Test Drive: 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Reserve

Lincoln seems to be on a bit of a tear these days. The company, once seemingly on the verge of extinction and playing second (or last) fiddle to Cadillac’s offerings, has found its identity again. It has shown the ability to surprise and delight with new, fresh designs, interesting takes on interior styling and materials, and as a whole, has managed to become relevant again. While Cadillac seemingly fades from memory with mostly stale and uninteresting models. That’s my opinion anyway.

Here we have one of Lincoln’s latest offspring, the all-new 2019 Nautilus. It’s their mid-size crossover, replacing the MKX and slotting in between the upcoming 2020 Corsair and the 2020 Aviator. Of course, the Navigator will remain the top dog. Can I just say that I appreciate Lincoln’s doing away with the letter-based naming scheme? I appreciate the thought that goes into actually naming a vehicle.

The Nautilus got a lot of looks while parked and while driving. I also had a number of people approach me and ask what it is. Onlookers seemed generally very impressed with the styling.

I found the exterior handsome and interesting to look at. The short front and rear overhangs and the deep creases on the sides add character and visual interest.

Up front are LED-matrix speed-dependent headlights that actively adjust where the light is beamed. They are very effective and flank the new signature Lincoln grille which blends luxury and aggressiveness perfectly. All the other exterior lighting is LED as well, and a set of gorgeous 21-inch rims with huge 265/40-sized tires fill the wheel wells.

As you step into the Nautilus, you will notice a somewhat-familiar Lincoln interior in terms of styling. It looks clean. It feels that Lincoln tried to craft it out of good things. The materials are very nice, with plenty of luxuriously textured soft-touch plastics, stitched panels on the dash and the doors, and stunning leathers. The high-gloss wood trim looks good. It’s real wood although it’s so glossy it almost looks fake. I prefer the less glossy open-pore wood options. The fit and finish appeared to be outstanding.

As nice as it is, everything gets a bit dark with this interior colour. I wouldn’t hesitate to opt for one of the lighter cabin choices.

The heated steering wheel isn’t just nice to look at, it’s also a pleasure to use. It’s fat and grippy and feels great in hand. Behind it is a fully digital 12.3-inch LCD dash. It looks good and works well, allowing you to customize the way it displays information to suit your needs and wants.

The optional driver’s seat is perhaps one of the most adjustable seats I’ve ever experienced. All that doesn’t mean much if the seat doesn’t do its job properly – thankfully the seats is also extraordinarily comfortable. Front seats are heated and ventilated and offer an excellent massaging function making road trips on these thrones a pleasure.

The Sync 3 system in touchscreen form graces the centre stack, with a series of hard buttons and knobs below. The system is clean and works intuitively, managing your vehicle settings, your phone and navigation functions and of course the amazing 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio system with its beautiful perforated-metal speaker grilles on all four doors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work really nicely here.

A big shout-out to the two aforementioned knobs – they are milled out of solid metal and look and feel incredibly solid and luxurious. That is a great touch and shows Lincoln is trying to set itself apart in the details.

This loaded-up Nautilus is chock-full of driver assistance technology – you get a 360-degree camera with parking sensors all around, active park assist, lane-centering and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist with emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring.

The massive panoramic sunroof overhead lets in plenty of light and the rear passengers benefit from that as well.

Cabin storage is good. At the bottom of the sloping centre stack is a bin with a pivoting lid. Inside is a wireless charging mat for your phone as well as a USB plug. The armrest lid pops up to reveal a small but deep carpeted bin with 12V and USB plugs. And finally, under the centre console, there is a large floating rubberized shelf and storage area.

We appreciated the wide rear door openings, making it easy to get in and out. The heated rear seats are comfortable and can recline. At 5'10", I had a lot of leg room, plenty of foot space under the front seats and about 1.5 inches of headroom sitting behind my own driving position. The middle seat is big enough to accommodate an adult in relative comfort – my three kids were very happy with the space back there.

Rear passengers get adjustable air vents, a 110V household plug, and a 12V plug; and the middle seatback folds down to become a nice armrest with cupholders.

Out back, once you pop the power liftgate, you’ll find a big trunk with a nice high load floor. If you need more cargo space, you can use the buttons in the trunk to activate the power-folding second row. There’s a 12V plug in the trunk as well as a removable, retractable tonneau cover.

My review Nautilus had the upgraded 2.7L V6 – it puts out 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic and an all-wheel drive system.

Lincoln rates it at 12.6/9/2 L/100 km city/highway – surprisingly, we averaged a very respectable 11.5 L/100 km during our week in the Nautilus.

Putting the Nautilus into Drive (or anything else) is done via a push-button transmission. I’m still not a fan of these, and they are tedious to use when doing a multi-point parking manoeuvre. Eventually you get used to it, but I still prefer a console-based gear selector.

Once you’re in gear and pointed in the right direction, the Nautilus comes into its own. It offers a delightful balance of outstanding comfort and sportiness. It certainly leans toward coddling its passengers, providing a smooth, quiet ride in every circumstance. It’s a great vehicle for cruising around town as well as the highway. But that upgraded 2.7L engine is lurking beneath those smooth waters, just waiting for the driver to stab the accelerator pedal. When called upon, the engine provides nearly instantaneous access to a tremendous amount of power. It will happily launch the Nautilus off the line with alacrity as well as allow for almost shocking passing power on the open road.

The transmission is smooth and intelligent, almost always ending up in the right gear. You can select your driving mode, choosing between Normal, Comfort, and Sport – these impact the Nautilus’ responsiveness, steering feel and the adaptive suspension.

We found that the Nautilus feels heavy, particularly at slow speeds. Maybe substantial is a better word to describe this. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s noticeable. The faster you start driving, the less you feel this weightiness.

As mentioned, the Nautilus is a smooth operator and road, wind and engine noise is very well managed. At highway speeds, the Nautilus cabin almost feels silent. Lincoln has done a very good job with insulating the cabin. The one minor exception is that those low-profile tires slap over things like expansion joints, so you will occasionally hear that.

The Nautilus’ brakes are surprisingly powerful, even feeling a tad grabby at first. Visibility and sightlines out of the vehicle are excellent in every direction.

WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very, very high. She loved almost everything about it – how luxurious it felt, how easy it was to drive, and how it looked.

I really liked the Nautilus too. It is simply a very well done two-row crossover. It brings a significant amount of luxury and technology to the table, and combines it with outstanding drivability and (with the optional engine) plenty of power. The styling is nicely done and will age gracefully. I was a bit surprised at where the pricing ended up on my loaded-up Reserve-trim Nautilus with the options and freight adding about $18,000 to the base price. There are plenty of nice choices in the luxury mid-size crossover category and the Nautilus deserves to be on your shopping list if this is the kind of ride you’re after.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus Reserve
Engine Displacement: 2.7L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 335 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 380 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel Economy: 12.6/9.2/11.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,055 / 1,948 L seats down
articles_PricingType 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Reserve
Base Price $55,350
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,000
Price as Tested $73,150
Optional Equipment $15,700 – Iced Mocha Metallic paint $700; 2.7 V6 $3,000; Cargo Utility package $350; Technology package $1,100; Driver Assistance package $2,500; Ultimate package $5,500; interior protection package $450; Class II trailer tow package $500; 22-way power driver seat $1,600
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.9
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value