2021 Lincoln Nautilus

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$42,500

starting MSRP

2021 Lincoln Nautilus
2021 Lincoln Nautilus

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2021 Lincoln Nautilus trim comparison will help you decide.

2021 Lincoln Nautilus review: Our expert's take

By Aaron Bragman

Back in 2019, Lincoln began updating all of its model names, banishing the silliness of MKC, MKT, MKS, MKX, etc., in favor of actually memorable words like Continental, Aviator, Nautilus and Corsair. The SUV you see here used to be the MKX, but two years ago, Lincoln switched it to Nautilus, a definite improvement — but apparently the brand blew all the budget that year on the name change and a mild face-lift to give it the same face as the Aviator and Navigator, because the interior was left untouched.

Fast forward to 2021, and we have another “mid-cycle refresh” for the Nautilus, but this time Lincoln has finally upgraded the interior to match the luxurious artistry of the rest of the Lincoln showroom. It’s a welcome upgrade and addresses the last bastion of the old, pre-upgraded Lincoln lineup, but is it good enough to command the rather significant prices that Lincoln wants for the new 2021 Nautilus?

Related: 2021 Lincoln Nautilus: Subtle Changes, Nicer Digs

The Unchanged Part

First things first: If the 2021 Nautilus doesn’t look any different to you than the 2020 model, that’s not surprising. Lincoln last updated the sheet metal for the 2019 model year, giving it the familial horseshoe-shaped grille and headlight treatment seen on the rest of the lineup, and it looks just as good now as it did then. The overall exterior styling is very attractive, subtly muscular, with a full-width taillight that adds to the SUV’s sleek lines. One thing to note: The styling tricks used by Lincoln make the Nautilus look bigger than it actually is. This is a mid-size two-row luxury SUV, but it’s on the small side of the category — for more space (and a change to rear-wheel drive), go for the three-row Aviator instead.

The powertrain is also unchanged from the prior model, and that’s just fine, too. The standard engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque, run through an eight-speed automatic transmission powering the front wheels (all-wheel drive is optional on base models). That’s also the standard engine that powers the mid-level Reserve trim, but if you opt for the top-level Black Label trim, you get a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 that pumps out a very healthy 335 hp and 380 pounds-feet of torque and standard all-wheel drive (this powertrain combo is optional on the Reserve trim). The bigger V-6 is torquey and smooth, delivering a considerable rush of power when called upon, but doesn’t feel as quick as its numbers would suggest — likely due to the 4,500 pounds that it has to haul around. 

The Nautilus is not tuned for sportiness. Lincoln’s ethos is built around the idea of Quiet Flight, and frankly, that to me sounds like a much better idea for a lineup consisting almost entirely of SUVs than the sport models that many other luxury brands are pushing. SUVs are terrible sports cars, but they’re excellent luxury cruisers, so why not tune your vehicles to be comfortable instead of hairy-chested? Anyone truly seeking a sporting experience isn’t likely buying an SUV anyway, so the fact that the Nautilus combines a compliant ride, heavy-but-stable steering and a relaxed accelerator response doesn’t offend me. Driving it is a relaxing experience, like luxury cars used to be before reviewers decided that everything needed to be a super-engaging driving experience. Those experiences have their place, but Lincoln is having none of it, and it results in an SUV that does its job pretty well — not perfectly, as there is still a surprising amount of wind noise at highway speeds, but it’s not overly intrusive. 

The Redesigned Bits

Inside is where all the efforts went for the 2021 model year, and it shows in what has become a  beautifully crafted, lovely-to-look-at and pleasant-to-touch interior. If you like the way the other Lincoln interiors look, you’ll like this one, too — they all have the same design aesthetic. It’s a horizontally oriented theme with a single spar that spans the width of the cabin, featuring a large touchscreen plopped atop it within easy reach and view. Lincoln’s signature piano key transmission shifter is also there, and while I’m not big on most push-button shifters, for some reason the Lincoln version seems just fine — I credit the simple design, large buttons and easy-to-read lettering. There’s no trying to figure out what you push or what you pull; it’s a simple push-button affair and it’s easy to use quickly, which has been the issue I’ve had with most other push-button shifters. 

