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Detroit Auto Show: Lincoln unveils MKC crossover concept

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Lincoln pulled the cover off a concept crossover dubbed the MKC on Sunday morning ahead of the Detroit Auto Show. But don't put too much stock in the whole "concept" part.

Based on the same platform that underpins the compact Ford Escape crossover, the MKC will almost certainly be the next release from Lincoln.

Though Lincoln called the concept merely an "indication of a future Lincoln product," a production version of the MKC would likely look nearly identical and go on sale within a year. That would follow Lincoln's modus operandi at last year's Detroit Auto Show, when it showed off a "concept" of the MKZ sedan -- a production version that is on sale now.

PHOTOS: Lincoln MKC concept SUV

Also telling is the near-production quality of this concept's interior. Although some concepts feature outlandish designs and materials unfit for actual production, the inside of the MKC is a near carbon-copy of other production Lincolns on the market today. This includes the touch-screen navigation system and the console-mounted transmission shift buttons.

The concept also features upscale interior touches such as genuine wood trim infused with metallic flakes, embroidered leather seats and chrome accents.

Lincoln was mum on the MKC's powertrain options, but it's likely the base engine would be some form of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the premium level Ford Escape. In that application, the engine makes 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and comes in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive applications.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2013 Detroit Auto Show

Even though the MKC will share a platform and likely at least one engine variant with the lesser Ford Escape, Lincoln was quick to point out that the vehicles had little in common.

"We are not rebadging vehicles," Kate Pearce, Lincoln's marketing manager, said in an interview ahead of the MKC's Monday reveal. "We are building them from the ground up. They really aren't anything like one another."

Pearce said the MKC was the first vehicle to be designed in Lincoln's all-new design studio in Dearborn, Mich. Max Wolff, Lincoln's design director, was the pen behind the vehicle's look.

That design shares much of its DNA with the front of the current MKZ sedan, including what Lincoln calls the split-wing grille. The MKC concept flanks this grille with narrow LED headlights.

At the back, the sleek LED taillights extend horizontally across the large lift gate. The modern look is one of the more handsome designs to come out of any Lincoln studio in recent memory.

Assuming it's produced, Lincoln expects the MKC to compete against other premium compact SUVs, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and the Audi Q5. Lincoln is keen to jump into this segment, saying that sales of small luxury SUVs grew by almost 60% in 2012 and more than 200% in the last four years.

This is just one of four segments Lincoln hopes to enter with all-new products over the next four years. The Chinese market is also a factor in the company's expanding product lineup; Lincoln says its vehicles will go on sale there in the second half of 2014.

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