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For years, the Lincoln Nautilus was little more than a Ford Edge with airs, and it was long overdue for a makeover. Yet all it got was halfhearted updates when all of its Lincoln stablemates got total redesigns. That will change in early 2024, when a totally redesigned Nautilus hits showrooms, establishing a new design direction for Lincoln.
It’s about time. Nautilus sales in the United States plunged 16 percent last year — not good for a brand relying solely on SUVs. Nearly half of premium vehicle sales are midsize SUVs like the Nautilus, and Lincoln holds a mere 2 percent of that market.
To make this mug more modern, Lincoln designers stripped it of chrome and modified the existing grille shape, accentuating it with horizontal LED light pipes that extend out from the sides of the illuminated Lincoln star. The car features softer shoulders, eliminating some of the boxiness and longstanding heritage design cues long common to Lincoln design.
“I think it’s going to attract a much more youthful customer,” said Kemal Curic, global design director for Lincoln since 2019. “We gave it a lot more expression, particularly in terms of a recognizable face. Everything builds from the star forward.
Even the back end sees some fresh thinking, with full-width taillamps that have long been a Lincoln staple, and recalling the lighting shapes up front, bringing a continuity to the design. And across the car, it’s filled with details that prove interesting, like the door handles placed at the base of the side windows, as in an old Packard Patrician, or the subtle pattern on the rear side glass. It’s fresh and athletic in appearance, something you’d never say of the previous Nautilus.
And it gets even better inside, which is actually where the design started — which is not typical.
“Think about it, you spend about 90 percent of your time in the inside of the vehicle driving. So the best place in the house is the interior,” Curic said.
In the case of the Lincoln Nautilus, it features a stunning instrument panel, which recedes away from the driver, intersecting a stunning 48-inch digital display that runs from one windshield pillar to the other. It sits at the base of the windshield, negating the need for a head-up display.
If anything, this is the first vehicle that can truly be said to feature a widescreen; in another era, it might have been known as Vistavision or Panavision. It’s controlled by a smaller touch screen on the center panel, one that’s easy to understand and operate at a glance. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
Of course, those who appreciated the Lincoln Continental’s zillion-way power seats will be happy to know that upper trim levels of the Nautilus have the same thrones, which can be trimmed in contrasting piping. Other detailing throughout the cabin is unlike anything Lincoln has offered before, including aromatherapy, a feature pioneered in cars by Mercedes-Benz.
“We started really thinking about experiences and about people and the way they interact with their car,” Curic said. “You can imagine taking meetings inside of your vehicle and all of a sudden, it’s probably better than your office. So those are the kind of things that we were thinking about upfront. How do we create this immersive space, that it becomes a fun playground, an office and enjoyable?”
But for some, the most enjoyment will come when it comes time to move. Most Lincoln Nautilus models will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque that channels its power through to all four wheels. A 2.0-liter turbocharged hybrid powertrain produces 310 horsepower and is available on all trim levels. And Ford offers the latest version of BlueCruise, its semi-autonomous self-driving software.
But there’s a caveat.
Are you ready for a Lincoln made in China, not Ontario, Canada, like the current vehicle? That’s the case for the new Nautilus according to the auto industry bible Automotive News. That could have some buyers seeing red, making the new Nautilus a nonstarter, despite its new design. Most buyers probably won’t care.
Look for prices to start at $51,810, including a $1,395 shipping charge, a 9.5 percent increase from the $46,865 2023 base model.
Nevertheless, the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus brings with a refreshing change of design, one that promises a fresh design approach, one that doesn’t look to the past, something that has plagued the brand for far too long. And for Lincoln that’s a good thing.