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Cruising down the road on a blissful and silent wave of electric power, the 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring makes sense. The attractive body and pleasant cabin are indistinguishable from the gas model, but a 14.4-kilowatt-hour battery promises 28 miles of all-electric range and qualifies the Corsair for a welcome federal income-tax credit. It certainly seems like a compelling alternative to the gas-only model, despite a well-publicized delay.
And then, like the din of a lawnmower breaking the quiet of a lazy afternoon, the 2.5-liter gas engine fires up and our enjoyment fades. Like Lincoln’s other Grand Touring-badged plug-in hybrid, the Aviator Grand Touring, this Corsair is a good idea that sacrifices refinement for electrification. Disregard the droning engine and there’s plenty to like here, but that’s a big ask in what’s supposed to be a luxury vehicle.
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Gallery: 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring: Review
Automakers shouting from the rooftops that their car is electrified is all well and good, but we admire those that choose the plug without making radical design changes. Aside from a charge port ahead of the driver’s door and a blue tint to the “CORSAIR” wordmark on the front fenders, the Grand Touring is indistinguishable from the gas-only model.
And that’s fine – the Corsair is a handsome vehicle, distinct from its Blue Oval-badged sibling, the Ford Escape. Adopting an Aviator-inspired snout with a fresh take on the traditional waterfall grille (which now features a mesh look), the Corsair’s best angle isn’t from the front or sides, but from the rear quarter. A rising beltline, descending roofline, and attractive haunches give the rear a squat, sporty look while a vehicle-wide light bar connects it all and serves as the foundation for the prominent Lincoln badging on the tailgate. This is a fine-looking compact CUV.
Lincoln left the cabin alone, retaining the same attractive materials as the standard car. Our tester’s Cashew leather contrasts nicely with the strip of faux metal in the inset dash – the sensation of depth there is less dramatic than in a Navigator or Aviator, but it’s still a welcome design touch. Less welcome are the mess of buttons and knobs on the center console and the smallish 8.0-inch display propped atop the center stack like a billboard.
And there are some build quality concerns too. Those buttons have dull action and the overuse of piano black plastic trim is disappointing. More damning are the jiggly knobs – an element rotates around a fixed center, but every surround feels loose. The Corsair’s cabin is competitive relative to the Infiniti QX50 or aging Mercedes-Benz GLC, which have some chintzy aspects too, but it falls short of the segment leaders like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 26.9 / 56.2 Cubic Feet
On electric power, the Corsair GT is unquestionably the most refined member of Lincoln’s compact line. Its control of wind and tire noise is excellent, and aside from the pedestrian warning thrum at low speeds, you’ll zip along in pleasant isolation. Run the battery down, though, and the port-injected, Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter engine fires into life with an incessant low-amplitude drone that’s grating, especially if you enjoy podcasts or talk radio. A gas-only Corsair’s NVH is dramatically better.
That’s a sizable shortcoming, but the Corsair does make up on the comfort front in other ways. The front seats could use more padding but wow with the availability of 24-way adjustability, heating/ventilation, and an impressive massage function. Notably for fans of having their backsides caressed by a bunch of motors, the massager will run until you tell it to stop.
Moving to the plug-in model doesn’t sacrifice cargo volume, with the Corsair retaining the gas model’s 26.9-cubic-foot trunk. There are a few cubbies and decent door pockets in the cabin, so the Corsair GT is as capable of managing your stuff. The second-row bench seat will accommodate a pair of adults, with plenty of head and legroom (38.4 and 36.7 inches for the number lovers). Those figures are down on the Audi Q5 PHEV (39.3 and 38.0 inches), but only the tallest folks will struggle in the Corsair’s second row.
The Corsair GT sacrifices none of the standard car’s ride quality, either. It comes with 19-inch wheels and adaptive dampers as standard, although our tester wore handsome 20-inch alloys. Even with the larger wheels, the Corsair is compliant and poised over bumps, with excellent body control even after larger impacts. Take this Lincoln up to 80 miles per hour and it feels impressively stable, too.
- Center Display: 8.0-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 12.3-inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
Despite the Corsair Grand Touring being new for 2021, Ford delayed it and the Escape variant following a debut at the 2019 LA Auto Show. At the time, the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Sync 3 OS would have been competitive, but in 2021 this setup’s age is starting to show. The Corsair’s display is underwhelming in terms of screen size, and the shape of the dash and mounting of the screen don’t help matters. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto require wires, too, which is inconvenient in 2021.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is standard on the Corsair Grand Touring, but we’d rather have physical gauges since the display lacks adjustability, featuring just a speedo and no other powertrain data – we’d love a tachometer to know what that noisy gas engine is up to. The setup also wastes a huge amount of space. It’s just an empty, black collection of nothingness. What’s the point of a digital cluster if you only show three things using 40 percent of the screen?
The underwhelming tech suite aside, the Corsair GT does come with some neat kit. Phone As A Key has the most underwhelming name in the auto industry but it does what the name claims, effectively replacing a physical key fob with your compatible smartphone. The available 14-speaker Revel audio system also deserves some praise, delivering crisp and all-encompassing sound better than any other stereo in the segment.
