SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After a daylong drive in the all-new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, I had to wonder why I don’t see more Lincolns on the road.
Sure, you see the various livery cars that bear Lincoln badging, but why don’t more people own them?
Frankly, it’s been a while since I’ve driven a Lincoln -- enough time for me to forget that the automaker produces a really nice vehicle.
Maybe everyone else forgot, too?
So, perhaps it just takes someone like me to beat the drums a bit and encourage people to go for a test drive.
As the Nautilus is imminently set to hit the streets, let me beat those drums.
Nautilus takes the place of the poorly named MKX for 2019, and in addition to the name change, it also gets some styling and technology upgrades.
The exterior sheet metal is new from the A-Pillar forward, and the handsome new Lincoln grille makes a bold and elegant statement with a lot of shiny chrome and some 3D texture.
The rear also gets restyled, and the name badge gets removed from the hindquarters and is replaced with an elegant silver placard that sits below the side mirrors.
The interior is also nicely appointed with real wood accents, elegant stitching and a sleek-and-simple center stack.
Lincoln has managed an excellent balance between tech-forward digital displays on the 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel and the traditional hard-touch buttons and dials for the audio and HVAC controls.
One thing that takes some getting used to, however, is the push-button gearing that is situated to the left of the infotainment screen display on the center stack. While I’m sure an owner would get used to them, I kept reaching for a more traditional gearshift every time I needed to Park, Drive or Reverse.
For 2019, the Nautilus has two engine options - both of which are turbocharged.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder that delivers 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. The up-level engine is a 2.7-liter V-6 that delivers 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque.
The 2.7-liter engine will cost about $2,400 more than the base engine.
Both of the engines now come with the auto stop/start (or idle stop) functionality that I loathe. Luckily, there are two ways to disable this feature. If you think you might want to use it occasionally, there’s a hard button on the center stack that allows you easily to turn auto stop/start off per drive.
The other way to disable is a little more permanent and requires you to page through some vehicle settings to turn it off in a way that the Nautilus remembers you want it off even after parking and restarting.
After I expressed my utter dislike for auto stop/start, the engineers encouraged me to at least test Lincoln’s version on the Nautilus. So I did. And while it’s not awful, I still don’t like it.
As the engine shuts off when you come to a complete stop, the wheel locks, the HVAC gets muted and the time it takes to restart could make you miss that small window you have to make a left turn into traffic. I’ll choose the permanently off position every time, thank you.
During the press preview, I only had the opportunity to drive vehicles with the 2.7-liter engine, and I found it to be smooth, seamless and quiet. It doesn’t have gut-flipping fast acceleration, but it’s just the right amount of power for a vehicle this size.
The 2019 Nautilus debuts Lincoln’s suite of safety features, called Co-Pilot360, which was previously only available as separate options. It is now standard on all trims and includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, auto high beams and lane keep assist.
Other available features on the Nautilus include evasive steer assist, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, 22-way power adjustable front Ultra Comfort Seats, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and Waze integration.
Since we were driving Reserve and Black Label models during the test, Lincoln added a lot of the up-level features for us to try. Though, thankfully, I didn’t have to put the evasive steer assist into action, I found the adaptive cruise control and lane centering to work really well. I liked the Ultra Comfort Seats, but the one small nit I have to pick is the adjustable seat bottoms don’t retract enough for the petite drivers and front passengers among us. (Ahem!)
Nautilus will be available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, with the AWD adding a $2K premium to the price tag. Pricing and trims are as follows:
Since both the Reserve and Black Label models we drove were well-optioned, the as-tested prices came in at $66,115 and $66,635, respectively. Considering I like the seating surfaces and wheels better on the Black Label - not to mention the amenities that come with purchasing a Black Label - I’d probably head straight for that trim since the optioned price difference is so negligible.
One nice standard feature to note: No matter which trim you choose, every Nautilus comes with pickup and delivery service.
The Bottom Line:
I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked the Nautilus. It’s not sporty like a BMW X1 or Infiniti QX50, so if you’re looking for a stiff suspension and ultra-tight steering, this is not the SUV you’re looking for.
But if you’re looking for something quiet, effortless and luxurious, the new Nautilus should be on your must-test list.
I’ve actively been wracking my brain for things I don’t like about this vehicle, and other than the Ultra-Comfort-Seats complaint, I’ve got nothing.
I like the way Nautilus looks, feels and drives.
And on that note, I’ll stop beating the drum and let the sound echo in your head instead.
Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Lincoln covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.