By Amos Kwon
on 6.30.14

Establishing a strong brand identity is a bitch. For carmakers, it seems to be even more of an uphill battle. Even established brands find the task is like rolling a boulder to a perilous mountaintop and then straining to hold it there; for unestablished brands, it’s like doing that in flip flops. Not only do they have to worry about creating or maintaining an identity that can effectively permeate an entire lineup, they’ve got to worry about the other guy, who already has his identity cemented in the minds of consumers. And that’s where we find the ailing Lincoln Motor Company today as they release their new 2015 MKC ($33,100).

MORE LINCOLNS (AND SOME OTHERS): A Survey of the Best Automotive Features, Ever | The Lincoln Continental, An Enduring Benchmark of ’60s Style | Lincoln’s Big Bet on the New MKZ

There are exactly three things working against a Lincoln Motor Company luxury crossover. First, a lot of pressure is riding on the new MKC to be the end-all for Lincoln by expressing their identity and design language better than any car in their current stable. Second, it’s quite late to a game that’s already filled with impressive competitors. The BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60 have all been on the market long enough to have a strong foothold and have style and utllity on their side. The third is the fact that it’s from the Lincoln Motor Company, a brand that’s working its ass off to re-establish itself on the automotive landscape and redefine itself as a legitimate alternative to the European luxury brands.

The MKC’s excellent execution is even more stunning when you consider that it’s related to the awful MKT, a weird crossover that looks like a bastard child of a hearse and a stapler.

In spite of those hurdles, the brand new MKC seems to be a home run for LMC, a contender in the fastest growing segment in the auto industry and a product that could very well redefine the Detroit luxury carmaker. It fixes the MKS’s winged grill, which looked like a 21st century Pringles mustache, by incorporating a sleeker, wider design. Its fascia is crisp with simple but elegant fog lamp housings. The body is taut with appropriate haunches front and rear. It possesses a similar silhouette to the supremely successful Audi Q5 (not a bad move, really). The rear of the MKC is uniform with the front of the car — the lights are tastefully done, slender and sexy, almost an American Porsche Macan in their execution. The interior is only one of the finest American cabins in the industry; rather than trying to copy the Europeans’ lead, Lincoln went their own way, with a large and flowing center stack, gorgeous materials lining the door and a steering wheel that’s deserving of Lincoln’s luxury status. Nothing seems overstyled. This is a shocking execution when you consider that this car is related to the awful MKT, a weird crossover that looks like a bastard child of a hearse and a stapler.

That this car doesn’t look anything like a gussied-up Ford Escape — the vehicle on which the MKC is based — was a vital success for Lincoln, especially because they’ve spent minimal efforts to separate their products from their parent company (Ford) in the past. (This departure is also notable, to a slightly lesser extent, in the MKZ.)

In surpassing this hurdle, LMC has made a flagship out of a non-flagship car and proved to the world that they can create a wholly original design in a tough segment. In fact, it looks so good and meets the demands of its intended customer base so perfectly that it hardly matters how it drives. The right die has been cast, and thank goodness for Lincoln — their much-predicted doom may be proven wrong thanks to the MKC.