by Morgan Carter
Restyled and renamed in 2019, the Lincoln Nautilus is actually older than its two-year-old nametag might suggest. Since it replaced the Lincoln MKX, which was in its second generation at the time, some of its features and styling choices - despite being updated for 2019 - are starting to show their age. Nevertheless, it's still a capable midsize crossover that borders on being a luxury vehicle. At least, that's what it tries to be with its near-premium interior, but the inconsistency of material choices and some corner-cutting to reduce costs keep it from reaching its goal. The standard powertrain is a turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, but it's the available V6 that will catch buyers' eyes, developing 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. These figures are on par with the Nautilus' leading rivals like the Volvo XC90, although it isn't as refined or as capable on the road. But, if you're looking for a midsize SUV that looks the part of a luxury model while not breaking the bank, the Lincoln Nautilus might appeal to you.
For 2020, the Select trim has been dropped from the lineup, but the Nautilus remains relatively unchanged in other regards. The standard features have been slightly shuffled in order to make up for the reduced number of trims.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.7-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Keeping its restyled appearance from 2019, the Lincoln Nautilus remains quite handsome, but its styling isn't as bold as that of some rivals. The Standard and Reserve trims ride on 18-inch alloy wheels, with available 20- and 21- inch wheels, while the Black Label gets custom 21-inch alloys. Automatic LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights come standard, while the Black Label gets the more aggressive full LED multi-projector headlights. The liftgate offers power functionality on the base trim, while the upper trims add hands-free access. A panorama vista roof makes the SUV look a bit more stylish on the upper trim levels, while also opening up the cabin to some natural light and air flow.
The Nautilus' 112.2-inch wheelbase accommodates a large and spacious cabin with a 190-inch long body. With the side mirrors folded, the SUV stands 78.7 inches wide, so it won't be squeezing into anything but the largest of parking spaces. The driver is seated high within the 66.2-inch tall Crossover, making it easy to see over busy streets and packed parking lots. All these dimensions are on par with most rivals, including the Lincoln's curb weight, which ranges from 4,144 - 4,529 lbs.
A total of 12 colors comprise the palette for the Lincoln Nautilus. The Standard can be dressed in Infinite Black, Silver Radiance, Magnetic Gray, Artisan Blue, and Ochre Brown. Five additional paints can be unlocked for $695: Red Carpet, Burgundy Velvet, Ceramic Pearl, Pristine White, and Iced Mocha. The Reserve gets the same choices, as well as Rhapsody Blue as another premium option. Several paints are dropped from the palette on the Black Label, but it gets exclusive access to the $1,750 Chroma Elite Copper paint.
The Lincoln Nautilus puts more focus on looking good than performing well, but it isn't a totally uninspiring drive. The standard turbo-inline-four engine gets the job done, albeit lackadaisically. With 250 hp and 280 lb-ft on tap, the powertrain lugs the hefty SUV up to 60 mph in around seven seconds, which is on par, if slightly behind, similarly powered rivals.
The available turbocharged V6 engine shaves almost a full second off this sprint time thanks to its far more impressive 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. When properly equipped, the crossover is able to tow up to 3,500 lbs of braked weight with this powertrain. This is quite a bit below what leading rivals boast, with the Volvo XC90 able to pull 5,000 lbs.
The four-cylinder engine can be paired with a front-wheel- or all-wheel drivetrain, but the V6 can only be had with all-wheel-drive.
The powertrain options for the Nautilus remain unchanged for the new year, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine coming standard on the lower trims, directing 250 hp and 280 lb-ft to the front wheels, although four-wheel-drive is available. The powertrain isn't overly impressive, but it can move the hefty SUV without too much fuss, especially at more town-friendly speeds. Passing on the highway will require a bit more patience and planning, though.
The stronger 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 engine, available to the Reserve and standard on the Black Label, develops 335 hp and 380 lb-ft but can only be paired with the all-wheel drivetrain. This extra power and capability make the Nautilus much more competent on the highway, although it certainly doesn't hurt its town-driving ability. Regardless of the powertrain, an eight-speed automatic gearbox regulates power outputs with efficient gear shifts, especially in the lower power band.
