For the better part of a decade, it seemed Lincoln’s time had passed. The company’s aging, dowdy rides appeared fated for the automotive history books with the likes of Saturn and Pontiac. To put it technically, the once iconic American brand had lost its mojo. However, new releases like the flagship 2019 Lincoln Navigator are injecting boldness and sophistication back into the automaker. That swagger is moving straight down the line to every model in the brand’s stable, up to and including the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus. Lincoln’s mid-size crossover is like the Navigator’s little brother with much of the same panache and design at a fraction of the price.
Navigator and Continental might be the “household” names of Lincoln’s lineup, but the Lincoln MKX is the company’s best-selling model. For 2019, the crossover gets a new engine, an updated look, and a rebranding as the Lincoln Nautilus. While it’s not a complete, top-down reboot, it’s a serious makeover that includes a new fascia, a new hood and grill, redesigned LED headlamps, and a host of other retweaked design elements. The ties to its reserved (some might argue boring) predecessor are clear, but the retooled version feels more confident and fashion-forward.
For 2019, the crossover gets a new engine, an updated look, and a rebranding as the Lincoln Nautilus.
The most notable upgrades, however, are what you don’t see. Under the hood, the Nautilus ditches the previous base engine (a 3.7L V6) for a turbocharged 2L inline-four. This translates to a 53-point drop in horsepower to 250, but a slight torque boost to 280 lb-ft. In every trim level, the standard eight-speed transmission is an ideal mate. It’s a peppy — though not quite “sporty” — setup with a smooth, linear throttle response that makes for an easy and precise drive. Fully outfitted with the Nautilus’ best engine, the flagship Black Label 2.7T AWD boasts a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 pushing a robust 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. By the numbers (in both the quarter-mile and 0-60 times), it lags well behind the class-leading BMW X3 M40i, but no one buys a Lincoln mistaking it for a hot rod. The setup is still enough to best its closest competition — the Cadillac XT5 and Lexus RX350 — and it does so with aplomb.
Also standard in the latest Nautilus is a wealth of comfort- and techno-centric whirlygigs. The 22-way driver and passenger seats feel like cruising in a private jet. Plus, the standard Revel Ultima sound system is the best we’ve ever tested in a Lincoln, and built-in 4G Wi-Fi and Tidal streaming allow for easy listening through your smartphone. Other mobile integration features include Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Both work seamlessly with WAZE and Amazon Alexa, so you can navigate around traffic without taking your eyes off the road.
On the safety front, notable additions include lane-centering assist which provides gentle nudges when you’ve veered too far toward (or over) marked lane lines. It’s a mostly unobtrusive system that, when coupled with adaptive cruise control, allows for occasional moments of hands-free driving. This system, along with several other techno-driven features like lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitoring, and evasive steering, assist makeup Lincoln’s new Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technologies.
While most Nautilus models stay true to the conservative interior design ethos of the previous generation MKX, Black Label varieties seriously up the ante.
As with the Navigator, the real draw for potential Lincoln converts is in the flagship Black Label trim. Buyers in this stratum receive a host of in-car upgrades. For starters, Black Label rides offer selectable drive modes. On the Nautilus, that means access to Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. all of which tinker with the steering weight and damping to provide greater control over the drive feel. Both Comfort and Normal are well-balanced and predictable, while Sport delivers a slightly stiffer suspension and steering. While we didn’t find Sport mode to be quite sporty enough for our liking, it’s a welcome upgrade for a historically “safe” brand.
While most Nautilus models stay true to the conservative interior design ethos of the previous generation MKX, Black Label varieties seriously up the ante. The series offers three beautifully designed themes: Gala (a rich maroon leather with aluminum trim and black accents), Chalet (creamy leather with silver wooden trim and rich brown accents), and Thoroughbred (jet black leather with Chilean maple trim and brown accents).
Black Label owners receive plenty of out-of-car perks to boot. Lincoln promises its flagship owners things like comprehensive car detailing every year, free car washes, a 12-month membership to the Clear expedited air travel service, and membership in an exclusive restaurant club known as the Culinary Collection. Ask nicely and you can probably even crash on Matthew McConaughey’s couch (kidding).
We’re betting the Base ($41,335) and Select ($45,540) trim levels of the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus won’t convert too many non-Lincoln drivers. Stepping up to the Reserve trim ($49,870), however, is where things start to get much more interesting. Most drivers looking to score a legit luxury crossover with all the state-of-the-art bells and whistles will likely opt for the Nautilus Black Label 2.7T AWD. For under $68,000, the fully loaded version feels like the Navigator’s self-assured younger brother — one who finally started hitting the gym and dressing like a debonair man with a fashion sense.