Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: March 8, 2019
Following the launch and unexpected success of the new Navigator, Lincoln saw the opportunity to do the same with their mid-size SUV, the MKX, and bring it up to speed with the same amount of pizzazz. They discovered that much of Lincoln’s heritage and stately presence comes not just from the physical vehicles themselves, but also the model names that are so heavily imbued in American automotive history. While the current “MK-” nomenclature promotes confusion and anonymity, Lincoln has used this refresh as a perfect opportunity to introduce a new name, something with more gravitas. The MKX is now the Nautilus.
Sexy names aside, the Nautilus is more than just a badge replacement. Everything is all-new from the A-pillar forward, borrowing the same grille found in the Continental, Navigator, and MKZ. Two engines are available at launch. Lincoln has ditched the base 3.7-litre V6 in favour for a Ford-sourced 2.0-litre turbo-four. The latter offers less grunt at 250-hp (53 hp less) but it does eek out a bit more torque at 280 lb-ft (2 lb-ft more) and promises better fuel efficiency. The more expensive and optional 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 carries over from the outgoing model and produces 335-hp and 380 lb-ft of twist.
Though the sheetmetal may appear identical to its predecessor, the styling certainly remains cohesive, blending well with the rest of the SUV’s bodylines and is a refreshing sight on the road. Likewise, the interior is largely unchanged and while the build quality continues to be exemplary, we found that the “waterfall” centre stack detracts from the otherwise premium appointments in the cabin. Creature comforts include a full suite of safety features, including stop and go cruise control, lane keep assist, and a bevy of cameras for a full 360-degree view when parking.
Debuting in the Nautilus is a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that works well with little to no lag. Its premium look is befitting of the rest of the interior too, and is part of a larger offering of tech features that help bring the Nautilus in line with its overseas competitors. Lincoln Embrace, for example, is a system designed to add a touch of class as you approach your Nautilus at night: LED daytime running lamps slowly turn on and as you walk closer, puddle lamps illuminates the floor. Closer still, and the door handles light up.
We had the opportunity to test the Nautilus equipped with the 2.7-litre V6, which routes its power to all four wheels via a new 8-speed gearbox co-developed with GM. Left to its own devices, the drivetrain is smooth and unobtrusive. The wide spread of ratios helps maximize efficiency, a good thing as the V6 is thirstier than the four-cylinder. Though urgency certainly isn’t in the Nautilus’ repertoire, the 8-speed takes its time to discover the right cog for the job. Grabbing the steering mounted shifters to change gears is an almost laughable solution as its tendency to arrive on time is alarmingly worse than the TTC. When the power does kick in though, the Nautilus does provide a proper kick to the seatback.
Being a Lincoln, the ride preference here is tuned to suit Matthew McConaughey’s contemplative and brooding mood, which requires a quiet and peaceful cabin, something the Nautilus delivers in spades. Cruising along, the cabin remains quaint, shrugging off the majority of NVH. Steering is a touch on the over-boosted side, particularly when in parking lot situations where the wheel feels like it’s turning on its own. Adaptive dampers outfitted on all corners allow you to dial in the ride based on three predetermined settings - Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Over undulating surfaces, I found Comfort to be overdamped, resulting in a ride that felt too lax, and often introduced extra bounce through large dips in the road. Sport did little to firm up the ride, certainly not enough to truly distinguish the driving dynamics from Normal, which ultimately is where I ended up leaving it the entire time. This only re-affirms the notion that luxury SUVs really don’t need a Sport mode. Tune it properly and drivers won’t ever find the need to switch.
At an-tested price of $68,850, the Nautilus includes all of the latest technological bells and whistles you’d expect in a luxury crossover of this calibre. Its pricing sits in middle of the pack and though there’s plenty to be excited about - smooth ride, quiet cabin, powerful drivetrain - ultimately there’s nothing exemplary about the Nautilus that makes it unique over its competitors in this crowded segment, let alone the MKX it replaces.