Lincoln’s new Nautilus SUV

Gone is the old MKX. Lincoln's new crossover gets a proper name.

Hallelujah. No, that’s not the name of the latest Lincoln newcomer. Though it could be. Right now, Lincoln is on a roll, introducing a plethora of highly appealing new trucklettes, and hallelujah, ditching all those confusing MK badges.

The newest iteration, due this summer, is the gorgeous, all-new three-row Aviator, which replaces the unloved MKT. It’s the best-looking new Lincoln yet. Next up is the Corsair – love that name – which will replace the compact MKC in early 2020.

But hitting the market right now is the 2019 Nautilus I’ve been driving. It’s the replacement for the previous MKX, adorned with a new face, new engine and, finally, ditching that irritating MKX badge. I never did figure out whether it stood for MK eX, or MK10, or MK Cross.

In this pretty crowded section of the market, the Nautilus – priced from $41,000 to, yikes, just over $70,000 – will butt heads with some formidable opponents, including the Lexus RX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60.

Naturally the Nautilus comes with that new-generation Lincoln grille we’ve seen on the Continental sedan and XXL-sized Navigator. I can’t say I’m a fan; I still love the old split-wing grille To me this new version gives the crossover a slightly sour, turned-down-mouth look. Think four-year-old told to go to bed early.

Those new LED headlights look pretty cool though, along with the pencil-thin daytime running lights, and all that shimmery chrome. There’s a nice re-work at the rear too, with new skinny LED lighting. Overall it’s a pretty stylish look.

Pop the hood and gone is the base 3.7-liter V6 of the MKX; in its place is Ford’s feisty 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. It’s good for 250 horseys, though that’s quite a drop from the old V6’s 303-hp.

Crave more oomph? Then opt for the carry-over 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that cranks out a meatier 335-hp and 380 lb-ft or torque. To me, it’s $2,000 upgrade well-spent.

Both 4-cylinder and V6 are now mated to Ford’s new 8-speed automatic, in place of the old 6-speed. And both are available with standard front- or all-wheel-drive – a $2,495 option.

What I’m piloting is the highfalutin’, top-of-the-line Nautilus Black Label powered by that Teflon-smooth 2.7-liter turbo V6 with all-wheel drive. Close to $70-grand very nicely-loaded.

The Black Label spec really lifts this mid-size sport-ute into Mercedes and Audi country, with its lovely, fancy-stitched  perforated leather, suede-like Alcantara headliner, unique wood and aluminum trim.

Want to go the whole nine yards? Then splurge another $1,500 on the Lincoln’s Ultra Comfort front seats. These are 22-way-adjustable, heated, ventilated, have a massage feature. La-Z-Boys aren’t this comfy.

In the rear there’s a good amount of space with plenty of  kneeroom and headroom. A nice touch is the reclining backrest, along with the huge panoramic Vista sunroof that floods the cabin with light.

As you might expect, the new Nautilus is brimming with new tech. There’s now a crystal-clear 12.3-inch glass screen customizable instrument display in front of the driver, and a central 8-inch display in the center with pinch-to-zoom functionality. But sorry,  eight inches for a display is way too small for this class and price point.

As for driving, this new Nautilus embraces Lincoln’s ‘quiet luxury’ mantra. Double-glazed side glass and added sound-deadening material keeps the cabin hushed, while the turbo V6 is quieter than a sleeping baby.

Yet this is no snooze-mobile when you squeeze the throttle. The responsiveness of the transmission, coupled with 335 horseys, punches the Nautilus off the line with slingshot immediacy. Select ‘Sport’ from the three drive settings, and the engine will respond faster and the steering become weightier for a more involving drive.

No, the Nautilus isn’t as dynamic or agile as, say, a Mercedes GLC, BMW X3 or Audi Q5, but it’s still a lot of fun with its low body roll, nicely-precise steering and Fixodent-like grip.

Add to all this the benefits of Lincoln ownership, like the free pick-up and return for servicing, free loaner, and four-year/50,000 maintenance plan should ensure this new Nautilus will  definitely float your boat.


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