Lincoln Motor Co. introduces the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, a midsize luxury SUV that is the successor to the Lincoln MKX. Lincoln The Nautilus will have an all turbocharged engine lineup for 2019, offering a powerful 2.7-liter engine that delivers 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. James Lipman A 245-horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine is standard. Both engines include standard auto start-stop capability, plus an eight-speed automatic transmission. James Lipman Power is delivered via turbocharging, direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing. James Lipman The design of the Nautilus aligns with the rest of the Lincoln family, presenting a strong, signature grille. James Lipman The sleek new Nautilus gets the grille, headlights, badging, taillights and rims that the company rolled out on the Continental and all-new Navigator. James Lipman A suite of new technologies for Lincoln Nautilus includes a lane-centering feature that pairs adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Also debuting is evasive steer assist, which uses radar and cameras to analyze the gap between slower-moving vehicles ahead and to help steer around them if necessary. James Lipman Upon approach, the Lincoln Nautilus lights up first from the outside (called "Lincoln embrace lighting') and then from the cabin. James Lipman Additional driver-assist technologies include pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, blind spot information system, active park assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid and an auto-hold feature. James Lipman A push-button gear shift integrates with classic knobs and buttons, and a large center touch screen serves as the portal to standard SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. James Lipman A leather-wrapped, hand-stitched steering wheel is mounted ahead of a 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument cluster that displays driver information crisply and clearly. James Lipman A concealed wireless charging pad allows compatible smartphones to stay connected without the hassle of tangled cords. James Lipman Available ultra comfort seats can be adjusted up to 22 ways for personalized comfort, providing lumbar massage designed to reduce fatigue. Heated and cooled seats are available on the Reserve model. James Lipman Three Lincoln Black Label themes offer a personalized experience, with premium interior materials, designer themes and a host of membership privileges. They are Chalet, Thoroughbred and Gala. James Lipman Gala, an opulent new Lincoln Black Label theme, takes its cues from the world of haute couture at New York's Met Gala. James Lipman A new wheel selection allows clients to order a Lincoln Nautilus to suit their personal style. James Lipman Available 12-speaker and 19-speaker Revel audio systems offer the ultimate sound experience. James Lipman The Lincoln Way app allows owners to start, lock, unlock and locate their Nautilus, as well as schedule remote starts, monitor fuel levels and check tire pressures and battery status. James Lipman Lincoln plans to launch a month-to-month membership service next year that will allow customers to swap out Lincoln vehicles every month. James Lipman Acoustic side glass is added to reduce wind noise for rear passengers, and advanced engineering solutions decrease noise from the road. James Lipman The 2019 Lincoln Nautilus will be available at Lincoln dealers in the spring of 2018. James Lipman Lincoln is the only luxury automaker to provide pickup and delivery for service appointments for all its vehicles. James Lipman
Hollywood — Lincoln Motor Co. thinks it’s figured out where it’s headed. To get there, it will try re-branding itself for the second time in 11 years.
The new Lincoln Nautilus that debuts Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show signals part of that change. Formerly known as the MKX, the refreshed mid-size SUV is the first Lincoln to lose the confusing alphanumeric vehicle names that have become the convention for German makes and other luxury companies.
Following suit with the refreshed MKC small SUV that debuted a week ago, the sleek new Nautilus gets the commanding honeycomb grille that debuted last year with the Continental.
It gives the brand a cohesive design scheme that lends the Lincoln a stronger presence across the lineup. Designers have paired angular, athletic exteriors with spacious interiors outfitted with custom sound systems and languid design elements geared toward a cushy driving experience rather than the taut handling and high performance favored by German luxury carmakers.
Industry analysts say the re-branding could be the end of a struggle for Ford Motor Co.’s high-end brand. Lincoln has changed vehicle names, front-end designs and lineups multiple times since 2000. That’s made it hard for consumers to stay loyal to the brand, and muddied the automaker’s reputation and marketing. But under Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln group vice president and Ford’s chief marketing officer, Lincoln seems to have found a niche market.
“They have a more focused brand strategy. They’re learning about themselves,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst with IHS Markit. “They’re learning about how best to get where they want to go. Nautilus helps support all the steps they’ve been taking.”
Another misstep could be fatal. Ford and Lincoln are under scrutiny from new CEO Jim Hackett, who was brought in last spring to change the company. The Lincoln brand can help Ford build a presence on the country’s coasts, where luxury vehicles are king, and in new markets like China.
Still, automotive re-brandings are dizzying, especially when done in quick succession. In re-branding, Lincoln admits the “MK” nameplates failed to generate a buzz. Consumers were not connecting with the names, but Lincoln was able to build a solid base thanks to enhanced customer service options it started offering roughly five years ago.
“It’s reflecting that the old names weren’t really working,” said Brinley. “They’re settled on the path. They’re pretty solid now.”
Galhotra’s is the most comprehensive and cohesive branding plan the company has had in years. He is pushing to marry a Lincoln “experience” to the vehicles by pulling in optional Black Label designs and customer service options; concierge pilot programs that give customers a personal driver, pickup and delivery services; 22-way adjustable seats and other interior perks focused on cushy comfort; and other service options.
Lincoln’s been building its customer service for roughly the last five years. Galhotra said Tuesday that the company is constantly testing pilot programs to figure out what customers will use. Galhotra and others at Lincoln say those customer service options, combined with improved vehicles and a focused design scheme, have helped Lincoln sales grow recently.
The company announced in Hollywood that it would partner with CLEAR, a membership service that will allow Lincoln owners to bypass security lines at roughly 30 airports in the U.S. Anyone who buys a Lincoln in 2018 will get a six-month free subscription. Black Label owners get a year.
In an appeal to those favoring changing ownership models, Lincoln also plans to launch a month-to-month membership service next year that will allow customers to swap out Lincoln vehicles every month.
Despite rebranding and a plethora of flashy customer service options, some analysts insist Lincoln needs more product. The company is bringing all of its models up-to-date with the most recent redesign anchored by a signature metal honeycomb grille, but its six-vehicle lineup leaves it more room for expansion than crosstown rivals and foreign automakers Acura or Lexus.
“There’s much more focus on lifestyle around product rather than product itself,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “Does that get the job done? You can’t only do that. You have to have compelling product.”
Galhotra has plans there.
“Is there a bit more room to cover core segments? I would think so,” he said. “We’re not going to go into niche derivative products. We’re going to stay very focused on core segments, but we’re going to continue to build the portfolio.”
The new Nautilus will have an updated center console, wireless charging pad and the latest in Ford’s Sync 3 telematic system. It comes with a new suite of driver-assist technology such as lane-centering, adaptive cruise-control and an evasive steer-assist function that uses radar and cameras to avoid rear-end collisions.
The refreshed vehicle, available next summer, also transitions to an all-turbocharged lineup. It comes standard with a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with an option to upgrade to a 2.7-liter engine that delivers 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque.
Lincoln has yet to announce new names for the MKC and the MKZ sedan. Galhotra said the company didn’t announce all three new names at once, because it would have confused people. Those in charge of marketing will have to spend a bit more time acquainting the market with the new names. Nautical-themed names will prevail across the lineup.
“The challenging thing is going to be the new names like the Nautilus,” Galhotra said. “We’re going through the process. It will take resources. It will take some time. But we’re confident that we can get there rather quickly.”
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