While power might not be an issue on any of the trim levels, the Nautilus was not designed to be a great performer. The steering is light and disconnected from the wheels, allowing you to maneuver around tight spaces relatively easily, but giving you no idea what is going on underneath you. All-wheel-drive does nothing to improve this, and is only really necessary in areas with poor weather conditions, although it comes standard with the more enjoyable V6 engine.
That said, the extra power doesn't truly translate to extra drivability. No matter how you configure it, the Nautilus will never be sporty. While twisty roads offer a welcome challenge to drivers of more capable SUVs like the BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE, they are the bane of Lincoln owners. Try taking a corner at anything more than a mild jog, and the hefty body leans uncomfortably, inspiring absolutely no confidence.
Lincoln seems to acknowledge this failing in the Nautilus, and has, instead, focused on improving ride comfort, making the crossover an ideal family car. The interior isn't as plush as those found in true luxury SUVs, but it's pretty comfortable and pairs well with the suspension to negate most, if not all, road imperfections. The cabin is well-dampened, too, so road and wind noise shouldn't be an issue in regular daily driving.
Overall, this isn't a crossover meant to be enjoyed. The host of safety and comfort features work together with its tame handling dynamics to deliver a vehicle that will get you and your family where you're going without any fuss and in excellent comfort for the price bracket.
The Nautilus doesn't boast impressive fuel consumption figures, but it's not overly thirsty, either. Equipped with the inline-four engine and the front-wheel drivetrain, the crossover gets 21/26/23 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. Switching to the all-wheel drivetrain drops one mpg across all three cycles. The V6 engine, naturally, sips a bit more greedily from the tank, but not excessively so. With only the all-wheel drivetrain available, the SUV can get 19/26/21 mpg. In its most efficient configuration, the Lincoln can cover up to 414 miles with a completely full 18-gallon tank.
The cabin is handsome and a comfortable place to spend time in, but it isn't quite as plush or upscale as what more premium rivals like BMW and Audi offer. Regardless of trim level, the upholstery is soft-touch, but genuine leather is reserved for the upper trims. There is plenty of space for both passengers and cargo, and even the Standard model comes with plenty of seat adjustments. The controls for the features and infotainment are well laid-out and within easy reach of the driver, but the interface is a little finicky and small.
There are seating appointments for up to five within the cabin, with plenty of headroom all-round, although the panorama vista roof on the upper trims eats into the available space an inch or two. The front seats supply plenty of legroom, and while the rear seats lose a few inches, they still offer more than enough for most adults. Only the unusually tall could ever find a reason to complain about the space inside the Nautilus. As standard, the front seats offer ten directions of power-adjustability along with lumbar settings and driver-seat memory, although this can be upgraded to 22-way power front seats with massage function. Heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, are added on the Reserve trim.
As a near-luxury vehicle, the Nautilus comes dressed in soft, plush materials even at the most basic level. The Standard trim comes with leatherette in Ebony or Cappuccino, while the Reserve gets genuine leather upholstery. Premium Venetian leather is exclusive to the top-tier Black Label. Both types of leather come in either Terracotta, Medium Slate, or Coffee. Lincoln tries to make the interior more premium by pairing the upholstery with a variety of metal or wood trims, available in Brushed Aluminum, Sonata Spin Aluminum, Brown Swirl Walnut, Espresso Ash Swirl, or Gray Ash Swirl. Despite these efforts, the crossover doesn't quite feel as upscale as it should at this price bracket.
Cargo space is adequate but far from class-leading. Behind the rear seats, there is 37.2 cubic feet of standard trunk space, compared to rivals like the BMW X5's 33.9 cubic feet and the Volvo XC90's 41.8 cubic feet. SUVs seldom struggle with daily errands, and the Nautilus is no different. The trunk can easily accommodate all the kids' sports bags, mom's yoga gear, and dad's golf clubs in one go. But if you do need more space, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split to open up 68.8 cubic feet of space, which is quite a bit less than the aforementioned rivals, which offer 72.3 cubic feet and 85.7 cubic feet, respectively.
