- The new SUV replaces the MKX midsize crossover.
- The name, evocative of Jules Verne and the nautical lifestyle, signals a new direction for the brand.
- Nautilus pricing for the 2019 model year wasn’t announced, but the outgoing MKX started at about $40,000.
Lincoln has pulled the cover off a new crossover SUV, choosing Los Angeles and the LA auto show as a backdrop for the reveal.
The midsize SUV takes the place of the MKX in the lineup of Ford’s luxury brand, which has been undergoing a revival and rebranding under Kumar Galhotra, the division’s President.
Galhotra recently became Ford’s Chief Marketing Officer, so he’s now wearing a bigger hat, but he’s still in charge at Lincoln, overseeing the evolution of a “quiet luxury” strategy that’s intended to make Lincoln stand out from Cadillac, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, and other premium nameplates.
The Nautilus is a step in the right direction, continuing a suave nautical theme that Lincoln has been employing with the new Navigator SUV, launched at the 2017 New York auto show. Lincoln is also stepping away from the letter convention – MKX was actually derived from “Mark” names that Lincoln used from the late 1960s to late 1990s – a welcome move for customers who could never figure things out.
“We are going to move away from MK for all our future reveals,” Galhotra told Business Insider, chuckling when we brought up the Captain Nemo references, but pointing out that “Nauta” is Latin for sailor, and that Lincoln’s brand identity is working with the theme of a journey.
Nautilus also does away with the MKX’s “beaky” grille in favor of a more elegant treatment that aligns the design of the crossover with the Navigator and the rebooted Continental.
“Our view is that the brand should have a common visual language,” Galhotra said.
Lincoln now has three named vehicles with Navigator, Nautilus, and Continental. With the Nautilus, Lincoln broke from its pattern of the past few years and chose LA as the rollout venue; New York had seen the debuts of both Continental and Navigator. (That doesn’t mean Lincoln doesn’t have something in store for the Big Apple next year, of course.)
Crossovers are red-hot in the market at the moment, and Lincoln is determined to bolster it brands in regions where it hasn’t been strong. But the 2016 opening of a Lincoln Experience Center in Southern California’s Orange Country was, according to the company, a step in the right direction.
“It’s a high-priority luxury market for us,” Galhotra said, adding that the midsize crossover segment is “incredibly important. “MKX is our biggest seller in the US,” he said, pointing out that 40% of buyers have come from other brands. The segment is also crucial for China, a future growth market for Lincoln.
The Nautilus will also include Lincoln’s available Black Label service, which according the company features “annual vehicle detailing, anytime carwashes, and access to a select list of restaurants where noted chefs will provide an at-your-service dining experience.”
Lincoln also said that the Black Label Nautilus will be available with three themes: Chalet (skiing), Thoroughbred (horse racing), and Gala (high fashion).
There will be two engine choices for the 2019 model year: a 2.7-liter, turbocharged, 335-horsepower four-cylinder; and a smaller 2.0-liter 245-horsepower turbocharged four. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic. The straight-up V6 option, in keeping with an industry trend, will be dropped for the new vehicle.
The Nautilus will also come with a premium interior, a big touchscreen, a digital instrument cluster, a SYNC 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Lincoln’s custom Revel audio setup in two configurations, and a host of driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control and lane keeping.
Some of the semi-self-driving technologies that are starting to show up in other luxury brands aren’t yet present in the Nautilus, but that’s intentional. Ford has committed to bringing a fully autonomous vehicle to market by 2022, but for Galhotra, Lincoln should be focused on premium experiences overall, not technology for technology’s sake.
“We’re keeping an eye on where the technology is moving,” he said, “but technology is there to serve the human experience.”