2019 Lincoln Nautilus improves on MKX in almost every way

The Lincoln MKX is dead. Kind of. Its replacement is the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, but aside from a new name, a freshened face, an updated powertrain, and more advanced driver assistance technology, this is still a Ford Edge-based crossover, for better or worse. The crossover was revealed ahead of the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show on Tuesday.

The Nautilus is armed with an all-turbocharged engine lineup this time around. The base engine is Ford’s familiar 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder that pumps out 245 horsepower, just like it does on the MKC. That said, this engine is less powerful than the MKX’s former base 3.7-liter V-6, although it will likely be more fuel-efficient. More exciting is the 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 that sits atop the MKX range. Promising 335 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque, the direct-injected engine should provide plenty of power for most Nautilus owners. Eight-speed automatics are the only available transmission, while start-stop comes standard as well.

The new sheet metal is lovely. While the Edge isn’t the prettiest, it has a profile that’s both handsome and functional. Lincoln amplifies that good look with a more stylish front clip that leans heavily on the Continental sedan’s softer lines rather than the Navigator’s chiseled-from-stone look. This is a good thing—the slim headlights and rectangular grille work particularly well on a vehicle the size of the Nautilus. We’re less fond of the Navigator-derived ultra-slim turn signals on the Nautilus, they look like a caricature of a Frenchman’s mustache; slim taillights only improve on the attractive styling pioneered by the MKC.

DON’T MISS: With Nautilus, Lincoln moves away from meaningless alphanumeric names

Like the Navigator and the Continental, the Nautilus has a different take on the increasingly ubiquitous side grille, adding a badge that wouldn’t look out of place on a yacht. While we’ve seen this look on its older siblings, it feels more impactful on the Nautilus, perhaps because this is a refreshed design rather than a whole-sale restyling.

Unfortunately, the cabin of the Nautilus has let down the good vibes put out by its exterior. For reasons that defy comprehension, a huge, unattractive slab of cheap-feeling black plastic continues to dominate the center stack. With the Navigator, we’ve seen what Lincoln’s design and material people can do when they’re let loose—we just wish they had a say in the Nautilus, because that center stack ruins what’s otherwise a nice cabin.

When Lincoln introduced us to the Nautilus at a close backgrounder, we saw the mid-grade Reserve trim, which still featured handsome leather upholstery and impressive wood work on the sides of the center console. The Black Label is even better, offering three separate color themes—”Chalet” gets cream leather with Silverwood accents; “Thoroughbred” sports tan Venetian leather, Chilean Maple, and Alcantara; and “Gala” wears leather upholstery in black and a purplish shade, with aluminum accents—and a leather-wrapped dash that feels much more premium.

On the tech front, Lincoln is adding a 12.3-inch instrument cluster display, just like on the Continental and Navigator. A pair of 22-way front seats and up to a 19-speaker audio system, both borrowed from other Lincoln products, are both available, as well. A new array of active safety systems is an improvement here, though—the Nautilus will be available with just about every driver-assist system on the market today. Sure, there’s adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic emergency braking, but Lincoln improves on each of these systems. The cruise control has stop-and-go functionality to use in traffic, and there’s a lane centering function that enhances the active lane control. Those pieces of technology join other, more familiar offerings, like active park assist and forward collision warning.

It’s still too early for pricing information on the 2019 Nautilus, although since this is a facelift rather than a redesign, there’s no reason to suggest a dramatic increase over the current MKX, which starts at $39,960 for a base model and extends $59,650 for an all-wheel-drive Black Label with the twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter engine.

To learn about the other vehicles appearing at the show, head to our dedicated hub.

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