Lincoln Nautilus — Improving on the MKX

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Lincoln has decided to scrap its decade-old decision to slap letters on most of its vehicles, which has been confusing since the day we heard the short-lived mid-sized Zephyr sedan was going to become the MKZ. Fortunately, the former mid-sized MKX crossover has been redesigned for 2019 and becomes the Nautilus.

It's just one of three new Lincoln SUVs coming on the market as the luxury brand reinvents itself. Also on the horizon is the new 2020 Aviator, based on the new Ford Explorer, and the 2020 Corsair, just unveiled at the New York Auto Show and based on the new Ford Escape platform.

The Nautilus is a step up from the top-selling, outgoing MKX and gets a new look up front with a prominent new Lincoln-themed grille and a reworked fascia with new headlamps, a new hood, and restyled front fenders.

The Nautilus introduces the Lincoln Co-Pilot360, which bundles many popular driver-assist features that were previously available only as separate options — and makes them standard. They include an array of technologies such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Another change is a new base engine replacing the 3.7-liter V-6 with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It should be adequate for most with a 0-to-60 time of 6.8 seconds and a quarter mile time of 15.3 seconds at 92 mph.

We love horsepower so we would not hesitate to upgrade to the new twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 for about $2,000. It makes 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque mated to the eight-speed. The bigger engine is not available in the Base model, but can be added to the other trims. We found it to be rather exhilarating especially when merging into fast moving traffic. Published times for the twin-turbo V-6 are in the upper reaches of 5 seconds from 0-to-60 under pedal-to-the-metal launch, with a quarter mile time of 14.4 seconds at 97 mph.

For those people who value towing, the 2.7 V-6 with the Class II Trailer package can tow up to 3,500 pounds. When you pair all-wheel drive (a $2,495 upgrade) with the 2.7-liter engine, adaptive suspension is available on the Select, and is standard on the top two Reserve and Black Label trim levels.

We were impressed with the luxury ambiance of the Nautilus with its quiet and peaceful interior, excellent fit and finish, quality materials, a comfortable ride that does a good job of soaking up road imperfections, and its enthusiastic performance. A new 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster offers a driver assistance screen in the middle and tachometer and digital speedometer on either side. The center infotainment touchscreen measures only 8 inches — one of the smallest in the segment — but it's easy to use. We liked the white and black lettering with a gold background and the very readable satellite radio information. We also appreciated the radio and climate controls outside of the infotainment screen, retaining large knobs for volume and tuning and clear buttons and switches for climate.

Our Reserve trim came with the selectable driving modes — Comfort, Normal and Sport — which alters the damping and steering effort. We found the Comfort mode was too much on the soft side to suit us. Most will probably keep it in the Normal mode that offers a decent compromise between handling and comfort. The Sport setting firms up the suspension and steering.

There's ample room for adults both front and back and storage is abundant. Luggage space measures 37.2 cubic feet behind the seats and cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded increases to 68.8 cubic feet.

The Nautilus starts at $41,335 including the $995 destination charge. Lincoln offers a nice array of standard features for that price including what we consider basic safety technology such as blindspot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are also standard.

Our Reserve trim level test car with the V-6 engine and AWD came with standard 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof and a 13-speaker Revel audio system. We also got the optional Driver Assistance package ($1,590) with upgraded cruise control and adaptive steering with swerve assist, and the Technology package ($1,720) with a 360-degree camera, front parking sensors and an automated parking system. Bottom line was $57,745.

Base price: $41,335; as driven, $57,745
Engine: 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 380 foot-pounds @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 190 inches
Curb weight: 4,305 pounds
Turning circle: 39.3 feet
Luggage capacity: 37.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 68.8 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 26 highway, 21 combined (AWD)
0-60: 5.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX50, Mercedes GLC

The Good
• Abundant standard safety
• Quiet interior
• Strong performance from V-6

The Bad
• Small infotainment screen

The Ugly
• Uninspiring driving dynamics