The 2019 Lincoln Nautilus is a mid-size SUV on a mission to challenge a wide range of luxury rivals. This lengthy list includes the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Infiniti QX60, to name just a few. That’s because in the world of luxury automobiles, the hottest real estate right now happens to be SUVs that expertly blend power, safety, tech touches and loads of room for passengers and cargo.
Does the Nautilus stand out among the competition? We took this Lincoln SUV for a test drive to see how it separates itself from the pack. What we discovered is that the Nautilus is a tale of two SUVs, a combination of quality cabin materials and a strong turbocharged engine, but also some cheap-looking interior parts and a disinterested gearbox fitted to the base motor.
For a full take on the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, be sure to check out Cars.com reviewer Brian Wong’s comprehensive critique via the related link above. But for a quick rundown of which things immediately impressed us and which left us cold, keep reading.
Here are nine things we like — and four that don’t impress us much, to randomly quote Shania Twain — about the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus:
Things We Like
1. Comfortable Cruiser
There’s no doubt the Lincoln Nautilus is a comfortable long-distance traveling companion. Some rivals have sportier handling and a firmer ride, which can be great if you want to start carving corners. But if you’re in the mood for a mellower kind of SUV, the quiet and isolation provided by this Lincoln could make it a compelling choice.
2. Cargo Space
People like SUVs because of the space they provide for passengers and cargo. Good news: The Nautilus excels when it comes to hauling lots of luggage or loads of shopping bags. There’s a total of 37.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded down, total cargo volume is 68.8 cubic feet. For comparison, a BMW X5 offers about 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second-row seating, and a Lexus RX rings in at only 18.4 cubic feet.
3. Powerful Turbo V-6
The optional turbocharged V-6 in the Nautilus is a hoot to drive. Wong notes in his review how this smooth and powerful motor is entertaining and may just elicit a smile from anyone behind the wheel. This twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 delivers a total of 335 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque. That’s more than enough to make highway merging a breeze with a quick push of the gas pedal. Like the base turbo-four, this V-6 is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
4. Safety Features
You can’t take safety for granted, especially when forking over luxury-level cash for your new SUV. With this in mind, standard safety items fitted to the Lincoln Nautilus include automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, a rearview camera and forward collision warning.
5. Smart Tech
During our time with the Nautilus, the latest Sync 3 infotainment system once again proved it’s easy to use and has smart controls. The touchscreen is fast and simple, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay comes standard across all trim levels.
6. Massive Moonroof
OK, maybe we’re being vain, but the panoramic moonroof fitted to our Nautilus was huge. That brightens the cabin and allows those sitting in the back to enjoy the view. Thankfully, this airy addition doesn’t come at the expense of headroom. There’s plenty in the Lincoln, whether you’re seated up front or in the second row.
7. Lots of Rear Legroom
Lincoln has carved out a lot of legroom in the Nautilus, too. We noted the Nautilus has “best-in-class rear legroom at 39.6 inches,” as Wong noted in his First Drive of the SUV, and this measurement is more than what’s offered in “rivals like BMW’s X5, Jaguar’s F-Pace and Mercedes-Benz’s GLC-Class,” Wong said. That’s some fierce competition, to say the least.
8. Big Lincoln Looks
Talking about design can be one very opinion-driven subject. To our eyes, however, the Lincoln Nautilus has a grown-up exterior and modern design that borrows heavily from the brand’s Continental sedan, not to mention the larger (and altogether excellent) Navigator SUV. Looks can be a little deceiving, because the Nautilus is a refresh of the outgoing MKX. The Ford-owned luxury brand has decided to bring back unique model names versus using a confusing series of “MK” designations and has applied this methodology to the updated MKX/Nautilus.
9. Crash-Test Credentials
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recently gave the 2019 Nautilus a five-star safety rating. That’s the highest possible score in the federal agency’s round of crash tests, which include measurements for front and side impacts, along with a vehicle’s resistance to rollover collisions. And while the Nautilus failed to earn a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, its shortcomings lay in its score of poor for headlights, not for its performance in actual crash tests — in each of which IIHS gave the SUV requisite scores of good, as well as a superior rating for both its standard and optional front crash prevention systems.
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Things We Don’t
1. Cabin Trim Misses the Mark
In some cases, the cabin materials in the Nautilus are worthy of a luxury SUV carrying a starting price of about $41,000, including a destination fee. Except we noted that the models we’ve driven have been considerably more expensive, with prices soaring above $60,000. Taking this into consideration, flimsy buttons on the dash and a cheap plastic bin at the bottom of the center console look and feel totally out of place. Stranger still, these low-rent items sit side by side with classy open-pore wood trim and comfortable front seats with 22-way power adjustments. It seems Lincoln set out to create a world-class cabin, but lost interest halfway through the job.
2. Base Engine
On paper, the base turbocharged four-cylinder in the Nautilus should be fine for routine errands and everyday driving. This 2.0-liter engine delivers 250 hp and 280 pounds-feet of torque. Mileage with this engine in front-wheel-drive format is also reasonable at 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined. So, what’s the problem? Blame how the engine works with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite having the same number of ratios, this isn’t the same gearbox used in the optional V-6, and it makes this abundantly clear whenever you try to get moving. In his review, Wong noted “a discernible lag between pressing the pedal and the Nautilus moving forward with any urgency.” The gearbox drops the ball, big time.
3. Rivals Feel Sportier
If you want a luxury SUV that doubles as a sports car, the Nautilus is not the vehicle for you. The balance of ride and handling leans far more toward comfort rather than sportiness. That’s fine for many car shoppers, of course, and probably not a deal-breaker. But with so many other comfort-oriented luxury SUVs out there (we’re looking at you, Lexus RX), the driving dynamics provided by the Nautilus don’t help it rise above the competition.
4. Gets Seriously Expensive
Remember when we talked about how pricey the Nautilus gets once you start adding options? Some of our biggest concerns center on how this Lincoln adds up in terms of overall value. While the starting price of $41,335 (destination included) is reasonable for its class, things get seriously expensive when you add all-wheel drive, the optional turbo V-6 and even safety features that come grouped into pricey packages. And when you’re spending more than $60,000 on top trims like the Black Label models, the patchy cabin quality and indifferent gearbox behavior of the Nautilus become even more glaring.
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