BIf you’ve been observant in many of Bergen County’s busiest parking lots, you may have caught onto a decidedly different change in the types of vehicles left behind. Rewind to 10 years ago and this wasn’t the case as we all were under pressure due to a systemic macroeconomic downturn. The icing on the cake was when crude oil reached about $150 per barrel, which had consumers flooding Toyota and MINI dealers looking for a hybrid Prius or fuel sipping Cooper.
Today, you’d hardly know that was the case. That’s because today’s buyers are forgetful. Low fuel prices and demand for pick-up trucks and three-row sport-utility vehicles has skyrocketed. As automakers optimize their product portfolios and kill sedans in favor of SUVs, I figured it would be appropriate to review one of the most interesting all-new SUVs.
That honor is bestowed upon the all-new Lincoln Navigator. A full-size SUV, it is truly massive in scale. And, get this: There’s even an extended version to provide extra space in the cargo area. An apt description would be that this Navigator is the equivalent of a land yacht. Large and decadent by every possible benchmark, it is Lincoln’s flagship automobile – at least in my eyes.
Upon delivery of the light blue metallic monster, my test vehicle stuck out in the airport valet parking lot. It wasn’t a bad thing, but there’s no question that this SUV has presence. Its massive grille makes it known that this is a Lincoln product and its LED headlights give the Navigator a bit of a bedazzled look. Personally, I am a fan of the 22-inch turbine-style wheels. While I appreciate the vintage nod to Lincolns of yore with the baby blue hue, I have to say the Navigator looks much better in black. It comes off as though it’s on its way to the opera in a sharply tailored suit – classy and understated.
Having seen a handful in the flesh, there’s no question that’s the specification to have the Navigator in.
Honestly though, the exterior isn’t where you should be focusing. That’s because the interior is everything when it comes to Lincoln. And, boy, did the American luxury marque deliver. I was provided a Navigator Black Label with the Yacht Club specification. That meant the interior was draped in medium blue leather and whitewashed teak trim – handsome, indeed.
Getting into this tall SUV via the motorized step and sliding into the driver’s seat, the first thing you’ll notice up front are the two captain’s chairs. Lincoln calls them Perfect Position Seats, and they’re not kidding. They adjust in 30 different ways and feature massage, heating and cooling. Once you figure out all of the different settings and you spend a few minutes finding your most comfortable position, you’re set for what feels like eternity. Having driven a slew of vehicles, I can confidently say these are the most comfortable seats in the business.
Also of note is the Navigator’s instrument panel, which makes use of a 12-inch screen. It can be configured to your liking. In addition, my test vehicle was equipped with a head’s up display, which makes getting around unfamiliar terrain much easier as navigation prompts can be delivered off the windshield glass. Last, but not least, is the centrally located, 10-inch infotainment screen. Using updated software from what you typically find in Ford family vehicles, it is simpler to operate and works in a snappy fashion – this is a welcome finding given the previous systems were complex and lethargic on a good day.
Looking around, the cabin is just a splendid place to be. High-quality hides cover the doors as well as the dashboard. Chrome accents are tastefully integrated throughout the cockpit. As this is a full-size SUV, there are plenty of areas for storage and binnacles to place items like phones, tablets or beverages. Best of all, there’s room in all directions. Whether you’re off the charts and 6-foot, 8-inches, like me, or a normal adult, today’s consumers are happy to pay a premium for space. Even better, you can fit adults in the second and third rows, no problem.
Lincoln was extremely smart in knowing the buyers of this particular SUV, too. If owners are not utilizing the third row and want to make better use of the cargo area, simply push a button and that third row will power fold. In a few seconds you have more than 57 cubic feet of storage space in the back.
So far, so good. There’s just one thing: A luxury vehicle has to drive well too.
Firing up the motor, a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter six-cylinder comes to life. Producing 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque, this engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Oddly, putting the Lincoln into gear requires the push of a button from relatively discreet collection of switches on the dash but once you notice them it’s engrained going forward.
Power is adequate. An SUV tipping the scale over 5,800 pounds will never be a sports car but the Navigator can hustle if need be. More importantly, however, the transmission shifts gears seamlessly and the noise from the engine bay is minimal.
What I found impressive is, for a vehicle of its size, wind noise is kept to a minimum. That can’t be said for all full-size SUVs. Whether at speed or lumbering in city traffic, the Navigator does an excellent job putting you in your own world. It’s almost as though the apocalypse could be happening outside and, frankly, you wouldn’t care too much.
Surprisingly, where this Lincoln left me a bit disappointed was with its ride quality. Although it is smooth sailing over nice pavement, when you hit a jarring pothole or road imperfection it is more noticed than I would have expected for an SUV weighing nearly three tons. To be honest, I was expecting a fully isolated experience. That’s not the case here. Does the Navigator absorb the bump? Largely yes, but it’s not a magic carpet ride. Does it do it better than the Cadillac Escalade? Yes, but that is not saying much. Will the Navigator be able to compete with the all-new BMW X7 and upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class? Probably not.
Hopefully, when the Navigator gets a refresh Lincoln will consider an optional air suspension. They can get rather tricky and costly to fix down the road but they provide a much better ride if tuned correctly.
Driving it in city traffic was a breeze. The Navigator’s steering is light but not exactly direct, which isn’t the end of the world given it’s not a sporty thing. You’ll have to put your pinky to work just a little bit more to get those parking lot maneuvers down just right. On windy, country roads you’ll remember very quickly how much weight you’re carrying in the Lincoln. Let’s just put it this way: This is a vehicle built for comfort, not speed. It is unabashedly a luxury vehicle. Remember that, and overall you’ll have a rewarding experience.
All of this comes at a price though. With the Black Label specification you’re talking about spending around $100,000 for a Lincoln Navigator. If you’re looking for three rows and it has to be the crème de la crème of luxury, this will fit the bill. But if you’re seeking room for four or five, then I would probably invest in a more sedate Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
By Richard Posluszny