2024 Lincoln Nautilus First Look: Luxury Midsize SUV Gets A Dashboard That Wows

You don't need to be Matthew McConaughey to think the new 2024 Lincoln Nautilus looks pretty darn slick. The SUV formerly known as the MKX is getting a ground-up reinvention, layering on more LED lighting, more high-tech cabin features, and the first example of the automaker's new Quiet Flight 2.0 design language.

The result is clearly a Nautilus but leans into the detailing. The exterior is sleeker and more curvaceous, offered in chrome-laden or a gloss-black Jet Appearance Package version. Either way, there are 19- to 22-inch wheels and some striking new colors including Red Carpet, Diamond Red, Chroma Caviar, and Blue Panther.

It's fair to say the new Nautilus is an important model for Lincoln. The "medium premium utility" segment may have an unglamorous name, but it apparently represents 43% of the entire luxury segment. Pitch your slick SUV well, and it's a shortcut to strong sales.

Getting that pitch right, though, is the difficult part. For the 2024 Nautilus, Lincoln has leaned into its "sanctuary" theme, arguing that as the "third space" in our lives, our vehicles shouldn't just be transportation but transformational when it comes to mood.

The three smells of a Lincoln

So, the new Nautilus can wow the senses with a choice of three smells — Mystic Forest, Ozonic Azure, and Violet Cashmere — that can be pumped into the cabin, and offers a Lincoln Rejuvenate "stationary experience" that combines scent, on-screen animations, massage, and a specially-curated soundtrack to lull you in the parking lot. There are light sequences inside and out, including the glowing Lincoln badge on the hand-finished grille and its flanking LED bar, and multicolor ambient panels on the interior.

Then there are the 24-Way Perfect Position seats — available for the driver and the front passenger; the standard heated and ventilated front seats have 10-way and 8-way adjustment, respectively — with their hyper-adjustable flaps reminiscent of an "Alien" face-hugger for your torso. Even the switchgear has been designed to transport you away from the freeway, the "crystal-inspired" detailing of the transmission switches, dashboard buttons, and volume knob all glistening like the seas an actual Nautilus might be found in.

Lest you accuse Lincoln of flights of undue fancy, though, there's some serious engineering going on behind the scenes. Switching between the cabin scents — cartridges for which are under the front armrest — triggers an air cleaning routine that rapidly whooshes the old fragrance away, for instance, while there's no denying that the 2024 Nautilus' cabin tech wows even if you're not using it for impromptu meditation parked outside of Walmart.

48 inches of dash-spanning display

It's a full 48 inches of screen, effectively running across the dashboard from A-pillar to A-pillar. In fact, it's two panels — the joint is hidden in the middle — but that's nitpicking. Lincoln uses it to show everything from the driver's gauges to navigation and multimedia to weather and other details. Park up, and you can even manage your calendar there.

The steering wheel — with context-sensitive controls — is flat-topped, the squashed shape making it easier to see that expanse of screen. In the center, meanwhile, there's an 11.1-inch touchscreen for actually controlling everything, including adjusting media, setting the navigation system, and tweaking other settings. What exactly is shown can be customized, too.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, and there's baked-in Amazon Alexa voice control and a 5G modem. Lincoln plans to use the latter for over-the-air (OTA) updates, though it also supports features like media streaming and WiFi hotspot with the right AT&T data plan. A 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D audio system will be on the options list. 

The trunk will hold 36.4 cu-ft on Premiere trim cars, expanding to 71.3 cu-ft with the rear seats folded; that dips to 35.2 cu-ft and 68.8 cu-ft, respectively, on Reserve and Black Label trims. Towing capacity is up to 1,750 pounds with the optional trailer tow package.

Two engines, one electrified

Under the hood, meanwhile, there's a choice of two engines. As standard, the 2024 Nautilus gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Lincoln expects it to muster 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, as well as improving fuel economy — specific numbers yet to be confirmed — versus the current SUV.

Optional, meanwhile, will be a hybrid powertrain. That combines a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with a 100 kW electric motor, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The result, Lincoln predicts, will be total system horsepower of 310 hp. It's not a plug-in hybrid, mind, so don't expect much in the way of pure electric range.

Either way, all-wheel drive comes standard, which is welcome. Adaptive suspension is standard, too, adjusting the settings according to road conditions, driving style, and drive mode. The latter comes in five flavors: normal, conserve, excite, slippery, and deep. Lincoln BlueCruise 1.2 will be available, for hands-free driver assistance on pre-mapped highways. Standard safety tech will include adaptive cruise control, blind spot warnings, evasive steer assist, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping, pre-collision assistance with automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic braking, and a 360-degree camera.

A calculated risk to stand out

You can definitely see the 2024 Nautilus as a calculated risk for Lincoln. On the one hand, the fiercely competitive segment it plays in demands something special in order to stand out. At the same time, it remains to be seen what eschewing fan-favorite features like a V6 engine in favor of a hybrid does for Lincoln's prospects here. The new Nautilus certainly looks the part, and its cabin feels significantly elevated and generally more special than the current model, but potential owners will need to buy into the vision of sanctuary that Lincoln is selling.

Part of that equation will be pricing, and that's something Lincoln is playing close to its chest for now. The outgoing 2023 Nautilus starts at $44,825 (plus destination), with a Black Label trim from $67,245. With a higher level of standard equipment, not to mention a bigger SUV overall, it's not hard to imagine the 2024 Nautilus being a little more expensive.

We'll find out that, along with all the other specifications and trim details, ahead of the new Nautilus rolling into Lincoln dealerships. That's expected to take place in early 2024.