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2021 Lincoln Nautilus.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Lincoln Nautilus has deep roots in Canada. More than 500,000 have rolled off the line at Ford’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ont. since December 2006 – all destined for the North American market. Previously called the Lincoln MKX, it was rebadged the Nautilus in 2019. For 2021, the Nautilus gets refreshed with new styling cues and more technology.

Granted, it’s still confusing to keep track of the Lincoln lineup after flip-flopping from letters to real names and then later discontinuing its sedans, the Continental and MKZ, from its family. But it’ll ultimately be a move that’s less complicated for consumers. Lincoln is now strictly an SUV brand, with only four vehicles in its lineup: the small, entry-level Corsair, the three-rowed, mid-sized Aviator, the three-rowed flagship monster Navigator, and the Nautilus.

With Nautilus, designers focused on creating a serene interior space, or “sanctuary” as Lincoln likes to call it. “The interior for us is really very much a room. It’s not just an automotive interior,” says Robert Gelardi, chief interior designer at Lincoln Motor Company. “We’ve got to get the room right. Then, we work on the furniture in the room to make sure the occupants feel calm, rejuvenated and relaxed,” he adds.

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The interior, redesigned for 2021, is inviting and spacious.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Getting into the cabin, the redesigned interior is inviting and spacious. And the so-called “furniture,” especially the driver’s seat, is as comfy and cozy as sitting on a living room sofa. In fact, the seat moves 22 ways using power thigh extenders and 11 independent air cushions – seven of which offer massage. It’s an expensive option at $1,900, but it does help ease tension when driving.

New colour combinations were added to the interior – my tester has rich brown tones that blend beautifully with the bright chrome accents – but it’s the exterior colours that are the most impressive. Gelardi says that the company conducted extended research into how consumers reacted to different colour combinations, and the result was three new exterior colours: Asher Gray, Green Gem and Flight Blue.

Flight Blue in particular is a stunning shade – much nicer than my tester’s run-of-the-mill Asher Gray. And it’s a vibrant addition to the already existing vibrant colour palette which includes burgundy velvet, red carpet and iced mocha. Other tweaks to the exterior include Lincoln’s signature grille, new LED headlamps and LED tail lights, an abundance of chrome accents, and big black aluminum wheels. Smart technology includes a hands-free liftgate that makes it easier to access the cargo area by kicking under the bumper and Phone as a Key, which lets you convert your smart phone into a virtual key. So there’s no need to carry around a traditional key fob anymore – your smartphone can unlock and lock the doors, open or close the liftgate, turn the vehicle on or off remotely, and start or drive the vehicle. Other new tech features include a wide 13.2-inch LCD touchscreen, which is easier to use and packed with far more functions than the last version, SYNC®4 system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charging, roaming Wi-Fi, cloud-based connectivity and over-the-air update capabilities

Two engines are up for grabs – a standard 2.0L turbocharged I-4 or an optional 2.7L twin-turbocharged V6. The latter is fitted to my tester. It costs an extra $4,000, but it’s worth it. The V6 engine produces 335 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. It accelerates well; it’s smooth, composed, and extremely quiet in the cabin at all speeds. At times, the ride is a bit soft compared to some German competitors, but it’s still pleasant. An Auto Start-Stop function kills the engine automatically when stopped to save fuel. I averaged 10.8L/100 kms combined highway and city driving – not bad for an AWD SUV and slightly less than Natural Resources Canada’s official combined fuel rating of 11.1L/100 kms.

Design and technology are at the heart of the revamped Nautilus – but its best-selling feature remains its Canadian-made roots, for now.

The Nautilus comes loaded with technology and safety features, including Enhanced Active Park Assist, which takes the stress out of parallel or perpendicular parking in tight spaces.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Tech Specs

2021 Lincoln Nautilus Reserve AWD

Base price/as tested: $56,000; $68,575 as tested (plus $2,150 freight and PDI)

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Engine: 2.7L twin-turbo V6 engine with 335 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft of torque

Transmission/Drive: 8-speed automatic, AWD

Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway): 12.6 city; 9.3 highway

Alternatives: Volvo XC60, Cadillac XT5, BMW X5, Audi Q5, Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz GLE

Looks

Elegant exterior design with sweeping lines and plenty of chrome accents, but it’s not too flashy or in-your-face. The redesigned fascia includes Lincoln’s new signature grille, new LED headlamps and LED taillights, dual rear exhaust, and 20-inch black aluminum wheels. Small, three-quarter tinted rear windows add to its profile and provide excellent all-around visibility from the driver’s seat.

Interior

Sophisticated interior that’s focused on the driver and passengers. The front seats are infinitely adjustable, well-padded, and supportive. The second-row seats also recline for a more comfortable seating position. Legroom and headroom are excellent – just be careful entering the rear-seat area, it’s easy to ding your head at the top. A huge panoramic sunroof spans the entire cabin giving rear-seat passengers a feeling of spaciousness and airiness.

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Performance

My tester’s 2.7-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine delivers 335 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s powerful and secure with quick acceleration. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts gears precisely. The ride and handling are a bit soft and floaty at times, but it’s quiet, composed, and pleasant behind the wheel.

Technology

Safety technology is plentiful and includes Enhanced Active Park Assist, which takes the stress out of parallel or perpendicular parking in tight spaces. Ultrasonic sensors can find a spot and help the vehicle steer into place without the driver touching a pedal or the steering wheel. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane centring uses cameras and radar to adjust the speed depending on the vehicles ahead. It can come to a complete stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic and restart when traffic begins again. Lane centring uses data from the front-facing radar and camera to keep the vehicle centred in the lane.

The rear cargo management system holds awkward items, like watermelons, securely in place.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Cargo

Spacious with 1,053 litres of cargo room. A hands-free liftgate makes it easy to access the cargo area – kick under the bumper and it opens. A cargo compartment with reversible mat, cargo cover and rear cargo management system to hold awkward items, like watermelons, securely in place is handy. It costs $350.

The Verdict

Lincoln designers have succeeded in making the Nautilus better than the last version – it’s a luxurious, quiet, serene SUV that’s packed with technology. Even better is that it’s assembled in Canada.

One of the best things about the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is that it's made in Canada.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

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