- What’s Good: handsome, understated luxury, well-appointed
- What’s Bad: interior somewhat bland and dated, pricey when optioned
I might as well make this declaration at the outset – I am a fan of Lincoln’s ‘Quiet Luxury’ brand direction.
The powers that be in charge of Ford’s luxury division are diverging sharply from a popular trend within the segment that places an emphasis on high performance. Simply put, aggressive high performance isn’t Lincoln’s game.
It has wisely chosen to not follow down the road of trying to out-German the Germans in favour of planting its flag in a space where style, craftsmanship and elegance are core tenets of the brand’s strategy. The goal is to enjoy the journey in fine style and comfort, and not simply to be the first to arrive.
Leading the Quiet Luxury charge is the mid-size Nautilus SUV, Lincoln’s bestselling vehicle in Canada (3,126 sold in 2018) that was known as the MKX prior to the 2019 model year. Built on the CD4 platform shared with several other Lincoln / Ford products including the mid-size Ford Edge, the second-gen Nautilus was introduced for the 2016 model year and received a mid-cycle styling update for 2019 to coincide with the name change.
The styling update includes a new front end to bring it in line with other new and refreshed Lincoln products (new fascia, Lincoln signature grille, LED headlights), along with a swapping of base engines (3.7-litre V6 out, 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder in), and transmissions (6-speed automatic out, 8-speed automatic in).
In Canada, the Nautilus is available with two engines across three trims. The 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder (250 hp / 280 lb-ft.) is available in both Select and Reserve grades, while the optional 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 (335 hp / 380 lb-ft.) comes as a Reserve model only. All variants are equipped with an 8-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive.
For my one-week evaluation, Lincoln Canada loaned me a 2.0-litre Reserve model which has been outfitted with a long list of options. Among them are the technology package ($1,100), driver assistance package ($2,500), and ultimate package ($5,500), along with a 22-way power driver’s seat ($1,600). In all, my tester has $15,700 worth of options. I know I say this a lot, but one should consider options carefully as they can skew a vehicle’s value proposition. My tester’s pre-tax $71,000 price is hefty for a mid-size Lincoln SUV.
While many, if not all, SUVs have a rather homogeneous look, Lincoln designers have done a good job of giving the Nautilus an exterior look that is clean and contemporary and in line with the brand’s overarching design direction. The old split grille was dated and serves as a clear point of demarcation for where Lincoln was and where it’s headed. This makes me wonder what’s in store for the rather ancient MKT, but I digress.
As for the cabin, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I am quite impressed with the comfortable seats, the ease with which an ideal driving position can be found, and the uncluttered layout of the centre console. The presence of knobs and buttons make toggling climate functions and adjusting radio volume easy while creating minimal distraction. The Revel audio system also sounds great.
On the down side, the overall look of the dash and centre console is a bit bland feels somewhat dated. It has been freshened somewhat with the addition of a 12-inch digital cluster display, but the infotainment screen is small, and its graphical fidelity looks last gen when compared to those in other Lincoln products such as the Navigator and forthcoming Aviator.
Best Mid-Size Premium SUV: 2019 Canadian Car of the Year
The perforated heated and cooled leather seats are a real plus, however, especially the driver’s seat with its 22-way articulation, but the plastics used in the dashboard and centre console are quite hard and don’t exude a quality feel.
In terms of road manners, the Nautilus is about what you’d expect for a mid-size SUV. Acceleration with the 2.0-litre turbo four is snappy enough if you mash the accelerator and is more aggressive when the gear selector is toggled to sport. Cabin noise is reasonably well supressed, although the engine’s buzzy drone under hard acceleration can be clearly heard. Ride quality is neither too firm nor too squishy and felt secure and confident during the varying conditions of my test drive.
Overall, the Lincoln Nautilus checks most, if not all, of the boxes on a typical checklist for a mid-size luxury SUV. It’s not the most exciting to drive (nor is it intended to be), but it delivers in other areas, such as style, available luxury content and a comfortable ride. If the Nautilus was my vehicle of choice I’d opt for the smoother and more powerful V6, but the turbo four works just fine.
Given the changes that have been made to keep it fresh combined with high consumer demand for mid-size SUVs, the Oakville, Ontario-built Nautilus should be at the top of Lincoln’s sales charts for some time to come.