My boomer parents love Lincoln. They just wrapped up a lease of a 2020 Corsair and are now on to a Nautilus. They like the style and comfort, and the fact that the seats adjust automatically to a preset position. And they really don't much care that it's a Ford with a shiny nose, because after years of owning mainstream crossovers and pickup trucks, to them, Lincolns represent luxury.
But like most Millennials, my parents are not the tech savvy sort, and when I told them I'd talk them through their new car's adaptive cruise control and other active safety systems, their response was “Well, we don't need that.” And then when I then told them I was testing the refreshed and BlueCruise-equipped 2023 Lincoln Corsair, their response was “Oh, don't use hands-free driving!”
My parents need not have worried. BlueCruise and the Corsair are natural partners, and the active safety system's addition makes this compact luxury CUV better and more relevant than ever before. But while my parents might shy away from hands-free driving, they won't be alone – adding the tech to the Corsair demands a pretty penny.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Lincoln Corsair Reserve|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4|
|Output:||250 Horsepower / 275 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||21 City / 29 Highway / 24 Combined|
|Trim Base Price:||$44,470|
Gallery: 2023 Lincoln Corsair: First Drive
Set Course And Engage
The biggest new item on the 2023 Corsair is Lincoln BlueCruise. Yes, I said BlueCruise. The hands-free driver-assist system has a new name after a single year under the ActiveGlide banner, and I'm just glad people will stop sniggering when they hear it. I understand Ford and Lincoln's desire to distinguish the premium version of this system from the mainstream (even if the only difference between the two is the vehicle they're attached to) but, generally speaking, names that remind people of bedroom paraphernalia are a bad choice.
Fortunately, BlueCruise remains pretty slick. The latest version, 1.2, is available on all three Corsair trims as part of the top-end Collection III package, although customers can't select BC independently of that pricey group. My most recent experience with the system, at the launch of the 2022 F-150 Lightning, was a mixed bag – the system rarely required intervention, but it ping-ponged annoyingly between lane markers. But while BlueCruise has generally felt inferior to General Motors' Super Cruise suite, version 1.2 is a big step forward.
Where the Lightning bounced from side to side, the Corsair's new In-Lane Positioning system, standard in BlueCruise 1.2, kept it mostly centered. The system will still move the Corsair in its lane, but now it's in response to adjacent traffic – come up next to a semi on the right and BlueCruise will push the car to the left side of the Corsair's lane. This behavior feels natural in itself, like the sort of thing a human driver would do.
In-Lane Positioning helped on gentler turns, too, allowing the Corsair to negotiate them with confidence. The car provided plenty of warning in the one case where it needed to disengage, too, showing off its on-highway geofencing as it deactivated ahead of a particularly tricky bit of I-75 that saw traffic merging into both outside lanes on a left-hand bend (A hands-free-equipped Mach-E disengaged for me in the exact same spot, which makes be believe it's an intentional reaction).
And if the computer deems a curve too sharp, BlueCruise 1.2 can now reduce speed to get through it. But like other automakers that offer a similar system for sharp highway bends, the Corsair slows too much and too suddenly. I found it simpler to simply tap the brakes to deactivate the system and navigate the corner myself.
The most impressive addition in BC 1.2 is the automatic lane-change system, which along with the stronger lane-centering puts this version of the hands-free driving software on more even footing with Super Cruise (although GM is starting to roll out a version of the tech that works while towing, which Ford still doesn't have an answer for).
The system won't execute lane changes on its own, like a GMC Hummer EV, although it will suggest one if the conditions are right. The system works here as it does in Mercedes and GM products, requiring a simple flick of the turn-signal stalk to get things going. Once the car recognizes that the lane is open, it slides over with little delay. It was pretty much faultless during a weekend of testing.
Red Alert, On Screen
Lincoln has done some great things with its interior color schemes since launching the Navigator SUV and the Black Label line, and while the Corsair is neither quite as ambitious as its big brother or available with as luxurious a fitment, it's still better for 2023. The Eternal Red upholstery (one of two new upholstery shades) is bold and exciting, matching up exclusive aluminum accents with thoughtful contrast stitching. It's a far better shade than the blacks, grays, and tans that usually accompany compact luxury vehicles.
