Lincoln unveiled the 2019 Nautilus midsize crossover in Los Angeles, taking the wraps (literally) off a ceramic gray version that had been hoisted to the rooftop penthouse of the Dream Hollywood hotel via crane ahead of its formal introduction Wednesday at the L.A. Auto Show. Latin for "sailor," the Nautilus joins the Continental and Navigator to establish a travel theme in the luxury brand's lineup.
Robert Parker, global director of marketing, sales and service for Lincoln, said the significant changes made to the midsize SUV made this the right time to switch to a more traditional model name. "We'll do it with other products in the future, we're gonna do it one at a time," he said, without committing to a timetable. The company said nothing about renaming the recently refreshed 2019 MKC compact crossover, for example, nor the MKZ midsize sedan.
Parker said the letter-based nomenclature was particularly challenging for customers in China, which has emerged as a key market in Lincoln's third year selling vehicles there.
"There's an old adage that the name doesn't make the car, the car makes the name. So there's a degree of that that's played into this," Parker said.
"This kind of connection that consumers have, especially with American brands and names, we felt like, is something that Lincoln could own, it's something we've owned in the past, and bringing those two back together, it does make it a bit more effortless for customers."
The Nautilus gets its siblings' new signature grille and sidebody badging, welcome lighting from the undercarriage and cabin, and a choice of five new wheel options (out of six total) and three premium Black Label interior trim themes and other perks. It boasts an all-new front end, with everything redesigned from the A-pillar forward, plus a suite of driver-assist technologies like a lane-centering feature that pairs with adaptive cruise control; evasive steering assistance, which uses radar and cameras to lower the risk of rear-end collisions and can help the driver steer around the vehicle if needed; pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection; and active park assist.
Inside, there's dark-stained wood trim on the console and minimal controls, with Lincoln opting to keep the cabin spacious, quiet and uncluttered. The rear seats offer best-in-class head and legroom. Optional Ultra Comfort seats, developed with input from orthopedic surgeons, can adjust up to 22 ways and provide lumbar massage to reduce fatigue, especially on long trips. The audio system comes in 13- and 19-speaker configurations.
The Nautilus also moves to an all-turbocharged engine lineup via a 2.7-liter, direct-injection, twin-turbo V6 making 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, or a standard 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Both feature direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing and auto start-stop capability, and are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A pre-conditioned transmission and all-wheel-drive disconnect features also help provide incremental boosts in fuel economy.
Lincoln hopes the new Nautilus continues its predecessor's streak as the brand's top-selling model, with nearly 40 percent of buyers coming from other brands, and sales in China on pace to rise nearly five-fold since Lincoln debuted there in 2015, to 50,000 units this year.
Parker also told a story about being stuck in a shuttle recently at the Detroit airport with a couple on the way to retrieve their Lincoln MKC. "A couple were engaged in a very heated debate over the name of their car because they were trying to tell the shuttle driver which car they were driving, and they got caught up in this alphabet challenge," he said. "And it just really punctuated the challenge for me.
"It's not just an internal discussion, this is real. People have a hard time, that don't work and do this every single day, they have a hard time, numbers, letters, we get sometimes, ad marketeers, too far over our skis."
The Nautilus hits dealerships next spring.