2024 Lincoln Nautilus: The Brand’s First Global SUV

This vehicle rejuvenates interior design and amenities and brings a highly efficient hybrid system to the marque.

The 2024 Lincoln Nautilus has seating for five and as much as 71.3 cu. ft. of cargo volume and 113.5 cu. ft. of passenger volume. With rear seat legroom of 43.1 in (1,094 mm), 58-in (1,473 mm) shoulder room and 56.3-in (1,430 mm) hip room, those who sit back there are not in a penalty box. (Lincoln)

While there is a tendency for new vehicles to have a focus on ride, handling, performance and other dynamic elements, the model year 2024 Lincoln Nautilus team added another element to how the driver will experience the midsize SUV. Not that the ride, handling, etc. were ignored, but the global design and engineering team wanted to do something different with this two-row SUV.

Recognize that this is a vehicle with a sumptuous interior that includes not only first-class seating (24-way adjustable front seats) and materials (Alpine Venetian leather available on the seats; cashmere for the headliner) but also an available high-end Revel Ultima 3D audio system with 28 speakers. What’s more, there’s “Lincoln Digital Scent,” small electronically activated pods containing various aromas (e.g., Mystic Forest, Ozonic Azure, Violet Cashmere). Across the top of the instrument panel there is a 48-inch backlit LCD screen and a 11.1-inch touchscreen in the center stack.

All of this can be used or experienced while driving.

When in park

“Lincoln Digital Scent” is based on small cartridge (about two-thirds the length of a pack of gum with similar width and depth) that has a solid scent pod on the inside and perforations and a chip on the exterior. The cartridges are inserted into a mechanism on the underside of the arm rest. There is a fan that blows air onto the cartridge so that the scent is released through perforations in the arm rest. The amount of scent is controlled via the center touchscreen. (Lincoln)

But Dante Crockett, features engineer for the Nautilus and an electrical engineer by training, said Lincoln decided to integrate many of these functions so the driver, when the vehicle is parked and the engine running, can, through the touchscreen, select an experience that will help relax then rejuvenate the driver. That is, the screens show an image like the Aurora Borealis, the audio system plays specifically produced music, the scent is delivered through the arm rest, and the driver seat automatically reclines and initiates a massaging feature.

Then, so as not to have to go in the house or office pleasantly groggy, the system goes into a mode where the seat back is powered to a less reclined position and the audio is louder. The driver can select a five- or 10-minute session. Crockett says the functionality, named “Lincoln Rejuvenate,” will be an over-the-air update for MY 2024 vehicles and be integrated into MY 2025 vehicles.

Asked what the thinking behind this was, Crockett simply said, “Driveway moments.” He said after a long day, the vehicle can serve as an environment to provide a bit of relaxation before going on to the next thing. It isn’t just about going from A to B, but about feeling better when you get there.

Screen scene

The location of the previously mentioned 48-inch screen is different than the positioning in most vehicles, well forward from where gauge clusters typically are placed. Allen Sun, Nautilus product manager who worked on the electronics and software for the vehicle, explained that the position was chosen to allow the driver’s eyes to always look up and out without the need to glance down for operational information or navigation.

The “Lincoln Digital Experience,” Sun said, is five times more powerful than the existing SYNC 4 system used in other Lincoln models. The new system is based on a Qualcomm SA8155P SoC specifically engineered for infotainment and instrument cluster applications.

Lincoln’s system is Google-centric, with Google Assistant the default voice application, Google Maps for navigation, Google Play for apps, but it permits customers to use their preferred software, such as Apple CarPlay, if desired.

The setup on the screen has the typical gauge information directly in front of the driver with navigation information to its right, well within the driver’s field of view. Three other virtual screens – Sun called them“ glanceable” – are positioned closer to the front passenger. Information presented here, like what song is playing, may be interesting but is not critical to the operation of the vehicle.

The platform

The third-generation Nautilus is based on a modified version of the Ford C2 platform, which also underpins vehicles like the Ford Escape and Maverick and the Lincoln Corsair. “The C2 platform is used for a lot of vehicles,” David Bartholomew, Nautilus Vehicle Engineering Chief, said, but pointed out that there are changes from one model to another (see table).

Bartholomew, who started his career with Ford in the U.K., moved to Australia and then to China, pointed out that this is Lincoln’s first global development program. This means there was engineering in Dearborn and China; design by Kemal Curic and his team in Irvine, California; and manufacturing at the Changan Hangzhou Assembly Plant in China.

Thomas Kostrzewski, hybrid systems engineer, notes that much of the development was done during COVID lockdowns, which required extensive digital engineering by a team working around the world.

Propulsion systems

The 48-inch (1,219-mm) backlit LCD screen is positioned, compared to screens in many vehicles with expansive digital landscapes, back and high. The result is that information about speed and navigation are readily seen with a slight downward look; other information such as the audio, weather and time can be seen with a glance to the right. While it may appear odd at first, when used during driving it is a highly ergonomic solution. (Lincoln)

In the previous-generation Nautilus, the step-up powertrain was a twin-turbo, 2.7-L V6 with 335 hp (250 kW). For 2024, the base engine is a 250-hp (186-kW) turbocharged 2.0-L I4 mated to an eight-speed automatic. The optional engine is a 310-hp (231-kW) turbocharged 2.0-L I4 with an eCVT. Yes, a hybrid. This was not some sort of pivot that the company made in reaction to the recent consumer indifference toward battery-electric vehicles. It was in the plan all along.

The Nautilus hybrid system is similar to that used in the current-generation Ford Escape, but given the changes and improvements made for this execution, Kostrzewski said it was really “Generation 4-1/2.” Lincoln chose to use an eCVT rather than a P2 hybrid configuration, which has a standard step-gear transmission and a hybrid module between it and the engine, for efficiency’s sake.

“What is elegant about an eCVT is that we have both an electrical and mechanical path within the transmission,” Kostrzewski said. “We can control the speed and load of the engine independent of the wheel speed. With an eight-speed P2 hybrid, the speed of the system is tied to the wheel speed and whatever gear you’re in. The eCVT allows the engine to be at its most efficient speed.”

Notably, the Nautilus hybrid provides not only better fuel efficiency than the non-hybrid – 30 mpg city/31 mpg highway/30 mpg combined for the hybrid and 21/29/24 mpg for the standard 2.0-L – but Kostrzewski pointed out that, compared with the previous-generation’s step-up powertrain option’s fuel efficiency numbers of 19/25/21 mpg, the Nautilus hybrid owner is not likely to notice the 25-hp difference. Plus, the Nautilus hybrid was configured to provide rapid torque response and limited latency.