The 2023 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring Is Good But Begs To Be Special

This is peak Corsair and it features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Indeed, it is heavily based off on the Ford Escape Hybrid but makes more power in this application.

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Adam Allen Writer -

Call us old fashioned, but we never leave the house without a pen.

These days, most regard the pen as a charming throwback to the past when recording thoughts, ideas and grocery lists was required. The humble pen/pencil has been around since 3,200 BC and as good as it is, it is so often passed over for a smartphone app. At least it had a good run.

Not all pens are created equally, even if they are designed to perform similarly. Your typical Bic ballpoint will do the same job as a Caran d’Ache “1010″ Fountain Pen but will not be even remotely as special to behold or rewarding to use, mostly because the two are made to wildly differing standards. That should not surprise anyone, seeing as the Bic costs a buck or two and the Caran d’Ache commands a $19,000 price of entry. If the handcrafted 1010 decided to keep its exterior look but replace its meticulously engineered inner workings with off the shelf Bic parts, would it be as special? The answer is a definitive no. While driving the new 2023 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring recently, we couldn’t help but make a connection to that conundrum. Allow us to explain.

Back in 2016, Lincoln boldly claimed that the brand was going to embark on a renaissance of sorts. They promised to put the days of the maligned Zephyr sedan and the dreadful ‘MK’ naming scheme firmly in the rearview mirror, and pledged that moving forward, Lincoln models would get the respect they deserved. Parent company Ford vowed that the illustriousness the brand used to command in the 1960s and 1970s would be restored. We admit to being skeptical- so many brands have issued similar proclamations through the years with varying degrees of success- but when they teased the new Continental flagship, Lincoln fans everywhere began to salivate in anticipation. Maybe things were going to change dramatically.

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Fast forward two years to the day we picked up the new Continental. It looked resplendent under a leaden November sky,  painted in a lovely navy metallic hue and wearing top shelf Reserve trim. To say were excited to get behind the wheel was an understatement. As our week with the Continental wore on, our excitement faded drastically. We arrived at the sad conclusion that despite obvious efforts, it felt like we were driving a warmed-over Fusion, the car that the Conti was based upon, because we essentially were doing just that. It was the same deal with the MKX (Ford Edge) and the Navigator (a gussied-up Ford Expedition.) To be sure, platform sharing from mainstream products to a luxury brand is nothing new (see Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, etc.) but somehow Ford wasn’t able to make that transition feel worth it. A Lexus ES350 feels a cut above the Camry on which it’s based to justify its higher pricetag- Not so much with Fusion based Continental. Now do you see where we were going with the Bic versus the Caran d’Ache pen analogy?

Enter the 2023 Corsair Grand Touring you see here. This is peak Corsair and it features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Indeed, it is heavily based off on the Ford Escape Hybrid but makes more power in this application. They may be the same under the skin, but we think the Corsair is downright handsome and kind of channeled a slight Porsche Macan vibe when viewed from the rear at night. Step inside, and the mark the Corsair makes is most impactful when you settle into the cockpit. The seats are finished in a sultry red hue that nicely compliments the blacks that serve to furnish the upper and lower dash as well as the doors. The colors are indeed impressive, but what really amazed us was the build quality. If you look really hard you can see some lower tier materials and switchgear, but overall, the Corsair is a considerable distance away when compared to its Escape counterpart from a luxury standpoint. It also feels more substantial and heftier, and of course it is much quieter and smoother when going down the road. That makes it a better environment to enjoy the Revel sound system, which, like in other Lincolns, is sensational. We pressed the Corsair into cottage road trip duty on two separate occasions- once close by, and the other more far flung- and it proved to be a delight. We plugged in in here and there, but our ambivalence towards charging did not have a negative impact on our overall fuel economy; 7.2 litres/100km is pretty sparkling for an SUV. It became clear that despite its humble roots, the Corsair nails a lot of the things that luxury buyers expect.

But where the Corsair giveth, the Corsair taketh away. The plug-in drivetrain is indeed great at being miserly with fuel, but when it comes to refinement, not so much. This is not a problem when it’s moving about solely under battery power- it’ll glide along in silence. When the engine wakes up, it does so with an unsatisfying grumble, and the CVT transmission keeps it mooing along at a constant rpm, ostensibly to be in the heart of its powerband. If you can, keep yours as charged up as possible to avoid that. We also weren’t enamored with the steering feel. It provides a good sense of straight ahead and obediently goes where its pointed, but it is so artificial feeling that we wanted to slide beneath the SUV to see if the wheel was indeed connected to the rack. It’s nothing that most SUV-driving clientele will find issue with, but a little more polish in this area would go a long way.

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So, what’s Lincoln to do? Do they stay the course and keep honing their product lineup based on Ford products (likely) or do they pull an about face and start producing bespoke models (unlikely.) It’s really expensive to go the latter route which is why they haven’t done so already, but we think we may have found some common ground. How about a revived Mark 9 coupe? Take a 2024 Mustang which is all new and loaded with the latest tech, reskin the exterior styling, add some pomp and circumstance to the interior and tone down (but not too much) the window rattling voice of the Coyote V8. It could even be had with a manual too, opening the door to a new crop of buyers with an enthusiast flair. Here’s another one: take the manically magnificent Predator engine of GT500/Ford Raptor R fame and shoehorn it into the engine bay of a Navigator and you’ve got an instant recipe to chase the Cadillac Escalade V into the hills with its tail between its legs. Or they could just take a Mustang Mach-E and polish it up for Lincoln duty; this seems to be the most likely of the scenarios we listed above. One thing is certain- that intelligible metric of ‘special’ seems to have eluded the brand and Lincoln must find a way to recapture it. Models like our Corsair tester are a definitive step in the right direction, but greater efforts are needed in order to right the ship- we hope to see great things in the future.

2023 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $79,745
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.5L Atkinson-Cycle inline-four Plug-In-Hybrid Engine
  • Total System Horsepower: 266 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Total System Torque (lbs-ft.): N/A
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Curb weight: 1,994 kg (4,396 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 7.2L/100km (33 mpg)
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