Lincoln is freshening the Canadian-made Lincoln Nautilus midsize luxury crossover, giving it a new infotainment system, larger centre screen and cosmetic tweaks in a bid to boost falling sales in a key segment.
The crossover segment — which, for Lincoln, includes the Aviator, Corsair, Nautilus and Navigator — has been critical for Lincoln, driving Canadian sales of the brand to a 6.7-per-cent gain in the third quarter of 2020, which Lincoln Canada says is the company’s best third quarter in 40 years.
However, much of those gains were made by the Aviator (up 612 per cent) and the MKC (up 4.6 per cent). Nautilus sales were off 45 per cent in the quarter. And it’s a similar story in the United States, where the freshening comes as sales for the crossover there have dropped significantly, putting it in jeopardy of losing the title as the brand's top-selling U.S. model. Nautilus sales in the United States fell 12 per cent last month — Ford reports monthly sales in the United States, but not Canada — and are down 31 per cent on the year. Canadian sales are off 51 per cent for the year.
"We do believe the changes to the Nautilus will definitely raise awareness for consumers," Lincoln North America Director Michael Sprague said on a call with reporters. "Over the last 18 months we've launched the Aviator and Corsair. Those vehicles have had tremendous success. And so, perhaps, maybe Nautilus kind of got lost in the middle between the two. In the spring, when we start to focus on Nautilus, we expect to see sales pick up.”
Lincoln is calling the new Nautilus an expression of calm and sanctuary, building on what the company calls its Quiet Flight DNA. Horizontal lines and a “coast-to-coast” view of the cabin are expressed with a new horizontal 13.2-inch centre stack screen and the brand’s piano-key transmission selection switches.
FIRST LINCOLN WITH SYNC 4
Nautilus becomes the first Lincoln to receive Ford’s new SYNC 4 user interface, which Sprague said is the most conversational voice-interface SYNC offers. He said the system recognizes more plain English commands — such as “I’m hungry” — than before.
A 250-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo engine is standard, with an optional 2.7-litre twin-turbo V-6 with 335 horsepower available. The Nautilus also comes standard with Lincoln Co-Pilot360 and, optionally, Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus, which adds a 360-degree camera with front-sensing system, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane centring technology, distance sensing, enhanced active park assist and evasive steering assist. All-wheel drive is standard for Canada.
The 2021 Nautilus Reserve AWD will start at $58,150, including $2,150 freight and delivery, with an optional premium package costing $5,500. The twin-turbo V-6 is a $4,000 option. As has been Lincoln Canada’s practice, the top-level Lincoln Black Label trim package will not be offered in Canada.
The 2021 Nautilus will be available in dealers early next year.
The redesigned Nautilus will be built for North America at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant in Oakville, Ont., a facility that had an uncertain future until contract negotiations between Unifor and the automaker in September resulted in a $1.4-billion transformation to electric vehicles.
The change to electric vehicles isn’t expected to be complete until 2025. When asked whether Nautilus would continue to be built for the duration of its product cycle, Ford did not provide an answer.
Those planned upgrades and retooling were the fruits of intense talks and include financial support from the Ontario and Canadian governments. Until the talks, Ford had been progressively ending production of vehicles at the plant, starting with the Lincoln MKT in October 2019 and the Ford Flex in November of the same year. Future production of the Ford Edge, and its Lincoln counterpart, Nautilus, had been murky beyond the expected 2023 end of the current product cycle for Edge.
Michael Martinez of Automotive News contributed to this report.