Back in the Seventies, if you wanted to splash-out on a top-of-the-line Lincoln, you bought yourself a Bill Blass Edition. Or maybe a Gucci. Or even a Pucci. Seriously.
The interiors came with so much crushed red velour you’d swear you were driving from the inside of a trombone case.
Fast forward to 2016 – wow, is it 2016 already? – and if you want the height of Lincoln luxury, you now check the box for a Black Label model.
This is Lincoln’s latest and most focused attempt at reminding buyers that its sedans and SUVs are so much more than humble Fords with a fancy winged grille.
Yes, Black Label models come with lashings of exotic woods and the finest cow. But Black Label also includes everything from home or office collection for servicing, to complimentary anytime car washes and once-a-year, top-to-toe detailing.
It’s also about a Black Label specialist coming round to your house to help you with your color and material selections. Or welcoming you to a special, Black Label studio at the dealership for a true, Bentley-style bespoke service.
Or giving you VIP access to some of the top restaurants across the land that are part of the Lincoln Culinary Collection.
I’ve just spent a week piloting the Black Label version of Lincoln’s MKC compact sport-ute and I must say the experience felt rather special.
And not because of all this ‘concierge’ nonsense. No, it’s because the changes, the modifications, the attention to detail transforms the Lexus RX-sized MKC into a best-of-the-best luxury vehicle.
Just open the driver’s door and gaze upon the lovely, rich open-pore wood trim; brush your fingers over the exquisite Bridge of Weir leather from the Highlands of Scotland.
Buyers get to chose between no fewer than six interior ‘themes’ that mix different colors and materials. Everything from ‘Modern Heritage’ with its funky black and white leathers and crimson stitching, to the equestrian-themed ‘Thoroughbred’ with its mix of jet black and chestnut leather.
But there’s much more substance behind all this style. Like the single-minded focus on hushing the cabin.
It features everything from active noise control that cancels-out distracting sound waves, to acoustic glass in the windshield and side windows, to super-dense sound-deadening materials behind the trim.
Power comes from Ford’s feisty new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, similar to the one the powers the latest Mustang. It cranks out a meaty 285 horses and gives the MKC spunky acceleration and refined, relaxed highway cruising.
It’s even a blast through the curves, thanks to its precise steering, a swift-shifting six-speed automatic and Lincoln’s Drive Control adaptive suspension with its stiffer Sport mode.
Price-wise the MKC Black Label stickers at a class-competitive $48,700, which is just $5,995 over the price of the loaded MKC Reserve model. But start checking a few options boxes and you’ll quickly get to the lofty $57,500 of our tester.
Whether all this is enough to convince compact luxury SUV buyers to give-up their Lexus RX350s, or Acura MDXs, or Audi Q5s, or Cadillac SRXs is hard to predict. I think if Lincoln can get buyers into the showroom and behind the wheel, they have a chance.
Certainly this is a new benchmark in luxury from Lincoln. Just don’t mention Bill Blass to the sales person.