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The 2019 Lincoln Black Label Nautilus Breaks Out of the MKX’s Shell

The Lincoln Nautilus accomplishes everything it sets out to do and even manages to be a surprising delight in some aspects.

The Lincoln Motor Company has been making strides to revitalize its brand, eager to remind the world it is indeed an American luxury carmaker. Bolder design and revitalized nameplates are meant to dim the memory of its long-running line of also-ran cars and SUVs that did their job without much passion or fanfare. So: out with the MKX, and in with the Nautilus, the new title for Lincoln’s luxury midsize crossover. As it turns out, the car is more than a new name.

The Good: Smooth ride and excellent pull from the optional 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. The touchscreen is easy to use, and the all-digital gauge cluster is clear and informative without being distracting. The massaging seats are nice.

Who It’s For: Lincoln loyalists on a lease are sure to upgrade, but the updated styling is enough to attract those who want to haul around families in style.

Watch Out For: Plugging multiple phones in the USB ports seems to confuse the Nautilus’s infotainment system.

Alternatives:

• Cadillac XT5 ($41,695)
• Audi Q5 ($42,950)
• Volvo XC60 ($39,800)

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Verdict: The Lincoln Nautilus accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and even manages to be a delight in some surprising respects. Though the driving engagement is uninspired regardless of engine choice, it never leaves you lacking for power, whether merging onto the highway or pushing up a hill. It’s a comfortable ride with few distractions, yet all the amenities the modern SUV buyer demands. It’s a welcome day-trip shuttle for four or five passengers with room enough for each to bring a bag. And the updated style goes a long way to distinguish the Nautilus from what came before, even if most of the guts are the same. With a starting price around $60,000 all of this makes the Nautilus a compelling entry in a competitive segment.

Review: Picking up the SUV for a weekend trip I consider that “Nautilus” is the name of Captain Nemo’s submarine in Jules Verne’s stories about a madman who exiles himself from a civilization he deems overly chaotic. It seems a fitting parallel as I attempt to escape the insanity of Manhattan traffic for a tranquil weekend in the Catskills. But that’s where the comparison ends. The big truck doesn’t evoke a sense of awe or mystery, nor is it packed with groundbreaking technology. It’s a Lincoln. It’s not built for madmen — it’s made for your grandmother.

But Lincoln is in the middle of a transition, trying to satisfy their older (and loyal) customer base while enticing younger buyers. The new look is surprisingly attractive, bringing it in line with other current Lincoln offerings like the Navigator and Continental. The updated facia sports a bold grille that flexes some chunky curves, nicely complemented by chromed vent wings and deep-set headlamps. The sense of substance carries through to the back, where everything is elegantly shaped. It’s a well-proportioned package; the only glaring misstep is the keyless entry keypad on the driver side door frame, a vestigial feature that dates the car significantly.

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Photo: Lincoln

Sadly, the interior didn’t receive as much attention as the exterior. It’s essentially the same interior the MKX has had since 2016, with a few minor tweaks that modernize it only slightly, though the design is clean enough overall that Lincoln can get away with it — for now. An array of optional interior materials and patterns can go a long way toward dressing things up, particularly if you opt for the Black Label edition, a top-tier trim that sets it apart from the other three trim levels, which includes additional privileges and services along with exclusive thematic interior packages — Chalet, Gala, and Thoroughbred.

My Onyx Burgundy Nautilus was equipped with “Gala,” with deep Onyx leather, aluminum accents, and 22-way comfort seats that swathed me and my traveling companion in luxury all the way to the mountains. Plus, the seat massagers actually performed a real function. There are no different massage types to choose from like “shiatsu,” just different levels of intensity. When activated, the system provides a gradual, sustained push into your seat and lower back, alternating sides. It wasn’t trying to provide “a spa experience on the road,” but it greatly extended my ability to tolerate long miles and allowed me to actually enjoy the trip instead of just endure it.

The car came equipped with a suite of safety features Lincoln dubs Co-Pilot360, a collection of features like blind spot and cross-traffic alert, auto high-beams, pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are also available, as well as adaptive cruise control. It’s just the right amount of driver assistance, keeping me engaged with the act of driving but providing a second set of eyes, just in case. Lane keep assist was a little aggressive, applying small course corrections when I was already actively maneuvering.

Certain creature comforts became necessities before long. Using remote start to prep the car to warm us up after a snowy scramble up a hill became second nature, as did lazily waving my foot under the rear bumper to engage the tailgate.

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Photo: Lincoln

Driving from trailhead to trailhead through rural mountain roads let us feel out more of the Nautilus’ capabilities outside of highway cruising. The optional, 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 engine has a surprising amount of pull, generating 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. I mostly kept the drive mode in the standard “D” setting, but hitting the “S” button on the dash opened up the throttle response in a way I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t going to be a backroad stunner, regardless of the independent front and rear suspension, but it at least took nice advantage of some of the more windy downhill paths. Our Nautilus sported an optional all-wheel drive layout, though the front wheels still did most of the heavy lifting. When the road got rough, the ride was no worse for wear, and the in-cabin noise was kept to a low hum even on dusty paths. Even when overnight snows threatened our journey home, the Nautilus kept its composure.

What Others Are Saying:

“Most buyers probably won’t venture out of Normal mode, which we found taut enough to keep us from getting queasy on winding mountain roads yet able to provide a blissful ride on the freeway.” – Joe Lorio, Car + Driver

“Except for a little noticeable wind noise, the updated Lincoln effectively eliminates most of the outside world so you can concentrate on your massage from the Ultra Comfort front seats.” – Zach Gale, Motor Trend

“Inside, things should largely feel familiar to anyone who ever sat in the previous MKX … or, for that matter, a Lincoln MKZ, as both models share the trait of a center console that flows into the dashboard. Still, while it may be a bit plastic-y, it works well.” – Will Sabel Courtney, The Drive

Specs:

Year / Make / Model: 2019 Lincoln Black Label Nautilus
Purchase URL: https://www.lincoln.com/luxury-crossovers/nautilus/
Price: $59,390 BASE/ $67,630 AS TESTED
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Horsepower: 335 hp
Torque: 380 lb-ft
Weight: 4,305 lbs

Lincoln hosted us and provided this product for review.

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