Goodbye, Lincoln MKX. Hello, Lincoln Nautilus.
Ford’s luxury marque will rebrand its best-selling SUV for the 2019 model year and add more custom options, new safety features, more technology and a mesh grille that matches Lincoln’s MKC compact crossover and its full-size Navigator SUV.
“With the introduction of Nautilus, Lincoln has a strong, distinctive portfolio with a common and recognizable identity,” said Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln’s president.
Ford is trying to breathe new life into its struggling luxury brand by updating styling and renaming its top seller.
Lincoln has sold about 92,000 vehicles in the U.S. through the first 10 months of the year. Although that’s up 2.4 percent compared with the same period a year ago, it is a less than a third of luxury market leader Mercedes-Benz and trails most other brands in the segment.
Renaming its midsize SUV the Nautilus, Galhotra said, “better reflects the ideas and attitudes of our clients.”
To that end, the 2019 Nautilus gets extra acoustic glass in the back seat to reduce wind noise inside the cabin and lighting that projects underneath the vehicle as the driver approaches, as well as optional Ultra Comfort seats that offer lumbar massage.
The new Nautilus also comes with three new designer themes offered through its Black Label personalization program, including the all-new Gala version, inspired by New York’s Met Gala. It features carmine-colored leather seats, aluminum accents and an available panoramic roof.
Amenities in the 2019 Nautilus include a wireless charging pad for smartphones and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
New safety assist features include lane-centering that pairs with adaptive cruise control to keep the car positioned on the road. There’s an evasive steer assist feature that uses radar and cameras to analyze the gap between the Nautilus and slower-moving, or stopped, cars and helps the driver avoid a rear-end collision by helping steer around it.
Under the hood, the 2019 Nautilus has two engine options: A turbocharged 2.7-liter six cylinder that makes 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, as well as a standard 2-liter four cylinder that delivers 245 horsepower. Both engines incorporate start-stop and pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Moving beyond the actual vehicle, Lincoln is pushing into the service space with a philosophy it calls “the Lincoln Way,” which, according to Galhotra, means “warm, human, effortless experiences.”
This week Lincoln announced a new partnership with the company Clear, which lets Lincoln drivers move through airport security lines and major sports arenas without waiting. Participating venues include a so-called Clear lane inside that allows Lincoln owners to bypass long lines. Lincoln’s Clear partnership launches in January and is a service that will be provided to new buyers free of charge for six months.
Lincoln is already experimenting with other services through various pilot programs, including at-home test drives that leave the car with the prospective buyer for as long as 48 hours. It will also offer a service that completes sales at the home of customers instead of at dealerships. Another pilot called Lincoln Personal Driver lets Lincoln owners in Miami and San Diego hire a driver to use their own vehicle to run errands.
The services are part of a larger Lincoln strategy, said Stephanie Brinley, an IHS Markit automotive analyst.
“It’s about moving Lincoln to a better place in general, building a brand that can support the premium feel and higher price point and develop loyalty,” Brinley said.
Renaming the MKX as the Nautilus, Brinley said, is part of Lincoln “working to go back to its roots, being a little bit more human and warm and moving from an alphanumeric nomenclature that’s been confusing for consumers.”