- Engine: 2.5-liter I4 w/ Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
- Output: 266 Horsepower
- Transmission: eCVT
The plug-in Corsair may attach a pair of famously sporty letters to its name and feature a real, honest-to-Abe sport driving mode, but a fast or exciting vehicle it is not. That’s doubly disappointing considering the Aviator Grand Touring easily outpaces its gas-only sibling. In fact, the best word for its performance is “serviceable.” The combo of that obnoxious 2.5-liter gas engine, a 14.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery, and two transmission-mounted electric motors results in 266 horsepower, or 29 fewer than a Corsair with the optional turbocharged 2.3-liter engine.
“But,” you say, “the torque is immediate.” And sure, the Corsair gets off the line ably and responds quickly once rolling. But the battery and motors balloon this crossover’s weight from 3,848 pounds with the aforementioned gas engine to 4,532 pounds in Grand Touring trim, and that’s just too darn much for 266 hp and however many pound-feet of torque (Lincoln doesn’t publish the Corsair’s torque figures). Instead, surrender any pretense of speed, pretend Matthew McConaughey is narrating your journey, and relax. While the Corsair Grand Touring won’t get anywhere fast, it will get there smoothly.
Lincoln has polished out powertrain handoffs to the point that extra noise is the only sign something is amiss. Unlike the Aviator, which features a traditional 10-speed automatic gearbox, the Corsair GT uses an electronic CVT that is better at juggling power. This is a more conventional setup for a hybrid (plug-in or otherwise) and Lincoln’s engineers tuned it well, hiding all the bad manners that can result from asking a gas engine and electric motor to be coworkers. Also worth mentioning? Standard all-wheel drive, with an electric motor sending power aft.
The Corsair’s brakes are another hybrid thing handled well. They lack the grabby regen function that typifies the breed, feeling far more natural whether in heavy traffic or when panic braking on the freeway. Aside from the droning engine, Lincoln has truly nailed the overall refinement of this hybrid setup.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Five Stars Overall
- IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick
In spite of its aging tech suite, the Corsair’s active safety system is both modern and exceptionally well-integrated. Every Corsair Grand Touring model comes standard with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and lane-keep assist, but $2,500 adds the full Co-Pilot 360 Plus suite and introduces full-speed adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, evasive steering assist, and automatic parallel parking.
Stick the Corsair on a highway and its active safety systems dramatically reduces the burden on the driver. There is zero side-to-side movement as the systems keep the car perfectly centered. Responses to sudden impediments are excellent, with the ACC system dialing in an appropriate amount of brake to slow down, and once the obstacle is clear, acceleration is predictable and safe.
- Combined Gas Equivalent: 78 MPGe
- Combined: 33 MPG
- EV Range: 28 Miles
The EPA rates the Corsair Grand Touring’s combined fuel economy at 78 miles per gallon equivalent and 33 mpg when operating with the engine on. That’s better than the Audi Q5 PHEV (50 MPGe/27 mpg). The Lincoln also exceeds its Teutonic rival on EV range, netting 28 miles to a charge versus 19 miles (although both fall well below our 35-mile target range for this class).
Our real-world experience broadly matched the EPA predictions. After topping off the battery, we set out in Normal mode and covered 21 miles on electric power on a chilly October day and in mixed conditions along a suburban arterial road and a major highway. The next morning was colder, but we repeated the scenario using the Conserve drive mode on surface streets and then activating the Preserve EV drive mode to lock in gas power for the highway work. We covered 29 miles, despite a high average speed and the heated seat/steering wheel going at full chat.
The Corsair returned a computer-indicated 50.4 miles per gallon over 175 miles and we covered almost half that distance on electrical power alone. The adequate charge speed helped on that front. According to Lincoln, it will take a 240-volt Level 2 charger three hours to recharge a depleted battery – our experience with a Grizzl-E Classic charger bore that out, as the Corsair happily guzzled electrons and provided usable real-world range.
- Base Price: $50,390 + $1,095 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $51,485
- As-Tested Price: $61,730
Prices for the Corsair Grand Touring start at $51,485 (including a $1,095 destination charge). There are no trim levels here, just packages to choose. Our loaded tester, complete with all the active safety gear, the Revel audio system, and massaging seats came out to $61,730. That’s a pricey sum for a slow luxury crossover, but it matched the Audi Q5 PHEV we tested a few weeks prior – that vehicle, in a mid-range trim, retailed for $60,740.
The Corsair Grand Touring is eligible for a federal income-tax credit, but it amounts to $6,843, rather than the full $7,500. That’s still a healthy savings and brings the Corsair Grand Touring closer to the starting price of a similarly equipped, gas-powered Corsair Reserve ($41,920). There are certainly other ways to drive this SUV’s price down, though.
We’d happily drop the optional 20-inch wheels, which carry a gasp-inducing $2,000 price tag. Similarly, the $695 Flight Blue paint is very pretty, but so are the four no-cost options. The big-ticket packages are hard to say no to, though. Lincoln requires the $3,900 Elements Technology pack to score the Revel audio system and head-up display, which are part of a $2,200 package. And we’d absolutely want the $2,500 Co-Pilot active safety system. All told, the best value in the Corsair GT line is darn close to our test model’s price.
Corsair Grand Touring Competitor Reviews:
- Audi Q5 PHEV: 8.2/10
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