Small-item storage is similarly adequate, with a spacious center console bin, with two extra shelves supplied. The door pockets are large enough to accommodate water bottles or other loose items. There is also a standard glove compartment and a set of two cupholders up front and in the rear armrest.
A long list of features come standard on even the Standard trim of the Nautilus. Leatherette upholsters the interior, while dual-zone climate control keeps the temperature moderated. The front comfort seats offer ten directions of power-adjustability as standard, along with power lumbar and driver-seat memory. Available packages can increase this to 22 directions and add massage functions on the ultra-comfort seats. Convenience features comprise cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start, and four 12-volt power outlets around the cabin. Every model comes with the Lincoln Co-Pilot360, which comprises forward collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, rear sonar, and automatic high beam assist. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster keeps the driver apprised of all the necessary information. The Reserve adds hands-free functionality to the power liftgate and upgrades the manual steering column to a power tilt-and-telescoping variant. A panorama vista roof is also installed at this trim level, along with heated and ventilated front seats. The top-tier Black Label gets Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus, which adds adaptive cruise control, active park assist, following distance alert, and a surround-view camera to the standard offering. Front sonar and a 110-volt power outlet are available as part of the optional packages.
For a premium vehicle, the Lincoln Nautilus gets a pretty small eight-inch touchscreen interface. But the infotainment suite does come with a pretty comprehensive list of software, including Bluetooth functions, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Lincoln Connect 4G LTE Wi-Fi. SiriusXM also comes standard, and all music is channeled through the 11-speaker sound system. The Reserve expands listening options with HD Radio and upgrades the sound system to a 13-speaker Revel set-up. It also adds navigation and SiriusXM Traffic, while a wireless charging pad supplements the standard two USB charging ports. The premium 19-speaker Revel Ultima sound system comes standard on the Black Label trim, while every model can be equipped with a rear-seat entertainment system.
J.D. Power awards the midsize luxury SUV a pretty high dependability rating of 82 out of 100. No recalls have been issued for 2020, but the 2019 Nautilus had three major failings: a faulty hands-off the wheel alert system, possibility that the instrument cluster may go blank, and potential for the driver-side airbag module cover to detach. Lincoln offers a 50,000-mile/48-month bumper-to-bumper warranty on new purchases, while the powertrain warranty is valid for 70,000 miles/72 months. Roadside assistance is available 24/7 for the duration of the limited warranty.
The SUV has been comprehensively tested by both the NHTSA and the IIHS. The former gives it a five-star rating across the board, while the latter scores it Good for six crash tests, but Poor for headlights.
Basic mechanical safety features include ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, as well as seven airbags: dual front, driver knee, front side, and side curtain. Every trim comes with the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 safety suite, comprising blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear sonar, lane keeping assist, forward collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beam assist. This is upgraded on the Black Label, with following distance alert, active parking assist, and a surround-view camera. Front sonar can also be added.
While the Lincoln Nautilus doesn't actually fail to deliver in any one field, it doesn't really excel either. It delivers a decent amount of power with either engine, but especially so with the available V6. However, it never really takes advantage of that power. It can cruise down the highway without fuss, but throw a few turns in, and it loses its composure.
Inside, the SUV looks quite upscale, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Lincoln cut a few corners to keep the price of the Nautilus down. Nonetheless, the cabin is comfortable and well-appointed with plenty of safety features, with even more comfort and safety features on the upper trims. However, the top-tier trims are very expensive, nearing or exceeding the price of true luxury crossovers that come just as well-appointed.
So while the Nautilus is spacious inside, with plenty of safety features, and great ride quality, it offers subpar cargo capacity and fuel economy, and uninspiring handling dynamics, all for a price of a more capable SUV. All said and done, the Lincoln Nautilus is a mediocre crossover, certainly not a good one.
Lincoln's midsize luxury crossover is slightly more affordable than leading rivals like the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, with a starting MSRP of $41,040 for the Standard. The Reserve ups the cost quite a bit to $48,500, with the optional V6 adding $2,500, pushing the overall price past $50k. The top-tier Black Label asks for a significant investment of $63,800. All-wheel-drive can be optioned on to the lower two trims for an additional $2,495. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Lincoln's $995 destination fee.
