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2021 Lincoln Nautilus Review

The 2021 Lincoln Nautilus, a 2-row/5-passenger midsize-luxury SUV, fills the gap between the larger Aviator and smaller Corsair. As such, it competes with a broad mix of SUVs that ranges from the BMW X5 and Audi Q5 to others like the Lexus RX and Cadillac XT5. For 2021, the Lincoln Nautilus has been improved to compete more effectively with these rivals, thanks largely to a significantly updated interior featuring Sync4 infotainment and a horizontal 13.2-inch touchscreen.

On the outside, the new Nautilus looks much the same as before, but it now has a full-width chrome trim on the front fascia to give the vehicle a wider and more planted appearance.

The powertrains remain unchanged. Nautilus buyers can choose between a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque or a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 with 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. Both engines are teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

What’s New for 2021?

Although the Lincoln Nautilus looks much the same as it did in 2021, the 2021 model profits from a significantly updated interior with a horizontal theme, a huge 13.2-inch touchscreen, and Sync4 infotainment with over-the-air (OTA) updates. What’s more, there are two new interior colors (Sandstone, Black Ebony) and three new exterior colors: Asher Gray, Green Gem, Lincoln Flight Blue. Also new: Lincoln’s “Phone-As-Key,” which allows you to use your smartphone in place of the usual key fob, has become available on the Nautilus. See the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Beautiful new interior
  • Huge touchscreen
  • Good value for the money
  • Handsome styling
  • Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Available twin-turbo V6

What We Don’t

  • No hybrid or plug-in hybrid
  • Annoying pushbutton shifter
  • Overly sensitive steering

How Much?


Fuel Economy

Standard on the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive models earn U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. All-wheel drive brings those numbers down slightly to 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

The twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, with 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, is available only in the AWD Nautilus, where it gets EPA fuel economy figures of 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. Note that the highway fuel economy of the AWD V6 is 1 mpg better than that of the AWD 4-cylinder Nautilus.

Standard Features & Options

The Lincoln Nautilus continues to be offered in three trim levels: Standard, Reserve, and Black Label. All-wheel drive is a $2,500 option on the Standard and Reserve. It’s standard on the Black Label.

The standard Nautilus ($41,940) is generously equipped. In addition to a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the base Nautilus has synthetic leather upholstery and Sync4 infotainment with a 13.4-in infotainment touchscreen. Moreover, there’s a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, cruise control, 18-in alloy wheels, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Rear privacy glass also is standard, along with active noise cancellation, a push-button starter, and a 10-speaker sound system with Sirius XM satellite radio.

Upping the luxury quotient is the Nautilus Reserve ($49,410). It has 20-in wheels, leather upholstery, adaptive suspension, a 13-speaker audio system, heated front and rear seats, adaptive LED headlights, a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, a wireless smartphone charging pad, and a panoramic moonroof.

The twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 engine is available on the Nautilus Reserve for $2,500, but it also requires upgrading to AWD. The Co-Pilot360 Plus safety suite, which features adaptive cruise control (with stop and go), a 360-degree camera, evasive steering assist, and a parking program, is available as an option on the Nautilus Reserve.

The decadent Nautilus Black Label ($65,090) adds 21-in alloy wheels, a 19-speaker Revel audio system, Phone-As-Key, the upgraded Co-Pilot360 Plus safety suite, and a generous list of member privileges. These include a personal Lincoln liaison, an extended premium maintenance plan, and even complimentary car washes. The 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 engine and AWD are standard on the Nautilus Black Label.

At these prices, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus competes with the Cadillac XT5 and Lexus RX. Expect to pay more for European SUVs like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Other options of note on the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and 22-way massaging front seats.

Also: All Nautilus owners are offered Lincoln’s Pickup and Delivery service, which provides free retrieval and delivery of vehicles for service and maintenance. Lincoln says this service has been very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Nautilus comes with a plethora of safety systems, including hill-start assist, electronic traction and stability control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, and automatic high beams. Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus – optional on the Reserve and standard on the Black Label – adds adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go), lane centering, enhanced active park assist, and a 360-degree camera.

