The Lincoln Navigator is a full-size, body-on-frame sport-utility. This third-generation Navigator was introduced as a 2007 model. Updating for 2015 gave the Navigator a new look along with greater power. The 2016 Lincoln Navigator carries over essentially unchanged.
Navigator is most comparable to the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon, as well as upper-level models of the Ford Expedition, which shares the Lincoln’s basic structure. A properly equipped Navigator is rated to tow up to 9,000 pounds.
Like the Expedition and similar SUVs, the Navigator comes in either standard or Navigator L extended-wheelbase form. Measuring 207.4 inches long in standard size; the Navigator L stretches to 222.3 inches, providing an additional 24.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
Somewhat surprisingly for a vehicle of this size, the Navigator excels in ride and handling. Adaptive dampers are available for the suspension, but grouped into an expensive option package.
V8 engines are gone, but a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 whips up 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Navigators use a 6-speed automatic transmission. Lincoln claims the highest towing capacity in its class, and there’s only a slight fuel-economy penalty for choosing four-wheel drive.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16/22 mpg City/Highway.
Leather-rimmed seats are standard in all three rows, as is a rearview camera. A more user-friendly Sync 3 interface is gradually phasing in to replace MyLincoln Touch, which uses touch, voice-activation or steering-wheel controls to operate phone, climate, audio, navigation and other functions. We’ve found MyLincoln Touch to be an annoying and troublesome interface, so it’s good news to see a replacement.
On the highway, trailer-sway control can correct for the pendulum-like swing that a towed vehicle tends to induce. Large mirrors and a glassy cabin give the driver an expansive view.
Power-folding capability lets you stow the third row quickly and easily. Ford’s MyKey system can allow parents to limit certain functions when a teenager is driving the vehicle.
Bulky but sturdy SUVs like the Navigator typically score well in crash-testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it a five-star overall rating. Rollover resistance rated four stars for four-wheel-drive models, three for rear-wheel drive.
The 2016 Lincoln Navigator comes in two lengths and two trim levels. One powertrain is available, with a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Lincoln Navigator Select ($63,195) includes leather upholstery (third row is vinyl), dual-zone automatic temperature control, navigation, pushbutton start, Sync with MyLincoln Touch interface, LED-backlit instrument cluster, cruise control; surround-sound audio, a rearview camera, heated/ventilated front seats, power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, and a power-folding third-row seat.
Select 4WD ($66,770) adds four-wheel drive.
Navigator Reserve ($71,260) features hand-wrapped dashboard leather, Ziricote wood, black power running boards, 22-inch wheels, and an adaptive suspension. Reserve 4WD ($74,260) has four-wheel drive.
Options include a power moonroof, headrest-mounted DVD entertainment, dark 20-inch alloy wheels, or 22-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Safety features include a rearview camera, reverse parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert.
Lincoln has refreshed the Navigator’s exterior repeatedly over the years, but it’s been on sale for nearly a decade in its current form. Even so, this big Lincoln has its temptations, including a traditional profile and an airy cabin with plenty of glass. Still, it’s overdue for a redesign.
Body proportions still look appealing. Less flashy than in the past, with a slimmer and less-distracting grille, a Navigator continues to demonstrate an imposing presence. Headlights are squared off with LED accent lighting. A Navigator is less bold than Cadillac’s Escalade, but less tasteful than some rivals, including Ford Expedition.
Although the Navigator’s forthright interior might appear a bit trucklike, softer detail work gives it a more contemporary, even sophisticated, tone. Recent upgrades have rounded out Lincoln’s efforts to make the Navigator a true luxury SUV.
Leather wrapping with twin-stitched seams can decorate the twin-binnacle dashboard, while a large touchscreen now overlooks the center stack. Knobs and buttons haven’t disappeared completely, though. Within the gauge cluster is a reconfigurable screen.
The Navigator possesses one of the most spacious interiors of any SUV, able to carry as many as eight occupants and plenty of cargo, with room to spare. Navigator L is even roomier.
Seating is great in the front two rows, with wide, supportive, softly cushioned buckets up front, plus abundant space all around. Amply-sized or elderly passengers should feel quite comfortable. The second row holds twin bucket seats.
On the negative side, third-row access isn’t so easy, though a power-folding seat helps. Also, the cargo floor is rather high, making loading a challenge for some folks, but the actual cargo space is immense, and a power tailgate does ease access.
Lincoln has worked on sound quality, and the interior is largely quiet. On the highway, the cabin is nearly silent, with only a touch of exhaust sound to be heard.
Ford’s twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 produces more horsepower and torque than the previous V8, and it does so through a broader rpm range. As a result, despite weights that push past three tons, the Navigator is now surprisingly swift when the pedal is pushed harder.
Competitors may have 8- or 9-speed automatics, but Lincoln’s 6-speed shifts gears smoothly and quickly, without delaying for a decision. With four-wheel drive, a properly equipped Navigator can tow up to 9,000 pounds.
Navigators handle better than usual for vehicles of its size and heft, maneuvering through curves with a modest degree of precision and agility. During quick stops, expect considerable body motion and extensive nosedive. Otherwise, the fully independent suspension promises a smooth ride. An option package with adaptive suspension costs plenty, but it’s standard with four-wheel drive.
Fuel economy is nothing to shout about, but better than the old V8, estimated at 16/22 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined, with rear-wheel drive. Adding four-wheel drive or picking the extended-length Navigator L body drops those ratings to 15/20 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined. So, expect to stop often for refills on a long journey.
Certain luxury touches finally are available in Navigators, including touchscreen controls and adaptive damping, helping it challenge gargantuan SUVs like the latest Escalade. Despite prices that start past $60,000, Navigator almost qualifies as a bargain in its class.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.