Home » Why The Lincoln Nautilus’ Absurd 4-Foot Long Curved Display Is The Best Screen In Cars

Why The Lincoln Nautilus’ Absurd 4-Foot Long Curved Display Is The Best Screen In Cars

This Rules Lincoln Panoramic Ts (1)
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When I saw the announcement that Lincoln was putting a four-foot curved screen into the dashboard of its new Lincoln Nautilus I was convinced this was a silly gimmick. Between heads-up displays and dash screens, the automotive industry had solved the problem of screens in cars (a problem they also created). I was wrong. As ridiculous as it seems, the A-pillar dashboard screen is the best way to do screens.

The spread of screens across cars is not my favorite technological outcome. This tech is something long-promised by automakers, but the application has been mixed. Encouraged by Tesla, automotive interior design quickly moved to having larger and larger screens in the middle of the dash, doing more of the work that buttons used to do.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

At first glance, this minimalistic design has an easy appeal, but the novelty’s worn off and the usability of such systems is often mixed. Even worse, the budget version of this has just been to float what looks like an iPad somewhere in the center stack, and that’s what has proliferated most.

Head-Up Displays Are A Mixed Bag For Automotive Uses

Nissan Silvia Hid
Source: Nissan

The head-up display has been around in various forms for pilots going as far back as World War II and, with helmet-based displays, is a major part of modern aviation. If head-up displays didn’t work then pilots wouldn’t use them. That’s my theory, at least.

Automotive head-up displays have been featured on various concepts throughout the 20th century, but it wasn’t until Nissan unveiled one for the 1993 Silvia in Japan that anyone ever put one in production. Here’s a bit from the press release:

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A major benefit of HUDs is that they allow the driver to watch the road ahead at all times while reading the displayed information. Another advantage is that they shorten recognition time over conventional meters because eye movement and eye focusing movement are greatly reduced. Recognition time refers to the amount of time it takes to read the display and return the eyes to their original line of sight. Nissan’s data indicates that the new HUD cuts recognition time from 0.46 to 0.33 seconds, a reduction of approximately 30%.

Here’s what the design looked like:

Hud Design
Source: Nissan

As far as I can tell, it’s only displaying speed information, which is the most important detail a driver needs during a usual drive. In general, I find speed-based HUDs helpful. GM has a decently usable one for performance cars that I’ve used in a track setting.

Corvtette Hud
Photo: GM via Corvette7

The problem with these HUDs, at least for me, is that the quality usually isn’t high enough to quickly use and, because it’s projected so close to the windshield, I end up getting distracted. It’s marginally better than looking down, and the eye doesn’t travel as far from the road, but I find them to be only minimally useful. Because the image is projected it’s also hard to see under numerous light conditions.

Dashboard Screens Are A Bad Solution

Mbux Hyperscreen

Some automakers are moving towards screens that cover the entire dashboard, often embedded from end to end. The first company to seriously attempt this in the United States was Mercedes with the company’s Hyperscreen in the all-electric EQS.

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While the display in the EQS is high quality, this feels like a solution in search of a problem. Navigation or other tasks using a Hyperscreen, in my experience, isn’t much better than just having an iPad-like screen glued to the dashboard. It’s also extremely distracting. Having giant touchscreens is altogether a bad idea as there’s no tactile feedback, which means you’re inevitably going to move your eyes towards the screen for complex tasks.

I haven’t seen a single touchscreen made by anyone that’s had all the information I need in one place and doesn’t require a lot of searching around for information. Mercedes has tried to utilize something it calls the “zero layer” of information to make things easier to find, but like most of these solutions, it would be better if there were just a bunch of buttons.

Any time your eyes have to get off the road it’s bad, and now that everything is going onto screens, the problem is only getting worse.

Lincoln’s Curved A-Pillar Screen Is Actually Kinda Brilliant

I had no plan to drive a Lincoln Nautilus, but David’s Jeep developed a smelly fuel leak which sent us looking for an alternative vehicle to get us to Palm Springs for the launch of the 2024 Ford F-150 and 2024 Mazda CX-70 (review coming tomorrow). Conveniently, Autopian co-founder Beau has more than a few options available. I was surprised when he suggested we try out the new Nautilus and, since Beau drives everything, I was more than curious to find out why he liked it.

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Sitting down in the Lincoln’s comfortable seats, the screen is momentarily distracting because there’s so much of it. The curved screen appears to stretch from A-pillar to A-pillar, but the 48-inch 4K display is actually two 24-inch screens joined together in the middle. The effect is stunning and, unlike some screens, it’s difficult to see where the screens are split. I did a high-exposure version of a photo to show you where the screens line up:

Lincoln Seam Screen

Because Lincoln uses a vignette graphic between the screens it’s not easy to see where the seam is unless the sun is directly facing into the screen, and even then it’s nicely fitted together.

