2024 Lincoln Nautilus: Screen Supreme

2024 Lincoln Nautilus Interior
Photo: Jordan Golson / North State Journal

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Perhaps nothing has dropped in price as quickly or precipitously as the television. The price index for TVs fell 94 percent from 1998 to 2015 and has continued to plummet even in today’s high-inflation environment.

You can buy a 65-inch television at Costco for less than $400. My iPad has a larger display than the TV I used to watch Mister Rogers on as a child. Even my watch has a screen. We can’t get enough screens in our pockets or living rooms — or, it’s worth noting, in our cars.

Our automotive screen obsession started over a decade ago with Tesla’s Model S, which featured a giant vertical touchscreen slapped in the middle of the dash. It’s been an arms race ever since, with carmakers racing to outdo one another with more and larger displays, leaving designers struggling to determine the right balance of touchscreen controls to physical buttons and knobs.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus
The 2024 Lincoln Nautilus. Photo: Lincoln

That brings us to my test car this week: the new 2024 Lincoln Nautilus, which takes screens to a new level. Stretching across the top of the dash — pushed back directly under the windshield — is a stunning four-foot-wide screen that acts as a dash cluster and multi-function display, dominating the interior and acting as a siren song for any screen aficionados who might wander into a Lincoln dealership in search of a new midsize luxury SUV.

The two-row Nautilus is the second-smallest in Lincoln’s exploration-themed lineup, roughly equivalent in size and price to the Lexus RX or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Lincoln has had a tough go of it the past few years, building decent cars but failing to make any real dent in a market dominated by luxury brands from Japan and Germany—newcomer Genesis has even pulled ahead with its terrific GV70.

The new Nautilus — which has been on sale in China, where it’s built, since last year — has a real opportunity to change those fortunes, both for itself and for the rest of the lineup which is going to get this new screen paradigm over the next few years — the larger three-row Aviator should be first, followed by the Navigator and the slightly smaller Corsair.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus
The interior of the 2024 Nautilus is pleasingly dominated by the four-foot-wide dash screen. Photo: Lincoln

The Nautilus has two screens, that edge-to-edge strip running across the dash and a more traditional touch screen in the center.

That main screen runs Google Automotive, a version of Android specially modified for the car. Ford’s user interface and a handful of exclusive apps sit on top of Android, which also powers the big screen on top of the dash. It’s tied closely with Google and integrated with Google Maps, Assistant, and the Google Play Store.

You can use the car’s internal AT&T data connection for Google Maps, and it’ll happily sling your nav map up onto the higher screen for easy viewing. The bit of the screen directly behind the steering wheel feels almost like a head-up display as it’s so close to the driver’s line of sight.

For those wishing to use smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, Ford fully supports those options as well. It will even take your Apple Maps and sling that up onto the driver’s side of the dash screen, completely replacing the native navigation solution. It’s seamless and brilliant.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus
The 2024 Lincoln Nautilus. Photo: Lincoln

But it’s the potential of this system that intrigues me more than the current iteration. At the moment, you can run Spotify, YouTube or even a car racing video game (with support for Bluetooth game controllers!), but the real potential is what’s coming down the line.

The system supports over-the-air (OTA) updates, just like your iPhone, meaning Lincoln (or, really, Ford) engineers will be able to push new software and features to the Nautilus’ screens. At the moment, the big screen is mostly focused on sharing driving data like fuel economy or the trip odometer or status info like the weather or what’s currently playing on the stereo.

Thanks to the OTA updates, someday you might be able to watch a Netflix movie on that screen while waiting to pick up the kids at soccer, or even — I promised the engineers that they would sell a lot of Lincolns if they could make this happen — let you AirPlay video from your iPhone straight to the in-car screens.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus
At night, the ambient lighting kicks in to fully envelop you in the ‘Lincoln Embrace’. Photo: Lincoln

I got to preview a new feature called Rejuvenation Mode, coming next year. It combines the screens, ambient lighting, audio, air conditioning, seat massage, and a new ‘Digital Scent’ feature that subtly fills the cabin with one of a host of different smells ranging from an ocean breeze to a pine forest in a five- or ten-minute relaxation that Lincoln says could be used after a long commute to relax and destress before heading inside.

Turn it on, and the screens turn a soothing green while the driver’s seat reclines, the seat heater is activated, and the seat initiates a relaxing massage — the massage function can be used while you’re driving, too, but I don’t recommend the recline part. A lovely smell fills the cabin, and you can take just a few minutes to yourself before the car brings you back to reality with some refreshing air conditioning and a brighter, more awakening sound and audio experience.

It’s a touch gimmicky, but I love it when carmakers use software to combine existing hardware in new and interesting ways. In that vein, the Nautilus has digital controls for the air vents. We’ve seen these in all sorts of vehicles, from the Tesla Model 3 to the Rivian R1S, but the Nautilus has a deviously simple trick.

Lincoln Nautilus 2024
The ‘digital scent’ cartridges in the 2024 Nautilus. Photo: Lincoln

You can choose to have air blowing on or off your body, depending on how vigorously you prefer your air conditioning. But there’s also a mode that automatically varies the direction like an oscillating fan. The air blows across your body and then back again, like an evening breeze.

I’ve criticized these digital vent controls in the past because sometimes I just want to aim the thing at my face, but I’ll happily trade that for a relaxing oscillation any day.

Aside from the screens and other tech and lux features, the Nautilus was much like I expected. The hybrid option is worth the $1,500 upcharge, though the 30 mpg fuel economy falls well short of the 36 combined in the Lexus RX hybrid.

2024 Lincoln Nautilus
The 2024 Nautilus makes a statement from any angle. Photo: Lincoln

It drives a bit firmer than I might have expected from an American luxury car, but it won’t be anything unfamiliar to a BMW or Audi owner. Still, it’s a comfortable ride aside from my tester’s slightly annoying tendency to pass road imperfections through to the passenger cabin. Every crack and bump was noticeable but not jarring, and I eventually confirmed with the vehicle dynamics folks that the complete lack of sidewall on the 22-inch wheels was to blame. Like high heels, they might look good, but your day won’t be quite as comfortable as it might otherwise have been.

Starting at around $52,000 and running up towards $80,000 in the top-tier Black Label, the Nautilus is competitive with the rest of the market and should gain looks from X3, Q5, and MDX buyers looking for something new. Even notoriously loyal Lexus RX owners might give the Lincoln a look, though that will be a tough hill to climb for the boys in Dearborn.

That big screen will draw many eyes toward a brand that has been overlooked by many over the last few years. That’s a good thing because this is real innovation, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I just wonder if they can make it bigger