The push for electrification is penetrating every corner of the automotive universe, and the action is not limited to EVs. It's helping to spur a new generation of plug-in-hybrid vehicles, from blisteringly quick supercars to plug-in SUVs in the hot-selling compact luxury crossover segment. Established players such as Audi, Lexus, and Volvo have new or freshly updated entries in that latter group, and now Lincoln also has joined the mix with its Corsair Grand Touring model.
At Lincoln, "Grand Touring" denotes a plug-in hybrid, and the 2021 Corsair is the second model to don the title, following the three-row Aviator Grand Touring that debuted for the 2020 model year. Like its larger counterpart, the Corsair Grand Touring is positioned at the top of the lineup, its base price of $51,485 being more than $5000 dearer than the penultimate Reserve model with all-wheel drive. Unlike the 494-hp Aviator PHEV, however, Lincoln doesn't bill the Corsair Grand Touring as a hot rod but as a more fuel-efficient variant with an EPA-estimated 28 miles of electric range.
That marketing angle is for the best, as the Corsair PHEV's 165-hp Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter inline-four, two electric motors, and 14.4-kWh battery pack produce just 266 horsepower in total. That's 16 horses more than you get from the Corsair's standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four but 29 less than from its optional 2.3-liter turbo four. We've previously tested both of those engines in all-wheel-drive models, and both reached 60 mph in about six seconds. The Grand Touring's electric hardware, however, adds 600 pounds compared to the weight of the 2.0-liter model—our test car weighed a hefty 4588 pounds—which contributes to a noticeably slower 7.0-second run to 60 mph.
There's some inherent mushiness to this Lincoln's standard continuously variable transmission (other Corsairs employ an eight-speed automatic). But the all-wheel-drive-only Grand Touring is adequately quick for day-to-day driving, with the low-down surge from its electric motors—a 129-hp unit up front plus a 67-hp motor that solely powers the rear axle on demand—making it nearly as fleet on the move as the 2.3-liter model. The Grand Touring's rolling-start, 5-to-60-mph time is only 0.2 second behind its more powerful sibling, and both models accelerate from 50 to 70 mph in the same 4.3 seconds.
Activate the Grand Touring's Pure EV drive mode and go easy on the right pedal, and it can motor around town solely on electrons without holding up traffic. Prod it too hard in electric-only mode, and the gas engine will fire up for assistance, but there's enough juice available to (leisurely) merge onto the highway and brush 85 mph. Conversely, you can maintain the battery's charge for later use by toggling to Preserve EV mode, which, combined with pleasantly linear regenerative braking capability, slowly recharges the pack by keeping the engine running all the time.
Freezing temperatures prevented us from performing our usual range and 75-mph highway fuel-economy tests, but the Corsair Grand Touring's combined EPA estimates—78 MPGe under gas and electric power and 33 mpg with the battery depleted—are well above the 24- to 25-mpg combined ratings of lesser Corsairs. They also put the GT midpack among its far more powerful peers. The redesigned Lexus NX450h+ is good for an official 84 MPGe/35 mpg, while the more performance-oriented Audi Q5 55 and Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge earn only 61 MPGe/26 mpg and 57 MPGe/25 mpg, respectively. So far, we've only tested the 362-hp Audi, which dashed to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and averaged 26 MPGe in our hands. We saw 24 MPGe with the Corsair Grand Touring, illustrating how varied a plug-in hybrid's fuel economy can be depending on the charge of its battery and how you use it. When the pack is depleted, Lincoln says it takes about 10 to 11 hours to recharge via a standard 110-volt outlet and three to four hours from a 240-volt outlet. Filling its small 11.2-gallon fuel tank takes only a couple of minutes.
The Grand Touring's visual cues consist of a subtle blue finish to the Corsair's exterior badges plus available model-specific 20-inch wheels that cost an extra $2000 (19s are standard.) A dusting of snow kept us off the skidpad, but the previous 2.3-liter test car on similar 20-inch Continental CrossContact LX Sport all-season tires posted a so-so 0.83 g of grip. It also recorded a 165-foot stop from 70 mph—seven feet shorter than what the heavier plug-in model could manage.
The Grand Touring exhibits the same pillowy ride and noticeable body roll as lesser Corsairs, as well as uninspired steering that's short on feedback. The big wheels and standard adaptive dampers return a generally plush ride, despite some clomping over frost heaves and pavement seams. The ambiance of this Lincoln's interior is upset more by the intrusive noise of its gas engine firing up. Though the 75 decibels our sound meter recorded at full throttle is only one to two decibels louder than in the two nonhybrid models, the coarse groan of the PHEV's naturally aspirated four-banger is unbecoming of a luxury vehicle and five decibels greater than we recorded in Audi's plug-in Q5. At 70 mph, the 68 decibels inside the Grand Touring ties the 2.3-liter version as the loudest of the bunch.
Also somewhat disappointing is the Grand Touring's tech interface with its rather small 8.0-inch center touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that often renders as much dead space as information. Controlling that touchscreen via the two joystick toggles on the steering wheel takes more practice than we'd like, as do the pushbutton shifter controls tucked away in the center of the dash. These are minor issues considering the Corsair Grand Touring's starting price, which undercuts those of its key rivals by several thousand dollars. But add its optional wheels, head-up display, and fancy 24-way-adjustable seats—not to mention basic luxuries such as a heated steering wheel—and this Lincoln underwhelms at an as-tested $61,035. Along with a commitment to regularly plugging it in, one must show restraint with the electrified Corsair's options for it to be compelling.