Here’s how the screen is divided:

Stuff On Lincoln Screen

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Because the screen is so far forward on the dash it has to be a high-quality unit or it’s not going to work. This particular screen (or screens) is 4K and powerful enough that you can see it in the bright sun of the desert and not just the dark of a parking garage. Not all screens are created equal and I’ve been in plenty of cars where the center screen was less usable under bright conditions.

It is insane I like this given that one of the things I most love about my old BMW is that it doesn’t have any screens beyond the single-color red display in the dash and gauge cluster. This is just such a surprisingly good solution to the problem of too much information in a modern car.

Why This Works

Lincoln Screen Placement

The placement of the screen near the A-pillar of the car makes it almost flush with the windshield, so it just acts like a much clearer and cleaner HUD. If the idea of all these systems is to prevent the driver’s eyes from being off the road, this limits the departure from the field of view by a significant margin as you can see in the graphic above. If the dotted line is looking down the road, depending on how tall you are, the screen (solid line) isn’t far from the road ahead. The 11-inch center screen is a touchscreen and requires the driver to look away (dashed line) from the road by a large percentage to operate, which is how many of these systems work.

You’ll notice the wheel is designed to be slightly squircle, which makes sense given that it doesn’t want your eyes to have to peer over the wheel to see the screen. I’m tall, so this works for me.

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The main, 48-inch screen isn’t a touch-screen and that’s maybe its best feature. It’s very much designed to just be a thing you look at and not something you need to interact with at all. There’s no need to switch between a bunch of screens to get the information you need because most of the information you need is right there in front of you. Even using Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driving system there’s more space than you need to get all the data you want.

This means that the Lincoln system doesn’t require a lot of swapping around between screens. I drove this around Southern California for a few days and put 300+ miles on the car and I didn’t have to interact with the display much, and when I did it was mostly through tactile buttons on the steering wheel. Partially this is because so much data is viewable up top, but there’s another good reason.

It Gives You Two Maps!

I’m going to nerd out here for a minute so be warned. I was a geography major in college (Gamma Theta Upsilon 4 LIFE!) and I love maps. I see the world in maps, and my biggest frustration with Google Maps/Waze/Whatever is that I only want to see the turn right before the turn. Otherwise, a map should show where I am in relation to my final destination. A map that only tells you immediately where you’re going is a bad map! It means you don’t know where you are.

This is the default view for most navigation systems, although some have gotten better at zooming out a little in between turns. I do not like this.

This system is way better:

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Lincoln Two Amp

As you can see, I’m using Apple Maps via CarPlay for a trip. In this case, it’s taking me from Santa Monica to a BMW dealership in Temecula. Normally, I’d have to just interact with the main screen to see where I’m going, but Lincoln designers smartly put the turn-by-turn directions right up in the middle of the pillar screen. This means that I don’t have to look very far from the road to see where I’m going.

Even better, if I want a quick reference to where I am in space and the route (is it taking me on I-10 or cutting down to the 105?) I can glance down at the center touchscreen. In other cars I have to try and zoom out with my fingers, which is extremely distracting.

This might just be a perk for me because I’m a weirdo. I’m ok with that. What if you’re not a weirdo? When I use my phone to navigate the single most distracting thing I regularly do is page between navigation and anything else my phone needs me to do. This system is also beneficial because it allows you to answer a call, switch your music, et cetera, without having to lose your directions. It’s simple, but it’s great.

A Remarkable Part Of An Otherwise Unremarkable Car

2024 Lincoln Nautilus

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The Nautilus is another five-seat, premium crossover in a world full of five-seat, premium crossovers. I drove it to Palm Springs to test drive the CX-70, which is a near-premium five-seat crossover. When I got home, I drove my kid to school in my non-premium five-seat crossover.

After three hours in the Lincoln, the thing that David and I both immediately noticed was that we noticed nothing at all.

“Did we drive here?” David asked, half-seriously. “That didn’t feel like…anything.”

Ford’s 2.0-liter turbo inline-four gets about 29 mpg on the highway, puts out 250 horsepower via an eight-speed transmission, and drives as soft as any other two-row, five-seat crossover (there’s also a hybrid option). Everything about this car is tuned, as a Lincoln should be tuned, for comfort above all else. If you’ve got a very long road trip down exceedingly straight roads this isn’t a bad way to go.

