All things being equal, people will gravitate towards a prettier package. At least, this must be the thinking at the Lincoln Motor Co., where a push towards more beautiful car designs has been going on for at least five years now. In the drive to crank out crossovers and SUVs that lure customers into showrooms, the rubber is now hitting the proverbial road.
There was a moment at the start of the drive event for the new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus when a Porsche Macan arrived on the scene. This was not a watershed moment, yet it showed that Lincoln is ready to fight with any manufacturer, at least in terms of design.
Compared to the Lincoln MKX, which it replaces, the Nautilus is more sculpted, stronger and, dare we say it, sexier. The trailing edge of the roof extends beyond the starting point of the rear window. It’s not quite a roofline spoiler, but it’s similar in concept – but more inspired and original.
For the Canadian market, the Nautilus comes standard with all-wheel drive and is available with the choice of two engines, each one linked to a different eight-speed automatic transmission. The horsepower and torque numbers are in line with the competitive set, but the fuel efficiency numbers do not set the pace for this class of vehicle. Both versions feature three drive modes that alter the throttle response and suspension damping. Another button triggers a sport mode that creates more aggressive shifts. Paddle shifters are there for the taking, should you so choose.
Despite these details, driving the Nautilus proves above all else that this mid-size crossover is engineered for comfortable cruising and not corner carving. The acceleration is capable and not more. The steering has decent heft, but also requires input in the middle of the corner to maintain trajectory. The ride, especially in comfort mode, verges on the “floaty” side – but there’s no call for a nautical joke here.
The strength of this vehicle, instead, is its comfort and quietness.
The engineers have furthered the cause of sound deadening with a new system that uses three microphones to determine the cause of ambient noise. The system then pumps out noise-cancelling signals through the audio system speakers to drown out said noise. Out on the road, regardless of the quality of the surface itself, the Nautilus wafts silently along like a much larger vehicle.
The fact that Lincoln has opted to focus on design and comfort makes perfect sense. There are no illusions that this is one of those so-called “sport SUVs.” Lincoln Canada product manager Jim Rideout has said the company is not out to challenge the Germans at their own game. There’s no point, really, when you consider the reason for being of the typical mid-size luxury crossover.
Base price / Price as tested: $50,450 / $55,350
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder
Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic/All-wheel
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.0 city, 9.6 hwy
Alternatives: Acura RDX, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, BMW X3 28i, Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX300t, Mercedes-Benz GLC 300
Even when parked next to arguably the most handsome large SUV in the business – the Lincoln Navigator – this is one slick design. The Nautilus is lower than the Navigator, so it looks wider in comparison, giving it more of a stance. The side profile is sculpted and flowing, tricking the eye with wave-like lines that unify into one powerful statement.
Perhaps the bar was set too high with the exterior design: By comparison, the interior does not look, seem or feel as high-grade. There’s plenty of plastic in play here and it gives the impression of being an after-thought, especially when the price point is taken into consideration.
On paper, the twin-turbo V-6 makes a fair amount more horsepower (85) and torque (100 pound-feet) than the single-turbo 4-cylinder. But in back-to-back real-world driving through hilly terrain, there seemed little difference in acceleration or response throughout the rev range. The word from Lincoln insiders: The smaller engine could well end up the go-to choice for customers.
The technophiles at Ford have long wrestled with the navigation, infotainment and connectivity found in their vehicles. The work has paid off: The Nautilus is easy to operate, whether you’re trying to dial home or find an escape route. The tech story continues with some semi-autonomous action, including a new lane centering system.
The start of something beautiful.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.