Review: New name, facelift for midsize Lincoln SUV

Flying in the face of its history, Ford’s premium brand has been aggressively abandoning the use of three capital letters to name its vehicles. Yes, Lincoln is going back to real names.

The latest recipient is the Lincoln MKX that will henceforth be known as the Nautilus.

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That’s a cool-sounding handle, even though technically it applies to clams, octopuses, squids and the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-powered submarine. But it’s a far sight better than the anonymous MKX appellation that could be easily confused with the MKZ sedan.

In Lincoln’s utility vehicle lineup, the made-in-Canada Nautilus is slotted between the compact MKC and below the upcoming seven-passenger Aviator that is scheduled to arrive for the 2020 model year.

Although not entirely new when compared to the MKZ, the Nautilus makeover replaces the previous winged-grille design with a chrome-mesh-style nose, variations of which are attached to a number of other Lincolns. There’s also a new hood, front fenders, taillights and rear bumper. The net effect constitutes a beautification process that should help pique the interest of prospective buyers.

Since the Ford Edge-based platform is essentially unaltered, the Nautilus’s overall dimensions are similar to the MKX’s. They closely mirror those of its most immediate rival, the Cadillac XT5, plus other import-based five-passenger luxury wagons such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Lexus RX.

Beneath the sheet metal, Lincoln upgraded the suspension with adaptive shock absorbers to help soak up uneven road surfaces. With this option, drivers can select from Comfort, Normal and Sport settings that alter both ride firmness and steering feedback.

The Nautilus’s interior has been mostly lifted from the MKX; however, the previously optional customizable 31-centimetre digital gauge display is now standard. As before, the easy-to-use transmission shift controls are stacked vertically alongside the 20-centimetre touchscreen, which frees up space for a decent-sized storage bin and wireless phone charging.

For 2019, the MKX’s 303-horsepower V-6 is not in the lineup. Instead, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder — rated at 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque — is the base engine.

Carrying over from 2018 as an option is the twin-turbocharged 2.7-litre V-6 with 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard for both engines.

For fuel economy, the four-cylinder achieves 12.0 l/100 km in city driving and 9.6 on the highway. That’s better than the V-6 in the city, although for highway economy the V-6 is actually thriftier.

The all-wheel-drive system that’s standard with either engine directs 100 per cent of the engine torque to the front wheels in normal traction/driving conditions. When traction is reduced, or when aggressive launches are desired, it can shift up to 100 per cent to the rear. Torque vectoring is also standard, and sends all of the torque to the outside rear wheel in the turns for more precise cornering.

Nautilus pricing for the base Select trim begins at $52,550, with destination charges. It comes with a number of basic luxury touches — including a hands-free power liftgate — plus an array of active-safety technologies.

The base Select trim level also has premium leather-covered seats (heated in front), navigation system, power tilt/telescoping steering column and wood interior trim.

The Nautilus Reserve includes, along with the V-6, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and 20-inch wheels (18s are standard).

Upping your monthly purchase or lease payments by ordering the Reserve also gets you a panoramic sunroof and a 19-speaker Revel-brand audio system.

Since interest in luxury-class utility models of all sizes and stripes shows no signs of slackening, Lincoln’s much-improved and re-badged midsizer is worthy of your consideration amongst a slew of foreign- and domestic-based alternatives.

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