The interior itself definitely benefits from the upgraded materials. The last Nautilus interior wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t yet at the level that Lincoln has been doing for the Aviator and Navigator — now, it is. The leather in this Black Label trim was sumptuous, the stitching in the dash and doors was arrow straight, and the wood, metal and plastic all finally feel premium. No more warmed over Ford interiors for Lincoln. 

The new multimedia system is also a welcome update. The screen is now a huge 13.2-inch unit running the latest Sync 4, the first time the system has appeared in a Lincoln vehicle (it will likely proliferate through the rest of the line over the next few years). It comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the size of the screen means you can have a very large display for those peripheral apps and still have a smaller native display onscreen at the same time. The Sync 4 system also gets “Lincolnized” with its own unique colors, patterns and visual effects to differentiate it from the Ford version you can find in the latest F-150 pickup. A fun Easter egg: Selecting between screens with a touch to the corresponding area creates a sparkle effect, part of what Lincoln calls its Constellation theme. 

And as before, the highlight of the interior experience is still the Revel premium audio system. The standard system in the Black Label trim is the Revel Ultima system, which features 19 speakers arranged throughout the cabin. I’m not exaggerating when I call this quite possibly the best audio system fitted to an automobile today. It features amazing range and clarity, with lows that you viscerally feel, combined with crystal-clear highs that truly bring music to life. My only wish for the system is that the Nautilus itself were a bit quieter — the highway wind and road noise aren’t exactly intrusive, but better environmental silencing would enhance the Revel system even more. 

Still Room for Improvement

As well done as the interior is, however, there are two areas that still need some love. The first is the digital gauge cluster, which sports remarkably boring, oddly retro-looking bronze numerals on a huge black background. It comes off as unfinished, like Ford isn’t using the display to its true potential, and if you’ve seen the digital display in the latest Ford Mustang, you’ll know what I mean. That gauge cluster is vastly more customizable than the Lincoln screen, with color and design choices aplenty — why this nearly $70,000 luxury SUV doesn’t have something more visually interesting and customizable is a mystery to me. 

The other area that could use some love is the Nautilus’ seat design. The seat bottom cushions feel short and narrow, and while the Black Label’s adjustable seats do have a thigh-extension function, this only helps a little. They’re also not terribly comfortable — you don’t sink into these seats at all; it truly feels like you’re riding atop them. They have a convex feel to the bottom and back cushions that might be there to simulate some support, but which feel like you’re sitting on beach balls after a few miles. Ford and Lincoln seat design has been a common complaint over the years for us, so this is sadly not a new issue. There’s plenty of room for occupants front and rear, although rear legroom can be a bit tight. It’s what drives us to classify the Nautilus on the smaller end of the two-row SUV category, but it’s still comfortable for four people, five in a pinch.

Priced to Compete, Not to Be a Bargain

Starting prices for the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus begin in the low $40,000 range and can extend up to nearly $70,000 for a loaded Black Label trim. At the low end, that’s quite reasonable, but at the high end, that’s a pretty dear price for a smallish mid-size SUV of any type. Still, with the right lease deals, the new Nautilus is competitively priced in its field, and now that it features an interior that matches its exterior style, it’s less of a stretch to justify that lofty price to buyers wondering what makes this Lincoln worth the money. Most of the latest Lincolns justify their higher prices through that exceptional cabin, and the new ’21 Nautilus is no different. It’s an outstanding upgrade to a model that should now land it on more shoppers’ consideration lists. 

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron Bragman

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Interior design 5.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value for the money 4.8
  • Exterior styling 5.0
  • Reliability 5.0

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

I am a repeat Lincoln owner.

So far I am happy with my Nautilus. I love the new technology available in the new SUV. I had owned a MKX for 14 years and never had any problems other than routine maintenance. I’m sure the new Nautilus will also be as reliable. I will always drive a Lincoln!!!

5.0

Beautiful, in and out.

Most comfortable and quiet of the 65 vehicles I’ve owned in my 76 years. Gorgeous black interior in my 2021 ceramic pearl 2021 Nautilus. And my wife, whose never been a car person, loves it.

4.9

Been driving Nautilus since they came out

Meets all my needs and more. Been driving Nautilus since they came out. Lincoln fan for quality, comfort, style and high tech. Good choice of exterior and interior colors.

See all 6 consumer reviews
See all 2021 Lincoln Nautilus articles