Fast Take: 2019 Lincoln Nautilus AWD Reserve

Words By: Adam Allen

 

What is it?

You’ve likely seen many of these in your travels, but what you were likely was a Lincoln MKZ. New for 2019, the biggest news with Lincoln’s midsize luxury SUV is its name change. No longer bearing the burden of a silly MK-based naming scheme, what you see here shall henceforth be known as the Nautilus. Why the about face on model names all of the sudden? There’s a story that Lincoln’s U.S. director of marketing while on a business trip overheard a couple arguing about whether they owned an MKC or an MKZ. That’s not the sort of thing someone overseeing  trying to make people to pay attention to a brand attempting a resurgence back to desirability wants to hear. Apparently, the decision to pitch the old naming scheme was already in the works but that sealed the deal. When asked about the change, he offered this perfectly accurate and succinct quip: “Sometimes, as marketers, we get too far over our own skis.”

In addition to the new name, Lincoln’s Nautilus benefits from some styling tweaks as well as new running gear. Front and rear fascias get a rethink which includes available full LED lighting elements. There’s a new hood and updated front fenders too, and buyers can now spec the same snazzy turbine style wheels you find on the range topping Navigator. The 3.7 litre V6 base engine sails off into the sunset and is replaced by a 2.0 turbo four. Likewise is the 6-speed gearbox retired in favor of one with an additional two speeds.

How does it drive?

It probably will not surprise you to learn that the Nautilus drives very much like its three lettered predecessors, which is to say it favors comfort and relaxation over all else. All Nautilus trims feature adaptive dampers and optional adaptive steering, as equipped on our tester which had the $2,500 Driver Assistance Package. So far as we can tell, the system adds an appreciable level of heftiness to the proceedings but doesn’t do much to provide the driver with meaningful feel of what exactly is going on at the two front contact patches. But you aren’t buying a Nautilus because you have an eye for apexes and a thirst for decreasing radius corners. You buy it because it clearly whispers ‘luxury’ to all that behold it and ride in it. Of course, a luxury conveyance should always be motivated by an engine that effortlessly guides things along, getting up to speed with ease in any situation. Our tester had the base 2.0 turbo four toiling away under the hood, producing a respectable 250 horsepower and 280 ft./lbs of torque. Those are good numbers and they provide the kind of thrust that will be adequate for most people who buy one. Still, we fondly recalled the last time we flogged one of these and it had the excellent 2.7 litre turbo V6 handling motivating duties. That mill gives the Nautilus acceleration that will leave most of its competitors eating its dust- only the BMW X3 M40i is faster but that thing can achieve an almost absurdly fast levels of go. We liked the 2.7. We missed the 2.7. What we’re trying to say here is, trust us, you want the 2.7. It can’t achieve much worse fuel economy numbers that our tester, which was surprisingly parched to the tune of 14.3L/100km.

Once comment about the ride, however- it’s mostly excellent. This being a Lincoln, it will never wallow around like grandpa’s old Town Car but it will never threaten to beat you up in the slightest. Our tester whisked us around town confidently and comfortably but only when we encountered some particularly nasty tarmac did things get a little gritty. We would sacrifice the beautiful turbine style 21” wheels some something a couple of sizes smaller. That and a set of tires with a smidge more give in their sidewalls would make things even better and cushier.

What’s it like inside?

Not much has changed within the Nautilus cockpit. You still get pleasing materials, seemingly infinitely adjustable front seats, and wood trim that begs to be touched. OK, so the dashboard has a new digital display courtesy of the Navigator but were preoccupied enjoying our carefully crafted playlists which sound the business in the Lincoln. We really can’t say enough about the Revel Ultima, but what we will tell you about what we found while sifting through layers of menus in the audio screen. We stumbled upon some secret (not really) option to play a Revel demo mode. if you ever have the chance to do it for yourself crank up the volume and listen as powerful crystal clear waves of sonic excellence watch over you. The Revel is so good that it might actually be the best audio system you can get in any car. There’s a couple of things that nagged at us, but only slightly. Sync 3- don’t get us wrong, it’s still among the best infotainment systems out there- is starting to feel a little long in the tooth. A simple little faster response times here and a snappy new graphic redesign there and people would love it. We don’t feel the need to bemoan the push button gear selector any more, but please Lincoln, make the buttons something special. At the very least, during each journey you are going to interact with these touchpoints at least twice- why not give them the same attention to give our own volume knob, a simple control that belied on its tactile excellence.

Why you should care:

This is the best seller in the entire Lincoln lineup so there’ll be more than a few folks who will be paying attention the Nautilus. Not only does it represent a compelling alternative to stuff like the well-buit-but-endlessly-boring Audi Q5 but it looks great, is tastefully finished inside and with the right engine under the hood, a real joy to drive. There is one worrying aspect the Nautilus will have trouble distancing from, and that is being dubbed quite pricey. Our base engine tester’s sticker was a lofty $70,150, which amount to only around $4,000 cheaper than the hot rod X3 M40i we dove several months ago and it’s the one we’d choose for our own fleet when speaking about this class. Take it easy on the options, spend the money on the 2.7 turbo and you just might just give the nod to a Nautilus.

 

2019 Lincoln Nautilus AWD Reserve- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $70,150
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.0 litre turbocharged inline four cylinder, 16 valves, DOHC
  • Horsepower:  250 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 280 @ 3,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,975 kg (4,354 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 14.3L/100km (16 mpg)