Instead of emulating the German competition, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus follows a different path by focusing more on comfort over sportiness. Formerly known as the MKX, the Nautilus is essentially a heavily refreshed version of the old alphanumerically named crossover. This time, it gets a new face to put it right in line with the rest of the Lincoln lineup. Think of the Nautilus as a direct competitor to the best-selling Lexus RX, only this time you get more power.
Once you get inside, you’ll notice that the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is essentially the better Lexus RX. You get a lot more insulation, comfort, gadgets, room, and power all with a price tag that’s closer to a compact luxury crossover. Every 2021 Nautilus also gets the full CoPilot 360 suite of driver assistance features as standard, which includes every collision prevention tech you can think of plus lane centering. Adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning are optional. The Nautilus’ generous interior space gives you plenty of cargo capacity even with the angled roof. Supremely comfortable seats and massive rear seats add to the crossover’s appeal, especially if you’re carpooling.
Black Label models like this Nautilus test vehicle offer a bit more uniqueness to the vehicle because of the cool multi-tone upholsteries and trim. Even the seat pattern is unique, which is a nice touch. A new main touchscreen that’s just over 13.0 inches was added for the 2021 model year and features a split function when you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. They’re also clever storage cubbies under the center console and center stack for added flexibility. You can also get a digital gauge cluster but isn’t as configurable as the ones found in competitors from German brands.
There are two engine options on the 2021 Nautilus and both are turbocharged. The base unit is a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. You can upgrade to a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 with 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission while the V6 gets AWD standard. EPA fuel economy ratings are 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined for the FWD four-cylinder model while AWD drops those ratings to 20/25/22 mpg. The V6-powered Nautilus is rated at 19/25/21 mpg.
To no one’s surprise, the V6 offers quick acceleration and moves the Nautilus around without much drama. The transmission is also likely torque limited to maximize durability. Although grip levels are good, you can tell that the Nautilus is tuned for comfort; you feel the car’s weight and it never shrinks on you. There’s also a bit more body roll and even with the adaptive suspension in its Sport mode, the ride is incredibly soft on paved roads. An incredibly quiet cabin adds to the Nautilus’ comfort-oriented character, especially on the highway, resulting in a great road trip vehicle.
In a way, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus took the Lexus RX’s formula and bumped it up one notch above. Lincoln did this by adding more gadgets, power, better handling, and superior stopping performance while retaining all of the virtues you expect out of a classic luxury crossover. For those who aren’t interested in an overtly sporty SUV, the Nautilus should be on your list.
0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds
60 to 0: 110 feet
Cabin Noise: A+; 69.5 dB
Fuel Economy: A