In crash testing, the U.S. government gave the 2020 Lincoln Nautilus a 5-star overall rating, earning five stars in the front and side-impact tests and four stars in the rollover test.

Behind the Wheel

We sampled the new 2021 Lincoln Nautilus on a recent overnight trip to Death Valley. Our test vehicle, a Nautilus Reserve model, powered by the twin-turbo 355-horsepower 2.7-liter V6, performed well, averaging an impressive 24.8 mpg on our 2-day roughly 600-mile tour.

First impressions: The 2021 Nautilus shines as a tight and quiet 5-seat crossover SUV, and the good view out of the windscreen is complemented by a great stereo. In short, the Lincoln Nautilus is a great road-trip machine, a supremely comfortable vehicle that gobbles up the miles with uncanny ease. Its twin-turbo V6 never runs short of power, which reaches all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

With its adaptive suspension in Comfort mode, the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus feels soft and compliant, not floaty. While in Sport mode, the Nautilus gets firmer but not harsh, even though it has 20-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires.

More noticeable is how the automatic transmission gets extra responsive in Sport. It downshifts much more readily with minor throttle inputs, which is great for quick spurts of acceleration. All shifts, in fact, become crisper and more direct in Sport, whether you’re using the paddles or not. Nor does torque steer rear its head, because all Nautilus V6 models come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD).

On our long travel days, the heated front seats — covered in leather and adjustable in 22 ways — proved comfortable and supportive. What’s more, the big new 13.2-inch horizontal touchscreen was straightforward to use. Besides the latest voice-controlled Sync4 infotainment and navigation, the screen has navigation and regular over-the-air (OTA) updates. The big horizontal screen also has enough area to display your iPhone’s main screen, which is great when you’re using the standard wireless Apple CarPlay.

Another plus: Adaptive cruise control came in handy several times. Sometimes we used it when the driver simply wanted to rest his right foot; other times, such as in heavier traffic when we were getting back closer to Los Angeles, we used it to keep the gap consistent to the vehicle ahead.

Any complaints? One. The standard lane-keeping assist program is too intrusive, and it uses the steering to yank the Nautilus back into its lane with little or no grace. When you shut the system off, you’ll likely spend 20 minutes looking for the switch. (We’re here to help: The switch is hidden on the tip of the turn signal stalk.)

All told, the updated 2021 Lincoln Nautilus is a great road-trip machine, very well equipped and fitted with a quiet and highly refined interior that makes long trips seem shorter than they are.

Other SUVs to Consider

2021 Cadillac XT5 — The Cadillac XT5 has a stronger standard engine but can’t match the Nautilus’ 2.7-liter twin-turbo option. The Lincoln offers more cargo space, but the two are pretty similar on price, features, ride, and handling.

2020 Jaguar F-Pace — The F-Pace costs considerably more than the Nautilus, with a more modern design, more athletic driving characteristics, and a range of more powerful engines, including a diesel.

2021 Lexus RX 350 — The RX 350 has a much better track record in the areas of reliability and resale, plus it offers the option of a hybrid powertrain. The RX also costs a bit more than the Nautilus but holds its value far better.

2021 Audi Q5 — The Q5 offers a more luxurious interior and better fuel economy, but it’s not as roomy on the inside, nor does its standard equipment list match that of the base Nautilus’. The Audi name, however, holds far more clout than does Lincoln.

Used Porsche Cayenne — 2014-2016 Porsche Cayenne gives you more performance, power, and interior room plus the coolness factor that comes from driving a Porsche.

Autotrader’s Advice

For its combination of price, features, and options, we’d opt for a Lincoln Nautilus in Reserve trim. It’s nicely equipped, and we like that it can be ordered with Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus. We’d also upgrade to the 2.7-liter V6 because it adds a tremendous amount of power with minimal impact on fuel economy. Find a Lincoln Nautilus for sale


Andy Bornhop
Andy Bornhop
Andy Bornhop is an author specializing in the automotive world, primarily the new cars, trucks, crossovers, vans and SUVs that support our daily lives and provide us with such superb personal mobility. While all new vehicles are much more competent than they used to be, there remain some significant differences, and Andy enjoys sharing that info with anybody who’s interested. His first car? A... Read More about Andy Bornhop

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