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The 2023 Lincoln Nautilus has many positive qualities, including an impressive reliability rating. Unfortunately, high-level manufacturing doesn’t always lead to high-level sales. Up-to-date figures show the Nautilus trails far behind the 2023 Lexus RX in popularity. Though Lincoln’s luxury midsize SUV might edge out the Lexus in quality and reliability, the RX excels in other areas. 

This 2023 Lincoln Nautilus is one of the safest midsize SUVs
2023 Lincoln Nautilus | Lincoln

The 2023 Lincoln Nautilus’ ranking as the most reliable luxury SUV comes from J.D. Power, which gave the luxury SUV a “Quality & Reliability” score of 88/100. The data analytics firm’s ratings are based on the level of defects, malfunctions, and design flaws that vehicle owners report. This sentiment is shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which gave the Nautilus a five-star rating and shows this SUV has only two recalls involving the electrical system.  

However, this esteemed reputation hasn’t resulted in brisk sales for the Nautilus. According to data for midsize luxury SUVs in 2023, the Nautilus is fifth out of seven models in its class, selling 16,543 units this year to date. That number is miles from the top-selling Lexus RX, which has sold over 74,000 units. (J.D. Power also ranks the 2023 RX as the top midsize premium SUV, edging out the second-place Nautilus.)

A closer inspection of the numbers shows some growth for Lincoln’s SUV. Its sales are 7.85% higher than in 2022, and the 1,745 units moved in the past month represent a 21.66% increase over the same time 12 months ago. Sales for the RX have also increased, but at a smaller 3.39% rate. 

A 2023 Lexus RX 350 midsize luxury SUV model traversing down a country highway
2023 Lexus RX 350 | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The Lincoln Nautilus and the Lexus RX have many commonalities, including similar price points. Base MSRPs are $47,325 for the Nautilus and $47,800 for the RX. U.S. News even gave the Nautilus a higher ranking than the RX. So what’s the reason for the sales gap?

The two SUVs’ power and performance could be primary factors. The RX 350 base model packs a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, while the entry-level Nautilus has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.

The RX is also more fuel-efficient, achieving 22 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway, more than the Nautilus’ 21 and 26 mpg. Lexus also offers a hybrid RX version, but Lincoln doesn’t (yet). The RX even remains the top luxury SUV on the used market well after a model’s release. 

Additionally, there’s something to be said about how the two brands’ differing reputations affect their sales figures. The Lexus RX has been a popular SUV for years, so most consumers already have a good impression of the model. The 2023 model is also the starting point for a fifth RX generation, further generating interest in the SUV. 

By contrast, the Nautilus has a smaller fan base, and Lincoln didn’t make substantial changes to this year’s model as it prepares to launch the SUV’s second generation in 2024. 

The RX is pretty reliable, too

The 2023 Lexus RX may not boast the highest reliability score, but it’s solid. It received an 85/100 from J.D. Power and is well-rated by other reviewers. 

Furthermore, the automotive site RepairPal found that the RX doesn’t develop serious defects as often as other vehicles and that repair costs are lower than those for the average luxury midsize SUV. If the RX has problems, it’s likely an oil leak, a malfunctioning air-conditioning compressor, or faulty software affecting the GPS, radio, or heater.

The NHTSA hasn’t rated the 2023 RX yet, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave this SUV a Top Safety Pick award

Consumers aren’t putting themselves at great risk when choosing the high-quality 2023 Lexus RX. But Lincoln surely hopes its 2024 Nautilus will entice more customers than its predecessor.