— Though the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show is still a few days away from opening to the public, Lincoln got the ball rolling early with an introduction to its updated premium mid-size SUV, the 2019 Nautilus.
Related: More 2017 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
If that name doesn't sound familiar to you, don't be confused: That part of the vehicle is new, even if what lies beneath is more akin to a light mid-cycle refresh than an overhaul. The Nautilus name means that the MKX is no more, and Lincoln also confirmed that the new moniker is a sign of things to come for the brand.
The "MK"-plus-ostensibly-random-letter naming convention is going away, replaced by actual words built around the theme of "journeying." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but we'll almost certainly find out in short order.
The five-seat Nautilus is one of two revised SUVs that Lincoln brought to the L.A. Auto Show this year, along with the more compact 2019 MKC, which didn't get a new name this time out but will in the future. The Nautilus I had a chance to examine was a Reserve model, which sits above its base and Select trim levels, but below the three Black Label varieties (Chalet, Thoroughbred and Gala).
Updates are most obvious when looking at the front of the Nautilus. It continues Lincoln 's trend of expunging its old split-wing grille design for the rectangular, chrome-splashed look seen on the rest of its sedans and the updated Navigator, as well. The other changes are subtler: The Nautilus moves its badging to the side of the vehicle, up by the fenders so you won't see the name on the back of the car. There are also tweaks to the headlights, taillights and rear spoiler, along with new wheel designs.
Inside, Lincoln says, the Nautilus has best-in-class legroom for rear seats, though the brand didn't provide figures. Sitting back there with the driver's seat positioned where I would drive comfortably (I'm 5 feet 11 inches tall), there was plenty of legroom, a comfortable seat that also reclines and a giant panoramic moonroof — one of my favorite features for backseat passengers.
Lincoln is sticking with its center-console-mounted shifter, which isn't surprising, but it still manages to be disappointing. Going away from a regular shifter does open more space between the front seats, but it doesn't seem to be used for much — there is a bin with a wireless charging pad and USB port up there, but other vehicles can fit features like those while still having an easier-to-use shifter.
Mechanically, the Nautilus gets a very light update with a new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year's six-speed unit. The two turbocharged four-cylinder Used Engine options are unchanged, and front-wheel drive is still standard, with all-wheel drive optional.
The Nautilus' biggest addition was the most intriguing, but something we weren't able to test. There is a new technology called "evasive steer assist," which uses the forward radar and cameras to detect slower-moving or stopped obstacles in front of the Nautilus. If it detects that the risk is high and there isn't space for braking, the system will aid the driver in steering around the vehicle. This isn't an autonomous system; the driver will have to initiate the turn, Lincoln says — and if you don't, the autonomous emergency braking system will try its best to slow or stop the vehicle — but the technology will help the driver avoid accidents.
Also new for 2019 are lane centering and an adaptive cruise control system that now works in stop-and-go traffic. These two necessary additions to the safety systems should make them much more usable in everyday life.
The 2019 Nautilus will make its way to dealers this spring, and pricing information should be available closer to that date.
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