The Nautilus range has dropped a trim for the new year, but the Standard, Reserve, and Black Label are still available. The lower two trims come standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that directs 250 hp and 280 lb-ft to the front wheels. Each can also be optioned with the all-wheel drivetrain. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine comes standard on the Black Label, and can be equipped to the Reserve trim, although it must be paired with the all-wheel drivetrain. Regardless of engine and drivetrain, an eight-speed automatic transmission always rows the gears.
The base-level Standard comes equipped with 18-inch, automatic LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED taillights and reverse lights, as well as a power liftgate. The interior comes upholstered in leatherette with ten-way power comfort front seats with power lumbar and driver-seat memory. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, and four 12-volt power outlets all come standard, along with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite comprises blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear sonar, forward collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and a rearview camera. The infotainment centers around an eight-inch touchscreen interface that grants access to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The 11-speaker sound system comes standard with AM/FM Radio and SiriusXM.
The mid-tier Reserve adds LED fog lights and upgrades the power liftgate with hands-free functionality. The standard leatherette is upgraded to genuine leather upholstery while the steering column gets power tilt-and-telescoping. A panorama vista roof is installed along with heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats. The infotainment is expanded with HD Radio, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, and a 13-speaker Revel sound system.
The Black Label upgrades the headlights to full LED multi-projector variants, and adds Black Label badging. Inside, it gets premium Venetian leather upholstery and a 19-speaker Revel Ultima sound system. Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus expands the standard safety suite with adaptive cruise control, active park assist, following distance alert, and a surround-view camera.
The reduced number of trim levels means that the remaining trim levels come with more comprehensive standard features, but each can still be upgraded with a variety of package options. Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus can be equipped to the Reserve for $2,995, adding adaptive cruise control, following distance alert, front sonar, evasive steering, active park assist, and a surround-view camera. The Reserve and Black Label are compatible with the Class II Trailer Tow Package ($630), which equips a trailer hitch and trailer sway controlling, increasing the max tow capacity to 3,500 lbs. Also available on the upper trims is the Cargo Utility Package ($365), which comprises a 110-volt power outlet, an interior cargo cover, plastic storage bins, and a rear cargo management system. For $1,995, each model can be equipped with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The entry-level Standard trim is a perfectly capable and well-appointed option, and comes at a pretty affordable price for a luxury vehicle, but it can't be equipped with the powerful turbo V6 engine. If you want access to that, you have to go for either the Reserve or the Black Label, but the latter is unreasonably expensive for what it offers. Thus, we suggest aiming for the middle ground and choosing the Reserve. The leather-appointed seats are plenty comfortable and the infotainment suite is comprehensive. However, it may be worth it to option on the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus package for some added peace of mind.
At an even higher price bracket than the Nautilus, the Lincoln Aviator has a lot more room to focus on the aspects that make an SUV premium. And speaking of room, the Aviator is quite a bit larger than its sibling, comfortably fitting in a third row of seats. Moving the much bulkier Aviator requires a lot more power, too, so it's no surprise that the base engine on the three-row crossover is a potent 400-hp turbo V6. But much like the Nautilus, the Aviator offers a second powertrain, a plug-in hybrid that boosts the V6 to deliver a combined 494 hp and 630 lb-ft. Add to this the Aviator's more premium interior, a longer list of available tech and comfort features, and comparable cargo capacity, and it's not hard to see why it makes it to our top ten, while the Nautilus is relegated to the mid-fifties.
Based on the same platform as the Lincoln Nautilus, the Ford Edge shares many of the same features, including a similarly powered 255-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It doesn't, however, get access to the stronger V6 that its cousin does. With a starting price tag that's $10k lower than that of the Lincoln, the Edge is not quite as upscale, but it offers many of the same features, such as Ford Co-Pilot360, an extensive infotainment suite, and available leather upholstery. By not trying to come across as a more premium vehicle, the Ford Edge is able to offer a lot more bang for your buck, while maintaining the same levels of utility as the more expensive Nautilus. If you can't really afford a luxury SUV, you're better off saving what cash you do have and going for the smarter buy.