For buyers demanding comfort and technology in their mid-sized crossover
By: Brian Makse
January 7, 2019
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Good: Modern, American luxury design and finishes.
What’s Bad: Dated dashboard design.
Lincoln is doubling down on crossovers and SUVs for the future and the design language is completely unified across the range. Lincoln’s crossovers personify the modern American luxury crossover with their Don Draper good looks and athletic lines.
Much like other luxury automakers, Lincoln is indeed slicing and dicing the crossover segments with sizes from small to double extra large. The Nautilus slots in above the MKC (rumoured to be renamed Corsair in the near future) and under the upcoming Aviator and the top-of-the range Navigator.
The latest generation MKX has been available for a couple of years, but the opportunity for this light refresh includes aligning this mid-sized luxe crossover to Lincoln’s new nomenclature. More importantly, the Nautilus refines the MKX’s overall aesthetic with details that are a little sharper. It appears as if it’s gone to the gym for a few months and pumped some iron.
It’s not just a simple refresh, mind you, because Lincoln knows exactly where they’re going with their product – the future. It’s a future where drivers want to sit taller with good visibility, be coddled in luxury, and be supported by the latest technology.
Unlike decades ago when engine choice was a carefully considered decision, in this future, the type of engine no longer matters and, to be fair, buyers aren’t concerned, nor should they be. Under the hood of your Nautilus, you have your choice of a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder or a 335-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 2.7-litre V6, which is the engine of choice.
Both engines are disciples of twist, making peak torque around 3,000 RPM giving them plenty of mid-range passing power. Between these engines, one consideration is that the V6 is inherently more refined with its smoother operation due to more combustion cycles per revolution. If you like the idea of the extra 85 horses and 100 pounds of torque that the V6 delivers over the four, you’ll enjoy the additional real-world passing power.
For the Canadian market, Nautilus is available exclusively with all-wheel drive, while our friends to the south can choose between front- or all-wheel drive.
With the range of new and updated SUVs, Lincoln is telling the story of the American luxury automobile and that’s something very unique in the segment. The story they’re working to tell is a throwback to that era of magnificent automobiles, Mad Men, and the romance of the open road. When you look at the Nautilus, you see those athletic lines and those fine details, but it’s more than that now.
For example, one of the features that lends a feeling of comfort is Lincoln Embrace. When you approach your Nautilus at night, first the lights switch on, then the door handles, then the interior lights, and even the seatbelts. It’s meant to make you feel safe and welcome. And it does.
The interior of the Nautilus doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor, with its push button shifter, which is unfortunately not as modern as the rest of the vehicle. Materials are pleasing and overall it’s a very inviting cabin. Leather is Bridge of Weir, regarded as some of the best in the business.
Infotainment tech is based around the latest Sync 3, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as native Waze integration. Lincoln also offers an app that allows the expected remote and scheduled starts, among other features, and it’s exceptionally simple to set up.
Much of that onboard tech is expected today, but what’s noteworthy is the optional driver assistance systems and while it includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, there are a couple of interesting features. No longer do you need to know how to park, because this system will do it for you – in both parallel and perpendicular parking spots.
The lane centering function sounds like a great idea, but I’m not quite sure if it’s ready for prime time yet. For the most part, the system works great, but there were times when it became confused on the curvy roads of British Columbia’s gorgeous Vancouver Island. Thankfully, it’s switchable and until the next firmware update, I’d leave it switched off.
With Nautilus, Lincoln is debuting its evasive steer assist and think of it as a next step in crash avoidance assistance. Similar to when a vehicle will brake in an emergency situation, Nautilus will steer to avoid an object if it can’t be mitigated by braking alone. There wasn’t an opportunity to evaluate the system during this brief test drive, but assuming it works, this is as good an idea as emergency braking support.
On the low tech side of things, Nautilus is a crossover and some people like to tow with their crossovers, which this one does, but it’s limited to just 3,500 pounds. That’s a small trailer or a pair of PWCs, if you like.
Behind the wheel, the first thing you notice about Nautilus is that it’s exceptionally quiet. Lincoln has clearly paid attention to the details when it comes to NVH. Sitting at a stoplight and idling it’s near silent. At freeway speeds, tire and wind noise are at a minimum. Ride quality is excellent and body motion is well controlled, but rest assured Nautilus is tuned for a comfortable ride. Lincoln isn’t paying lip service to making drivers and passengers feel comfortable. They’ve achieved it here.
On the drive across Vancouver Island from Nanaimo to Tofino, the highway presented a variety of challenging corners and Nautilus turns, brakes, and handles respectably, but don’t expect the sharp responses of a sports car. Comfort is the name of the game here.
Yes, there are different drive modes, but they don’t stray to far from the Nautilus’ preferred comfort orientation. This V6-powered luxe crossover is sporting enough to go quickly, should you ever have the need for speed, but it’s better to just enjoy the comfortable and quiet ride while being coddled in luxury.
Lincoln’s very deliberate decision to focus on offering attractive and competent crossovers and SUVs might just be the ticket for the brand. For buyers demanding comfort and technology in their mid-sized crossover, Nautilus fills their needs, is enjoyable to drive, and looks good doing it.