First Drive: 2024 Lincoln Nautilus

Palm Springs, CA – Lincoln isn’t the first name on car buyer’s minds when shopping for a mid-size luxury SUV. One of their more recent claims to fame was the Navigator, a full-size SUV based on the Ford F-150 truck platform that went head-to-head with the Cadillac Escalade. It was a success story for Lincoln and one which eventually opened the doors for the smaller Aviator and the rest of the offerings we see today.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

The Nautilus sits in a hotly-contested ring with players like the Genesis GV70, Acura MDX, and BMW X3 and X5. But the Lexus RX is what the company sees as being its main rival. The Lexus has been one of the best-selling premium SUVs in North America for a long time and it sits at the top of a market segment it practically invented. The last Nautilus was a nice vehicle, but it was an outlier. Lincoln hopes the new one will change its position in the segment with its digital dashboard and a new hybrid powertrain.

Nautilus wears Lincoln’s newest design language which in itself looks like an evolution of the Aviator and Navigator. LEDs lights inspired by flight light up in a cascade as you approach the vehicle while the Lincoln badge glows. It’s a nice touch that the company has been doing since it introduced the “Lincoln Embrace” on the Navigator, and it still works well here. The overall design language styling is elegant and subdued and the rear lightbar with Lincoln lettering is up to the minute modern.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

An available “Jet” appearance package adds dark trim and cladding, and 22-inch wheels, the largest ever offered on the Nautilus. In Canada we only get the Reserve trim. Other markets get a “Black Label” trim which sits at the top of the ladder.

There’s been a massive leap in technology inside the Nautilus from the last generation, evident when you climb inside and are faced with the 48-inch wide panoramic display that stretches all the way across the dashboard. But rather than place it down low where most infotainment screens are, it’s up high, tucked up at the base of the windshield. It works with your peripheral vision like a head-up display. It’s not a touchscreen but it’s controlled through one mounted lower on the centre console. The display is split into three sections with critical-to-driving information like speed and fuel to the left, navigation in the centre, and tertiary information like weather or tire pressure to the right. The Android-based infotainment system uses Google maps navigation and can be used to stream video and even browse the internet when parked. You can even connect your video game controller to it and play downloadable games available through the Google Play store.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

It gives the interior a concept car-like vibe and for the most part it works as advertised. Placing the gauge cluster up high makes it easier to glance at while driving. And Lincoln has fitted what is essentially a square steering wheel to help you see over it instead of through it, thought it still gets in the way depending on your body type and how you position your seat. The display itself is customizable through the centre touch screen and can display beautiful landscape graphics and lots of information while you drive or almost nothing at all.

Lincoln is promoting the idea that the Nautilus’ cabin is a sanctuary from the everyday with ambient lighting inspired by the waves when sailing the ocean. There are crystal accents, real wood and metal trim pieces, massaging front seats, and supple leather upholstery. It even smells nice with a digital scent program that loads up to three fragrances in the centre consoles and spritzes the cabin every so often. It’s a blend of new-age digital tech and old-world luxury and it feels every bit as premium as its top rivals. Likewise rear seat passengers aren’t shafted for having to sit in the back as you’ll find the same level of detail, lighting, and materials used.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

There’s an all-new hybrid engine but the base powerplant is the same 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that was used in the previous model, and it makes 250 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque and sends that power to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic. Spec up to the hybrid and total system power rises to a healthy 310 hp. The hybrid also uses a 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder but adds two electric motors in the CVT transmission and a small 1.1 kWh battery under the floor. The hybrid powertrain is smooth and the transition between gas and electric power is seamless. Best of all the gas motor doesn’t sound like a tractor when it spins to life.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

The base engine can feel a bit strained at times, but the hybrid fills in the gaps with torquey electric propulsion. It’s easily the better choice here that affords quicker acceleration and much lower fuel consumption. In Lincoln’s “Excite” drive mode all available power from both gas and electric motors are sent to the wheels for lag-free acceleration.

While the Nautilus doesn’t get an air suspension like Aviator and Navigator its adaptive dampers are tuned with comfort in mind. It is a Lincoln after all, but that doesn’t mean it can’t handle a bit of spirited driving. With nicely weighted steering and well controlled body roll, the Nautilus is a pleasant partner on a back road and only gets flummoxed if you push it too hard. Out on the twisty mountain roads that California is famous for it was easy to control and stayed relaxed. It’s not as sporty as a BMW or an Audi but matches up well with the Lexus RX and Genesis GV70.

The Nautilus comes with the latest version of Copilot, Lincoln’s suite of driver and safety-aids and includes the latest of everything from 360-degree cameras, evasive steering assist, and a pre-collision system. It also includes the latest iteration of BlueCruise, Lincoln’s hands-free highway driving technology that includes the ability to automatically switch lanes.

BlueCruise works on most major highways across North America and is a fully hands-free system that even incorporates human-like behaviours like subtly veering away from cars and trucks in the adjacent lane. It all worked remarkably well when we tested it on busy California highways.

Prices start at $61,900 (CAD) for the Nautilus Reserve and it goes up from there depending on the selected packages and options. The hybrid powertrain is a $3500 option, and we highly recommend it, not just for the fuel-savings but the extra power as well. To get all the bells and whistles including the supremely comfortable 24-way massaging power seats and the 28-speaker premium sound system you’re looking at just under $80,000 (CAD). Things like that 48-inch screen and its tech, digital scents, and hands-free driving set it apart from the pack. Lincoln has really come out swinging with this new Nautilus and it should put the competition on notice.

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