If there was a luxury brand in need of an image transformation, it would be Lincoln. Fortunately for Lincoln, the fourth-generation Navigator, which went on sale in late 2017, breathed new life into the brand. The SUV adopted a standout exterior design, a quiet ride, and interior appointments that rival the best from luxury automakers without the rental-car stigma. You could argue the changes helped make it more appealing than its archrival, the Cadillac Escalade. Next on Lincoln’s transformation plan is the Nautilus, which despite the new name is a refreshed version of the MKX. But how significant is this refresh?
In addition to the name change, the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus receives an exterior that closely resembles big brothers Aviator and Navigator. Replacing the 3.7-liter V-6, the new base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-four good for up to 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The previous 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 remains in the lineup, making the same 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. In either case, power is routed through an eight-speed automatic instead of the old six-speed.
We recently drove the Nautilus with the more powerful engine, an upgrade costing $2,070. In our instrumented tests, it hit 60 mph in 6 seconds flat, making it a hair quicker than an old MKX we tested with the same engine at 6.2 seconds. It’s also quicker than a comparable Cadillac XT5, which took 6.5 seconds to reach the mark. The sales king of luxury SUVs, the Lexus RX, required 6.8 seconds in F Sport guise.
Although we enjoyed the Nautilus’ ample power available through the midrange, the transmission lags at low speeds. This results in some clunky parking maneuvers. We also experienced abruptness after hitting the accelerator when getting up to speed quickly.
The Nautilus performed pretty well in our figure-eight test. Road test editor Chris Walton praised the SUV for its “quick steering, good turn-in, and more grip that most would expect from an SUV.” It completed the course in 26.9 seconds at an average of 0.66 g, hinting it’s slightly less nimble than the MKX (26.5 seconds at 0.68 g). But it beat the aforementioned Cadillac and Lexus, which clocked 27.1 seconds at 0.65 g and 27.1 seconds at 0.63 g, respectively. Despite the solid numbers, we would categorize the Nautilus’ steering as more comfortable than sporty. Making three-point turns reveals the size of this vehicle.
Erick Ayapana, our associate road test editor, noted some dive in the front end during the braking test. Nevertheless, the Lincoln came to a complete stop from 60 mph in a respectable 117 feet. That’s on par with the old MKX (119 feet). Cadillac has Lincoln beat with a stopping distance of 111 feet, but the Lexus took 123 feet. Ayapana praised the Nautilus’ crisp brake feel and body control.
That said, the Nautilus exhibits some body roll driving over uneven surfaces. Meanwhile, wind noise and minor creaking noises disturb the overall quiet cabin. We noticed creaking from the back as well as closer up near the driver. Strangely, we’ve experienced creaking issues with other Lincolns, including the MKZ Hybrid we drove in 2017. Spooky, but turning on the radio is a quick fix.
Now on to our favorite part of the Nautilus: the interior. Because our tester was a Black Label, we benefited from a particularly plush cabin with comfortable heated leather seats, a 19-speaker sound system, ambient lighting, a panoramic roof, an Alcantara headliner, a hands-free liftgate, and wireless charging. Our tester came with the Gala design theme, bringing a maroon color into the cabin. Our model had the optional 22-way power driver seat and a variety of other safety and convenience features, including parking sensors, lane keeping, active cruise control with traffic jam assist, and adaptive steering. All in all, our model rang out to $67,630.
Despite the quality materials and amenities, and the reasonably roomy rear seat, we can’t help but lament the outdated cabin layout. The touchscreen works well but looks a bit old compared to Cadillac’s CUE. The screen is surrounded by lots of buttons and knobs that take up space, and the center console area offers few places to store small items. Nevertheless, we like the big buttons to the left of the touchscreen that make up the electronic shifter. This system is responsive and easy to use. Forward visibility is acceptable, but pillars up front impede the view slightly.
We’ll have to test the four-cylinder version to make a final conclusion, but it’s clear the Nautilus hasn’t undergone anything near a Navigator-like transformation. Along with the new exterior design, one of the few significant updates is fuel economy. Our Nautilus tester came in at 19/26/21 mpg, according to EPA figures; a comparable all-wheel-drive MKX delivers 17/24/19 mpg. For more changes under the skin, we’ll have to wait a few more years for a full redesign.
2019 Lincoln Nautilus 2.7T AWD (Black Label)|
PRICE AS TESTED|
Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
2.7L/335-hp/380-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)|
4,740 lb (59/41%)|
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT|
190.0 x 78.7 x 66.2 in|
14.5 sec @ 95.4 mph|
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH|
0.84 g (avg)|
MT FIGURE EIGHT|
26.9 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON|
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY|
177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB|