Getting Its Game Face On
The new Lincoln Navigator SUV lines up well
Automotive historians often credit the mid-1960s Jeep Grand Wagoneer with being the first large luxury SUV. That workhorse could wander off-road, tow the horse trailer, then take a family to dinner in style. Land Rover joined that club, launching the Range Rover in the 1970s. By the 1990s, Lincoln, Lexus, and Cadillac delivered major automaker volume to full-sized luxury SUVs when they all plunged into the segment, which continues to grow fast to the present day.
There are plenty of choices today for SUVs with a spacious interior and three rows of seating. If you also want towing capability and truck-like sturdiness, the list narrows quickly to rear-wheel-drive vehicles with truck-like architecture. These are not car-like crossovers. Lincoln’s Navigator had been a marginally competent competitor offering capability, but a bit short on style and refinement.
The all-new 2018 Navigator has seriously stepped up its game with a new, lighter aluminum body and a revised, twin-turbo V6 with a ten-speed transmission on the all-wheel drive vehicle. The combination delivers class-leading power and fuel economy. The revised styling, along with a new grille face that debuted on the new Continental, is a welcome refinement.
Inside the plush cabin, Lincoln has spent quality time on the details that separate a luxury vehicle from its volume-based origins. Well-bolstered leather seating is accompanied by soft touch surfaces where hard pebbled plastic might otherwise reside. The broad center console, revised switch gear, advanced graphic instrument presentation, and display screen bring the Navigator fully up-to-date. The optional Revel sound system really shines in an interior quieted by laminated front and side glass, along with new acoustic treatment.
Surprise & Delight
A luxury experience can be more than competent design, construction, and material choice. The Lincoln team had fun with the technology packed into the Navigator. When you approach the vehicle armed with the key fob, Lincoln’s star logo in the grille softly illuminates, lower front body and tail lamps follow, and the star logo is projected from under the mirrors to create a welcome mat. This isn’t the first time for components of this technology, but Lincoln’s smooth progression from front to back is nicely dramatic.
Once underway, the next pleasant surprise is how refined Lincoln has made the Navigator’s driving experience. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 creates an impressive 450 horsepower, but what’s more impressive is the engine’s 510 foot-pounds of torque. That power, along with ten forward gears, seems to shed the vehicle’s nearly three tons of curb weight and allows towing up to 8,700 pounds. And, it does this hat trick while posting better fuel economy (at 16/city and 21/highway) than its mostly V8-equipped rivals. In this category, only a less powerful diesel nudged Lincoln’s combined EPA number, and that was by just 3 MPG.
During the Navigator’s recent launch program in Laguna Beach, I had an opportunity to drive down through our coastal communities, along with a jaunt over the hills to Lake Elsinore on twisty Highway 74. That’s a route more appropriate for sports cars than large SUVs, but the Navigator was stable and surprisingly nimble footed. And that’s the luxury most SUV buyers want: truck-like capability without the industrial persona.
Models start at $72,000 for a Premiere model, with a Black Label version at about $93,000. Brian Douglas
Exterior: Photo by Brian Douglas All Other photography courtesy of Lincoln