2019 Lincoln Nautilus First Drive

Improved Style, Fuel Efficiency, and Safety

When you walk up to the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus with the key in your pocket, it knows. Its LED lights dance up to frame the headlights, the taillights glow, and a large Lincoln logo illuminates the ground below the door handles. "The Lincoln Embrace," as the brand calls it, is a good summation of how Lincoln is using an emotional and personal approach to try to carve out a place in the luxury market.

The 2019 Nautilus replaces the MKX as Lincoln's midsize SUV, and it is more than just a name change. As part of a move to give each model its own identity, Lincoln has updated the styling and improved the powertrains and safety options. In the case of Nautilus over MKX, Lincoln quite literally wants the vehicle to make a name for itself. Does the newly named Nautilus rise to the top?

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

First Impressions
The Nautilus looks different from the MKX, though the underpinnings and the greenhouse are unchanged. The exterior, in particular the front end, has been redesigned to match the Continental and the Navigator. The grille no longer sports the winged mustaches of the MKX, but instead is a well-proportioned center mesh sporting a large, but not garish, Lincoln star.

"Not garish" applies to most of the exterior styling. Even on the top-tier Black Label trim level, the 21-inch wheels add a bit of glitter but don't overwhelm. Other exterior trim pieces include sparing use of chrome, just accenting the door handles or running in a thin stream around the window channels to pool in the corner of the roof pillars.

Even the badge is just a tiny thing below the taillights. The four trim levels — base, Select, Reserve and Black Label — are less about flashy exterior differences and more about option packages and dealer services.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

What's the Interior Like?
Depending on your age and interests, the name Nautilus may bring to mind the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine ride at Disneyland — now sadly defunct — the actual USS Nautilus submarine, a home gym system, or a spiral-shelled sea creature. Lincoln says the name was inspired by the Greek nautilos, meaning "sailor." We'd say the pearly, many-chambered mollusk metaphor works the best for our review.

Inside, the Nautilus is startlingly pretty and full of useful compartments. We drove a Black Label outfitted with the Gala theme interior package, which includes a saturated mix of leather and faux suede in shades of plummy black and wineglass-worthy deep red, all accented with a delicate plaid-patterned metal trim. It's breathtaking when you first open the door, and comfortable once you climb in. Not only does the interior look good, but it's also very usable, with clever storage in a pass-through under the console and controls that are easy to reach.

Our only complaint is the matte-black plastic in that center stack. Well, that and it seems like the center stack could have made better use of the vertical space by hosting a larger display than the standard 8-inch touchscreen. We would also prefer if the gear-select buttons were more noticeable and tactile.

Aside from the plastic in the console, the interiors in all the new Lincolns are just a whole new level of automotive design, more like interior decorating in a house than what you'd expect in a car. These architectural inspirations aren't just for the top trim levels either. So while the Black Label themes such as Gala, Chalet and Thoroughbred are the most striking and expensive &mash; our test car costs $66,635 — even the lower trim levels are available in attractive colors and patterns. You can get into the Select, or even the Reserve trim, for less than $50,000, which is more in line with fellow luxurious five-seaters.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

What's Under the Hood?
The Nautilus comes with either a 250-horsepower turbo 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder or a 335-horsepower twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6. An eight-speed automatic is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. The optional V6 makes the same amount of power as it did in the MKX, but the change from a six-speed transmission to an eight-speed provides more efficiency.

Where the MKX was rated at 19 or 20 mpg combined for all- and front-wheel drive, the additional gears help the V6 Nautilus improve both figures by 1 mpg combined. Equip the turbo 2.0-liter and fuel economy increases to 23 mpg for front-wheel drive and 22 mpg for all-wheel drive.

The Nautilus has plenty of hill-climbing power. If you need a little more oomph, just toggle the paddle shift to drop down a gear or two. If you want a more excitement, press the Sport mode button and you'll get a more responsive throttle and a stiffer suspension. The Nautilus is no torpedo — we wouldn't put it up against sporty SUVs such as the Audi SQ5 or the Porsche Macan — but it could hold its own rivals such as the Mercedes GLC.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

What Safety Equipment Is Available?
Like many luxury vehicles, the Nautilus is available with an array of advanced safety features. Lincoln's Co-Pilot360 package includes blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, collision mitigation, automatic high beams, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

The Lane Centering feature makes for a huge help on the highway. It watches lane markings and makes minute adjustments to keep you from drifting. Combined with adaptive cruise control, these systems really do most of the work for you on a freeway commute. We wouldn't use it in the city or on a winding road, and it's certainly far from autonomous driving. You still need to keep your hands on the wheel.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

Is It Worth A Look?
Lincoln's goals seem to be different from many of its competitors, as it doesn't seem focused on becoming most "-est" of any category — not the fastest, wildest, biggest, cheapest or technologically advanced-est. Instead, the company is betting on comfort and lifestyle. It's hoping that leasing or buying a Lincoln can make you feel safe and supported from the moment the lights wink at you in the driveway to the day the concierge picks up your car for service and drops off a loaner. Combine that with a vehicle that is comfortable and fashionable, and this Nautilus might be the boat for you.