• New name for a refreshed crossover SUV
  • Fresh styling, inside and out
  • Available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine
  • Base price of $41,335

 

Lincoln debuted the 2nd-generation MKX, a midsize crossover SUV, in 2016. Although it shared its chassis, most underpinnings, and powertrains with the Ford Edge, none of the exterior or interior body panels were common to its close cousin. The interior was also enhanced with premium materials, more sound deadening, and upscale technology. Consumers found a lot to like with the MKX, making it Lincoln’s hottest-selling model by 2017.

This year, with sales slightly trailing the MKC, Lincoln treated the MKX to a comprehensive mid-cycle refresh – and changed its name to Nautilus in the process.

New Name, New Styling, and a New Theme

The new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus – sporting an attractive star-mesh grille like its big brother, the Navigator – now aligns with Lincoln’s new signature look. The freshened exterior, with a hint of European styling, is cohesive, modern, and downright handsome. Its physical attributes are complemented by new exterior lighting that greets the driver on approach to the vehicle.

Also new-for-2019 is Gala, a Black Label theme. Lincoln Black Label is a trim level for the brand’s most discerning customers, who are seeking the ultimate in personalization. Gala, with its deep color and rich textures, joins Chalet and Thoroughbred – the other Black Label options.

A Roomy and Comfortable Interior

Passengers will find the Nautilus cabin spacious and welcoming, with generous storage opportunities and thoughtful amenities. The driver and front passenger are offered optional 22-way power seats, complete with heating, cooling and massage features — they take a few minutes to adjust, but are immensely comfortable once properly fine-tuned. Second-row passengers, even those over 6-feet tall, won’t feel cramped as the Lincoln provides plenty of head, knee (the backs of the front seats are sculpted out), and toe room for those who aren’t driving – even the middle seat, with a flat cushion, is habitable (air vents, on the rear of the center console, ensure adequate heating and cooling).

Lincoln switchgear and ergonomics, which include a vertical panel for the transmission controls and an engine start button just off the driver’s right knee, take some getting used to. The same can be said for the digital primary instrument cluster, which appears to favor a high-tech appearance over ease and functionality.

The rear power-operated tailgate raises to reveal a carpeted cargo hold. While the liftover is high, the cargo area is both wide and deep – a family of four will be able to load all their luggage without difficulty. If more room is needed, the second row of seats split 60/40 and fold down at the touch of buttons located on the rear cargo hold wall.

A Choice Between Two Turbocharged Engines

Last year’s MKX was offered with a naturally-aspirated 3.7-liter V6 (303 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque) and a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 (335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque) that were both mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The new Nautilus drops the 3.7-liter engine in favor of an advanced turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that develops 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter returns, with both engines now mated to a more-efficient 8-speed automatic.

Lincoln admits that the Nautilus has gained some weight over its MKX predecessor, mostly due to the heavier gearbox. Mash the throttle from a standstill – with either engine – and there’s a slight delay as the SUV breaks inertia and turbo boost builds. The 4-cylinder pulls better than the discontinued 3.7-liter V6 ever did, with smooth shifts and a satisfactory acceleration rate up to highway speeds – passing is unproblematic too. The 6-cylinder pulls even stronger, but neither will ever be called "neck-snapping" in terms of acceleration – partly because the new Nautilus is slightly heavier than the outgoing model.

Most curious are the vehicle’s fuel-efficiency numbers. The 2.0-liter (EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/25) is more efficient around town, while the 2.7-liter (EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/27) is more efficient on the highway. This is because the smaller engine is more frugal with its consumption in stop-and-go traffic, while the larger engine isn’t working as hard at speed. That said, we’d recommend the 2.0-liter engine for most owners as it’s perfectly adequate unless you intend to use your Nautilus for towing (both models are rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds).

Driving Dynamics that Assist and Calm, Not Thrill

The Nautilus arrives with standard Lincoln Co-Pilot360, which is a suite of advanced driver-assist features that include a Blind Spot Information System, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, and a lane-keeping system. Lane centering, which helps the driver keep the vehicle in the middle of its respective lane, and evasive steer assist, are also available.

Driving the Nautilus confirms its luxury mission. At speed, the midsize luxury SUV does its best to isolate its passengers from the outside world, with acoustic glass helping to keep wind and tire noise to a minimum. On smooth surfaces the 5-seater glides down the road, but the ride deteriorates slightly when the road surface worsens. Adaptive dampers, with three driver-adjustable settings (Comfort, Normal and Sport), help reduce some of the minor harshness.

The steering is nicely-weighted, but hyper-sensitive off center. Minor steering corrections are smooth and predictable, but a quick turn – as if avoiding an obstacle in the road – delivers an unproportionable amount of turn-in that is completely unnatural. The standard wheels are 18-inch alloys, and these deliver the best ride. Premium grades arrive with much larger 20- and 21-inch wheels. The upgrade is cosmetic, as the larger wheels sport tires that are only marginally wider. Body roll is minimal in the corners, with the tires delivering an unexpected level of cornering tenacity – though we’d imagine that few owners will push their Nautilus to that level, as its handling competency lacks excitement.

A Comprehensive Luxury-Oriented Ownership Experience

Nautilus owners receive the full complement of Lincoln’s luxury services with ownership, including Pickup and Delivery services for scheduled services and maintenance work – saving both time and money. A mobile-based app called Lincoln Way allows owners to locate, lock, unlock and start their vehicles remotely, features that are becoming commonplace in the luxury segment. However, Lincoln’s app also monitors fuel levels, delivers tire pressures, and it allows the owner to make vehicle payments and pay for services. Lastly, the automaker has an arrangement with CLEAR – the company that expedites airport check-in – for a free trial subscription with vehicle ownership.

The new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus arrives in showrooms this fall. The Nautilus starts at $41,335 (including destination) for the base model and tops out at $57,890 for the Black Label trim.

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