If there’s anything special about the car that isn’t its screen it is the fact that it’s built in China and sold in America. There are a few cars sold in America that are built in China, but only two are from American brands (this and the Buick Envision). Could anyone tell it was a Chinese car? Yes, but only if you’re used to Chinese cars.

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There’s a specific Chinese interior design style that matches simple lines with ornate details. In the Lincoln, this means a smooth dash/screen offset by the clear, jewel-like rotary volume knob and overly-textured switches. BMW’s iX is another example of a car that, while not built by a Chinese company, feels like a Chinese car.

Everyone Should Just Copy Lincoln

Lincoln Nautilus Screen Big 1

If you have to burden a driver with a ton of information I haven’t seen a better way of doing it. I had to check with David to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind, but he drove the Lincoln a bit and came to the same conclusion: This is the best way to design a data-rich cabin.

Nothing about this seems extremely hard. Automakers are putting all sorts of screens into their vehicles and curved screen technology is old hat at this point.

The biggest issue is probably cost. This screen is standard across the Nautilus lineup, which means the cheapest way to get it is to fork over $50,000 for a base model. Could someone adapt this screen for even a $40k car? What about a $30k car? I don’t know exactly how much the part costs, but my guess is this isn’t that cheap.

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Still, screens of any kind were once a luxury in any car and now screens are plentiful. If the industry was smart, they’d see this as a better way forward.

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Banana Stand Money
Banana Stand Money
1 month ago

I dislike the propagation of mega screens spilling across the dash… I’m looking at you Mercedes and Porsche. I don’t hate the Lincoln execution though. The HUD on my 2019 BMW is fantastic and is generally my benchmark on form vs function. Don’t give me screens for bling, give me screens that serve a purpose.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
1 month ago

That nighttime interior shot is giving me anxiety. All that light pollution right in front of my face would screw with my night vision and drive me nuts.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
1 month ago

GM beat Nissan to the punch on offering a HUD for a passenger car. The 1992 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi had a HUD as standard equipment.

Steven Stringfellow
Steven Stringfellow
1 month ago
Reply to  MikuhlBrian

Actually, GM did the first “real” automotive HUD in the 1988 Olds Cutlass Supreme. It was a collaboration of Hughes Aircraft and Delco Electronics. The image was projected to the bumper distance on drivers centerline like most modern HUDs today.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
1 month ago

I thought I remembered an earlier GM product having the HUD prior to the SSEi, but was still thinking it was Pontiac and the Grand Prix. Thanks for jogging the memory.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago

Didn’t I see a bunch of random “influencers” showing that the steering wheel blocks the speedo and the displays for the steering wheel controls. Which forces the statement: having the steering wheel controls display what they do on the cluster is fuckin’ stupid.

Steven Stringfellow
Steven Stringfellow
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Agree! Minimal controls at 9:00 and 3:00 is OK, but too many controls is like somebody turning your keyboard upside-down while trying to type! Way too much eyes-off-road time.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 month ago

The screen is…..fine I guess. I probably like the version in the Cadillac Escalade better. I’d still prefer a “classic” setup with actual gauges and then a infotainment screen of some kind (with physical buttons), but apparently I won’t have that choice for much longer.

The other lighting though? No, I don’t need green lights (yes, I’m sure I can customize the color..oh boy) in the door and foot well.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

Yeah, I like a bit of demarcation when it comes to dashboards. I don’t like how one section of information just freely flows to the next here.

Matti Sillanpää
Matti Sillanpää
1 month ago

I’m starting to think manufacturers should start offering less screen models as option. Hell, I would pay quite premium for like new VW GTI with MKVI interior. I don’t think I’ve ever seen system that I’ve though, oh man that’s really a selling point.

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
1 month ago

If I need 4 feet of screens to get the inputs necessary to control a vehicle, I should be able to send an AMRAAM or Sidewinder off it. Stop accepting mediocrity (now with a touchscreen!).

Last edited 1 month ago by MY LEG!
Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

This does look very cool upon reading your analysis. Let’s hope economies of scale make it cheap enough for the eventual trickle down to happen sooner than later.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
1 month ago

So, the right third is “other stuff” and a “clock”, aka “filler. If a manufacturer wanted better affordability, eliminating the right third should be a no-brainer . . .

That being said, I like having multiple discrete spots for specific things, instead of having to scroll down through multiple menus just to find/do something mundane.

Sam Gross
Sam Gross
1 month ago

Geography majors high five

Autopizen
Autopizen
1 month ago

While I’m driving it’s all about what is going on outside the car. The less attention I have to pay to inside, the better.

TheFanciestCat
TheFanciestCat
1 month ago

I like the placement, but I feel like after 2.5ft of one screen, I’ve been given all of the information I could possibly need or want.

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