Lincoln Corsair PHEV review: A luxury car shouldn’t squeak so much

A white Lincoln Corsair parked next to a wall
Enlarge / We like the interior style, it drives well and is quite efficient. But the build quality of the interior needs work.

Jonathan Gitlin

It probably hasn’t escaped notice that electric vehicles, after capturing everyone’s attention, are sliding a bit into what Gartner calls “the trough of depression.” But as skeptics push back on battery EVs, another style of electrified car appears poised to head back up the slope of enlightenment. Plug-in hybrids are finding a second wind as automakers and regulators look to PHEVs as a way to reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions.

Lincoln’s Corsair Grand Touring isn’t a particularly new PHEV, but since we hadn’t tested one yet and there was an example on the local press fleet, we thought it wise to schedule a week with this compact crossover from one of America’s luxury brands.

The first thing you’ll notice is that, despite what it looks like in photos, this isn’t a huge land ship. The Corsair is 181.4 inches (4,608 mm) long, 76.4 inches (1,941 mm) wide and 64.1 inches (1,628 mm) high, so about the same size as a Toyota RAV4, or six inches shorter than a Tesla Model Y. uses a lot of curved edges, dominated by the large Lincoln grille at the front, with a hint of late-teens Audi SUV.

Under the hood you’ll find a 2.5 liter four-cylinder petrol engine producing 165 hp (123 kW), which uses the more efficient Atkinson cycle and drives the front wheels via a PowerSplit electric CVT transmission. (This uses a pair of electric motors and a single planetary gear set, without clutches, torque converter or rubber belts.) The rear wheels are driven by a permanent magnet synchronous motor that generates 67 hp (50 kW) and 110 lb-ft. (150Nm). (Lincoln has chosen not to reveal a combined torque figure for the powertrain.)

It is a compact crossover, but not particularly cheap.
Enlarge / It is a compact crossover, but not particularly cheap.

Jonathan Gitlin

The electric motor is powered by a 14.4 kWh lithium-ion traction battery, consisting of 84 prismatic cells. Charging time is 10–11 hours if you only have access to a 120V socket, or between 3–4 hours with a 240V Level 2 charger. In practice, 3.5 hours on a level 2 charger was enough to give me a full battery. If you prefer, you can also put the Corsair Grand Touring into Preserve mode, which uses reserve engine power to top up the battery, up to approximately 75 percent charge. (Like most PHEVs, the Corsair Grand Tourer has a reserve, meaning that even if it doesn’t have enough charge to run on electricity alone, the powertrain will still function as a hybrid and the electric motor will still engage at low speeds and as a boost.)

When fully charged, the EPA rating gives the Corsair Grand Touring a range of 27 miles (electric only). But our time with the Corsair Grand Touring was scheduled for late December, and the cold weather at the time had other thoughts. After a full charge, the smallest Lincoln reported an electric range of 23 miles, which dropped to 21 miles after a few blocks. Like BEVs, PHEV powertrains also suffer in range when temperatures approach freezing.

In fact, all Vehicles suffer worse fuel economy in freezing temperatures, and the U.S. Department of Energy points out that even hybrids can be up to 45 percent less efficient during short trips in cold weather. Gasoline consumption is rated at a combined 33mpg (7.13L/100km), but here I saw even 38mpg (6.19L/100km) on short journeys even with a dead battery. The cold weather also meant that the car would turn on the engine even if there was still charge in the battery, presumably to support battery heating and cooling – another common PHEV feature in winter.

The clamshell tailgate is currently a design feature of Lincoln SUV.
Enlarge / The clamshell tailgate is currently a design feature of Lincoln SUV.

Jonathan Gitlin

For most of the week I used Normal or Conserve driving modes; the latter is the eco setting with a softer throttle response. There’s also an Excite mode, which revs the engine and keeps the battery cooled for better performance, plus sharper throttle response and more weight on the steering. But the Corsair Grand Touring still weighs 4,000 pounds (1,994 kg), 500 pounds (255 kg) more than the non-hybrid AWD Corsair, and driving it like a sports car didn’t seem in keeping with Lincoln’s vibe.

On road, the ride was smooth and well controlled, although certainly on the softer side. Fortunately, at highway speeds, there was no excessive tire noise or airflow around the car. Lincoln says its designers were “obsessed with every detail to create a haven for the senses,” and in that regard they did a pretty good job.

I must also commend the interior design team: the mix of brown leather and aluminum trim work well together. Unfortunately, with just 12,000 miles on the odometer, our test car creaked and rattled more than any other car I’ve driven in recent years. The culprit seemed to be the dashboard, or something behind it, which registered its protest with every bump or jolt that passed the adaptive suspension.

For a model that has been in production for a while, it’s not unreasonable to expect better quality, especially with a starting price of $53,925.

In fact, our test car tipped $65,390, thanks in large part to the $8,675 Collection III package that added (among other things) Lincoln ActiveGlide, the brand name for parent company Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driver assistance. This works as well as BlueCruise in other recent Fords we’ve tested and only works on pre-assigned limited-access highways, and the car’s user interface does a good job of indicating which mode you’re in, so there’s no confusion.

While I commend the UI stuff, I’ll add the infotainment to the list: the interface and fonts are clear but also aesthetically pleasing and suit the vaguely art deco look and feel of the car. Amazon Alexa is included as a voice assistant (with three years of free connectivity), but I imagine most drivers will just use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Despite the cold weather and its detrimental effect on battery range, I ended my week with warm feelings for the Corsair Grand Touring. It’s an example of a luxury car that isn’t trying to be a sports car at the same time, and I’ve already described how much I like the interior. But the amount of creaking and rattling in the cabin isn’t really acceptable for a car with just a year of experience, and the sticker price is quite high, even though the car qualifies for a $3,750 IRS tax credit for clean vehicles.

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