What Is It?
In step with parent-company Ford’s U.S. strategy to discontinue all four-door passenger cars, Lincoln has similarly revised its vehicle portfolio to be exclusively SUVs, and today Nautilus exists as one of the luxury brand’s most popular offerings. A five-passenger midsize crossover, the Nautilus takes its place between the smaller Corsair and three-row Aviator. With elegant styling, a powerful engine and an interior befitting the brand, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is a strong competitor in the incredibly crowded luxury SUV segment.
Lincoln provided us with a 2021 Nautilus Black Label AWD painted in Flight Blue. As the top-level trim of the Nautilus, the Black Label test vehicle we drove had additional options such as satin roof rack side rails, a cargo utility package and Ultra Comfort 22-way power front seats for a total MSRP of $68,890. Competitors to the Nautilus include the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, Infiniti QX50, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus RX and Cadillac XT5.
In addition to specific vehicle features that the Black Label Nautilus offers, those who choose to purchase this top-level trim also receive a number of owner benefits. Benefits of owning a Black Label Lincoln include premium maintenance for four years or 50,000 miles; pickup and delivery with a loaner for service; annual detailing and complimentary unlimited car washes.
Nautilus sets itself apart from other crossovers via the signature Lincoln grille flanked by full LED headlights with Lincoln Dynamic Signature Lighting.
The Black Label Nautilus that Lincoln provided for testing also arrived with these stylish 21-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels.
Another notable feature of the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is an LED light strip that spans the rear hatch and connects the LED taillights. This styling gives the Nautilus a unique look, especially at night. The large-lettered LINCOLN branding is a nice touch as well.
When first setting eyes on the interior of the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label, elegant is likely the word that comes to mind thanks to the combination of Alpine Venetian leather trim with contrasting piano black surfaces in the center console. The optional 22-way power front seats feature an attractive pattern in the leather surfaces and also provide excellent support and comfort.
Plenty of Space
The center console of the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is designed like a bridge, featuring much storage, easily accessible cupholders as well as a space below for a large bag or other items.
For the 2021 model year the Nautilus gets upgraded to a 13.2-inch touchscreen display running the latest version of SYNC, Ford’s communication and infotainment system. Shortcuts remain at the bottom of the screen for easy access to popular items such as navigation and audio, and the screen can be split for better functionality.
Unique Gear Selector
Quite often a vehicle’s gear selector takes up valuable storage space — not so in the Nautilus. Tucked into the center dash are the Start/Stop button as well as buttons to select the typical PRNDL. This unique setup means the center console has plenty of storage both above and below.
Android Auto Integration
An ever-increasing number of vehicles offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, although not many automakers integrate them well with proprietary vehicle systems — Lincoln being the exception. Not only do the shortcuts remain while using Android Auto in the Nautilus, but the screen can be split to include audio from the Lincoln system while displaying Waze or Google Maps from Android Auto. With both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connecting wirelessly, the driver’s phone can be placed in the wireless charger located in the center console below the climate control.
As a midsize 5-passenger crossover, the Nautilus provides more than ample space for rear-seat passengers. Seat surfaces are similar to those in front, and outboard positions can be heated. Rear seats can be folded flat for additional cargo space.
Occupants in the rear seats of the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus will appreciate the ability to power their devices via USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a 110-volt outlet.
The Black Label Nautilus has a panoramic roof as part of its standard equipment, which contributes much to the vehicle’s overall feeling of airy spaciousness.
The Nautilus also offers plenty of utility thanks to a large cargo space. A retractable cargo cover keeps items hidden from view, and rear seats can easily be folded flat via buttons in the cargo area.
Under the Hood
Powering the Nautilus Black Label is a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 engine producing 335 horsepower and a plentiful 380 lb-ft of torque. Power gets directed to the road via a smooth-shifting 8-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
According to the U.S. EPA, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus AWD is rated at 19 mpg city / 25 mpg hwy / 21 mpg combined. We spent most of our time driving in the city, and with a heavier right foot we averaged closer to 16 mpg. We have no doubt that cruising on the highway would bring fuel-economy numbers more in line with the EPA ratings.
On the Road
As one would expect from a vehicle with a Lincoln badge, the Nautilus is both smooth and quiet on the road. Even slight steering inputs are met with appreciable feedback, and the crossover’s handling is commendable. However, while in Normal driving mode the Nautilus throttle is not super responsive — a lot of right-pedal input is required to get any performance out of this Lincoln. That being said, we also anticipate this behavior helps improve fuel economy and makes the overall ride better for Lincoln buyers. But this behavior can be a matter of personal taste. We happily discovered that Sport mode improves the driving dynamics considerably.
When it comes to performance, putting the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus in Sport Mode makes a world of difference. Acceleration is immediate and strong, and even putting the throttle down at highway speeds brings a satisfying rush of power. Sport mode holds gears longer to make better use of the power, although shifts are still incredibly smooth. While testing the paddle shifters we experienced a delay between shifts, which can be a bit annoying; quite frankly we wonder if paddle shifters actually belong in this elegant Lincoln crossover.
Lincoln has found its calling — a luxury brand concentrating on building crossovers that offer plenty of utility without sacrificing the luxury and features expected from this time-honored marque. As a 5-passenger crossover, the Nautilus handles people and cargo well, and while the cargo might not care, the occupants will be comfortable in the spacious, elegant surroundings. Granted, the premium crossover segment remains extremely competitive, but the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is certainly worthy of consideration.