Lincoln focused the hardware changes for the 2023 Corsair's cabin on the center stack, which adopts a new 13.2-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen (hooray!) while ditching physical buttons and knobs for the climate controls (boooooo!). Aesthetically, this is a winning arrangement.
The polarizing tablet-stapled-to-dashboard look remains, but the larger screen is a far better fit for the Corsair's dash shape, which shows off a fat stack of trim and leather while using negative space to give a sense of depth. The cleaner console below it retains the PRND selector, a volume knob, and a couple quick-access buttons, but it's overall a far cleaner, more mature arrangement.
Functionally, things are less good. While this is Sync 4 – a system my colleagues and I have praised on a bunch of different occasions – Lincoln's decision to integrate the climate settings at the bottom of the screen, where the page icons for the media, navigation, phone, etc. live on other Sync 4-equipped vehicles, makes the whole system more cumbersome. In order to get from, say, the navigation to the radio page, the Corsair requires an additional input. I also had trouble getting between the native infotainment and the Apple CarPlay interface (wireless connectivity is standard, though).
Givin' Her All She's Got
Were you waiting for the 2023 facelift to add a Corsair with its punchy turbocharged 2.3-liter to your garage? Bad news for you, as Lincoln is dropping the more powerful of its two gas engines this year, citing a low take rate and overall consumer preference. The lone gas engine, featured in my tester, is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pumps out a respectable 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
While that's down on the 2.3's 295 ponies and 310 lb-ft, the Corsair continues to come with more standard horsepower and torque than turbocharged 2.0-liter Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Cadillac XT4 (although the rivals from Acura, Alfa Romeo, and Mercedes-Benz pack more oomph). The plug-in-hybrid Grand Touring model remains as well, for folks who want an electrified offering.
The 2.0-liter Corsair is a tough little thing, with plenty of torque off the line and little in the way of turbo lag. It revs willingly and still feels strong even at higher engine speeds. The attached eight-speed automatic is a champ, blending into the background in everyday driving and responding willingly to sudden demands for a lower gear. The arrangement isn't overly thrifty, though, as the 2023 Corsair returns just 21 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 24 combined with all-wheel drive. It's not the least efficient four-cylinder in the class (that distinction goes to the turbocharged 2.5-liter Genesis GV70), but it's not far off.
The handling experience is nothing to write home about either. The steering is vague and the body motions liberal, although the ride quality and low overall NVH levels more than make up for the uninterested cornering. That should suit the average Lincoln consumer just fine.
That's also true of the price tag. The Corsair starts at $40,085, including a $1,395 destination charge, with all-wheel drive adding $2,300 to the price tag. Even at $42,385, though, the Corsair is several thousand dollars cheaper than almost all its all-wheel-drive-equipped competitors. Only the $39,990 Cadillac XT4 undercuts the Corsair. Entries from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Genesis, and Acura demand anywhere from $1,600 (in the case of the RDX) to $6,800 (X3 xDrive30i) more.
But base prices tell only part of the story. Parking a Corsair Reserve with BlueCruise in the driveway is a different story, though. The Reserve trim with all-wheel drive starts at $46,770, and BlueCruise is only available as part of the $10,730 Collection III package. In addition to hands-free driving, owners will score a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated rear seats, and a fantastic Revel audio system, not to mention all the goodies from the Collection II pack, but there's no escaping the frankly huge markup. Collection II demands just $2,940 more than the base Reserve, for crying out loud.
That sums up the primary issue with the most impressive version of the new Corsair – it's expensive in its best form ($60,685 in the case of my tester). Where a lightly optioned X3 or GLC or Stelvio will keep you happy while ultimately doing less to wow than a loaded Corsair, I can't say I'd be quite as happy in a Lincoln without BlueCruise. The top-end package brings almost too much to the table, to the point that ordering it feels more like a prerequisite for purchase than an actual option.
That's probably good news for Lincoln, because I have to imagine the profit margin on a $10,000 option pack is pretty spectacular. But for consumers, well, they're going to be left wondering if BlueCruise is really worth the expense. Maybe my parents have the right idea.
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