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2024 Lincoln Nautilus First Drive: One Feature to Sell it All

The new giant display is awesome and helpful

2024 Lincoln Nautilus front
  • The Lincoln Nautilus is fully redesigned for 2024.
  • No longer feels like a Ford Edge with nicer leather.
  • Twin-turbo V6 is gone, but new hybrid offers solid performance and impressive fuel economy.
  • New full-width display screen is a game changer.

Lincoln's naming convention for its vehicles generally evokes a theme of adventuring (admittedly, corsairs were not nearly as benign as navigators or aviators), but the new 2024 Lincoln Nautilus is the first in years that truly feels like it earns the name. There are some carryover elements — namely, the base engine offering — but a murderers' row of new features is designed to put the established players in the midsize luxury SUV game on notice. Now fully divorced from its Ford Edge underpinnings, the next-gen Nautilus has the room to grow into its own, and it does so in a showstopping fashion.

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2024 Lincoln Nautilus profile

Gas vs. hybrid

Under the Nautilus' hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The standard gas-only version develops 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, and is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. That's essentially the same output as last year's Nautilus, and it trails entry-level versions of segment leaders like the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Genesis GV80 and Lexus RX. However, the standard Nautilus is more potent than the Lincoln's crosstown rival, the Cadillac XT5.

The twin-turbo V6 is gone for 2024, but Lincoln does offer a powertrain upgrade in the form of a turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid. For an extra $1,500, the hybrid offers a combined 310 hp and a healthy bump from 21 mpg to 30 mpg in the EPA's city driving cycle. The hybrid setup is exclusively paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

While I miss the thrust of the old twin-turbo V6, this electrified four-cylinder has decent juice. The Nautilus rolls away smoothly from a stop, and there's no drivetrain jolt when the engine fires up. Power delivery is uninterrupted thanks to the continuously variable automatic transmission, and even in the default drive mode, the transmission reacts quickly to throttle inputs. The only downside is the crunchy brake action right before you come to a stop. The regenerative braking force applies invisibly, but the handoff to the friction brakes in the last few miles per hour is a bit jerky.

The non-hybrid Nautilus produces none of the wonky brake feel of the hybrid. However, the engine is noticeably more lethargic, and the 250 horses aren't quite up to the task of moving this midsize luxury SUV with authority. The thrum of the four-cylinder is evident, while the hybrid cruises along nearly silently.

Combined with the significant fuel economy benefits afforded by this powertrain, most buyers will be best served by the hybrid. An owner will likely find the right brake pedal pressure after extended time behind the wheel.

On the road

In its Normal drive mode, the Nautilus' steering is light and effortless, and the suspension tuning is pretty soft. The Nautilus is so softly sprung that I even consulted the window sticker to see if my example was fitted with an air suspension. No joy; a steel suspension is standard across the board. But Reserve and Black Label models are equipped with adaptive dampers, and these make all the difference.

Switching to Excite mode in a model equipped with adaptive dampers, the ride gets noticeably firmer, and the steering becomes more responsive. Lumbering through sedate downtown Palm Springs, the change to this more engaging mode pays dividends. The ride that previously felt floaty is now buttoned down and well controlled. The throttle is slightly more sensitive in this drive mode — requiring a light foot to avoid rocketing away from a stop light — but the improved ride is worth the trade-off.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus interior

The widescreen display is a game changer

The most visually impressive aspect of the new Nautilus' interior is the massive 48-inch screen that seemingly stretches from pillar to pillar. It's similar in intention to the screen in the China-only Lincoln Zephyr, though that model uses a full-width display on the face of the dashboard, while the Nautilus' screen is positioned above the dash and far forward.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus interior

The central 11.1-inch touchscreen is your main entertainment interface; you barely interact with the big screen at all, except to choose the displayed informational widgets. Instead, think of this screen as an alternative to a head-up display — a feature not offered on the Nautilus (a HUD would be redundant considering how the screen operates). Like a HUD, the information is directly in your field of view, and because the screen is so large, you have a lot more virtual real estate. Lincoln designers wisely decided to keep the screen free of clutter, so each widget takes up a ton of space. The result is navigation, instrument panel and audio content that is easy to digest at a glance. Even better, keeping the most pertinent info in the driver's line of sight means the front passenger can futz with the touchscreen to their heart's content without swiping away critical navigation instructions.

It's an awesome piece of kit, and one that isn't available in any other stateside Lincoln — yet. It's hard to imagine a screen this good will remain a Nautilus exclusive. It's a great party piece and gives the SUV's interior a distinctive look. Lincoln could use an identifying styling cue, and the ultrawide screen fits the bill perfectly.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus steering wheel

Other great tech

The Nautilus debuts a new in-cabin experience that Lincoln calls Rejuvenate. It will be available later this year via an over-the-air software update and combines several comfort functions in a single, one-button program. Only available while stationary, Rejuvenate at once reclines the driver seat, turns on the massage, activates the in-cabin scent, pumps up relaxing mood music and changes the image on the giant display. While this five- or 10-minute program seems like an obvious inclusion for an EV owner to use while charging, my guide helpfully reminded me that my daughter will be starting school in a few years, and that waiting in car pickup lines is in my relatively near future. Almost got me to buy a Nautilus with that line.

Another strong selling point is BlueCruise, which is standard on every Nautilus in either a 90-day or four-year trial, depending on trim. It allows for hands-free driving on more than 130,000 miles of North American roads. BlueCruise worked well in my limited exposure to the Nautilus, though Edmunds named the current build one of the less effective hands-free systems in a recent test.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus detail

The recommended spec

Given the hybrid's superior power and fuel economy, and the low price of the upgrade, this feels like the best bet. The standard model is loaded with great features, but the Reserve II is the sweet spot in the lineup. You get genuine leather and the much-needed adaptive dampers at the Reserve I level, and the upgrade to Reserve II includes luxurious add-ons like a panoramic sunroof, 14-speaker audio system, a hands-free liftgate, and scent cartridges for the climate system. The BlueCruise trial is also extended from 90 days to four years.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus seat
2024 Lincoln Nautilus front

Edmunds says

The Lincoln Nautilus has the potential to singlehandedly transform the luxury brand's image. We hope to see the thoughtful and visually impressive new screen in other Lincolns soon.