to motor vehicle safety.'"

It is because of this, that the NHTSA says that, "a manufacturer bears a heavy burden in petitioning NHTSA to determine that a defect related to motor vehicle safety (which necessarily involves an unreasonable risk of an accident, or death or injury in an accident) is nevertheless inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. In accordance with the plain meaning of 'inconsequential,' the manufacturer must show that a risk posed by a defect is not important or capable of being ignored."

GM was up against a steep hill to begin with. Of the three known occasions in which the NHTSA has previously considered petitions contending that a defect is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, the Agency has granted only one of the petitions. That action occurred nearly three decades ago, in what the Agency refers to as "a vastly different set of circumstances".

GM submitted thousands of pages of research and context to the NHTSA in support of their case as well as supporting testimony from an engineer who is an expert in airbag construction and safety.

Despite the efforts, the NHTSA determined that GM has not demonstrated that the defect is inconsequential to safety in the GMT900 vehicles. A number of reasons were given for the determination including that GM was unable to identify how the unique construction of the inflators in their vehicles made them less prone to rupture, how solar-insulating glass in the large cabin of the vehicles was decreasing the environmental impact on the inflators, and the small sample size of the inflators tested (just 0.07 percent of the total GMT900 population). GM also argued that replacing the inflators exposed owners to risk due to the possibility of improper dealership installation of the replacement inflator.

In its final decision, the NHTA said,

"The defect here poses an unsafe condition caused by the degradation of an important component of a safety device that is designed to protect vehicle occupants in crashes. Instead of protecting occupants, this propellant degradation can lead to an uncontrolled explosion of the inflator and propel sharp metal fragments toward occupants in a manner that can cause serious injury, including lacerations to the face, neck and chest, and even death. This unsafe condition—hidden in an air bag module—is not discernible even by a diligent vehicle owner, let alone an average owner.

"Moreover, nineteen manufacturers (including GM for other populations of their vehicles) have conducted similar recalls of other non-desiccated PSAN inflators. NHTSA has been offered no persuasive reason to think that without a recall, even if current owners are aware of the defect and instant petition, subsequent owners of vehicles equipped with GMT900 air bag inflators would be made aware of the issue.226 This is not the type of defect for which notice alone enables an owner to avoid the safety risk. A remedy is required."

Within 30 days of the date of this decision (November 20, 2020), GM shall submit to NHTSA a proposed schedule for the notification of GMT900 vehicle owners and the launch of a remedy required to fulfill those obligations.

To find out if your vehicle is part of a recall, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.

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