The Lincoln Navigator is a full-size luxury SUV. Except for new infotainment features, little has changed for the 2017 model year. As before, the Navigator comes two ways: standard-size, or the extended-length Navigator L.
Introduced nearly two decades ago, the Navigator was last modified for 2015, adopting a narrower grille and LED accent lighting, but the basic shape hasn’t changed appreciably. Carefully proportioned, it’s still a handsome traditional SUV.
In addition to providing plenty of interior space in a lavishly fitted cabin, the Navigator ranks among the better-driving large SUVs. Seats are arguably more comfortable than those found in an Escalade.
Unlike Navigators of old, powered by V8s, the current model benefits from a fabulous twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection. Also installed in some F-150 pickups, the V6 unfurls 380 horsepower and a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Rear-drive is standard, with four-wheel drive an option for each version.
Measuring 207.4 inches long overall, the standard Navigator offers 103.3 cubic feet of interior space, with up to 54.4 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row. A Navigator L stretches to 222.3 inches, adding 24.9 cubic feet of cargo space, with 128.2 cubic feet of cabin volume.
Both trim levels are well-equipped. Navigator options include a moonroof, rear-seat DVD entertainment, a second-row bench for eight-passenger capacity, and dark-finished 20-inch or polished aluminum 22-inch wheels.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the Navigator a five-star overall crash-test rating, as well as five stars in most individual tests. Rollover resistance of a rear-drive Navigator is rated at three stars (four-star with four-wheel drive), but that’s a calculated figure rather than a test result.
Trailer-sway control aims to minimize the pendulum-like rolling that can occur when towing a vehicle. Standard safety equipment also includes a rearview camera, front parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring. Lincoln does not offer such safety features as lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control, but large mirrors and bountiful glass area enhance visibility.
Two trim levels are offered for both standard Navigator and extended-length Navigator L, each with rear-drive or four-wheel drive. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Navigator Select ($63,515) and Navigator L Select ($65,905) come with rear-wheel drive, leather-trimmed seats, heated/ventilated low-back front seats, heated second-row bucket seats, a rearview camera, power-folding third-row bench, power-adjustable pedals, remote start, power liftgate, and 20-inch machined aluminum wheels. Blind-spot monitoring, navigation, and THX II surround-sound audio are standard. Select 4WD ($67,090) and L Select 4WD ($69,480) are fitted with four-wheel drive.
Navigator Reserve ($71,580) and Navigator L Reserve ($73,970) add such features as premium leather, a hand-wrapped leather dashboard covering, Ziricote wood interior trim, an adaptive suspension, and 22-inch wheels. Reserve 4WD ($74,580) and L Reserve 4WD ($76,970) get four-wheel drive.
Updated and freshened numerous times over the years, Lincoln’s Navigator maintains a clean, well-proportioned appearance in its current form. Slapping a bundle of flashy chrome detailing atop a relatively reserved-looking body yields an appealing result.
To many eyes, today’s Navigator represents the best possible melding of vintage luxury design cues with a wholly traditional profile. Underneath, the Navigator is truck-based, a close cousin to the Ford Expedition, with nearly identical dimensions.
As expected, interior space is vast, whether the Navigator is standard-length or extended-wheelbase. Accommodations in both the second and third row rank ahead of Navigator’s competitors, in space as well as seating comfort. Navigator cabins used to be on the plain side, but nowadays they’re lushly trimmed, with a sophisticated edge.
Front and second-row occupants can expect splendid seating, well-shaped for adults, with ample space in each direction. Headroom beats Cadillac’s Escalade. Bucket seats up front are sufficiently wide, but softly cushioned and helpfully supportive. The second row also contains bucket seats, for six-passenger capacity.
Only in the third row will adults feel cramped. Entering and leaving the third row is a little easier in a Navigator L than in the standard-length version. Making use of power-folding capability allows the third row to be stowed away, swiftly and easily.
Although the power tailgate is handy, the Navigator’s vast cargo floor is on the high side. For shorter drivers, loading luggage can be a challenge.
Up front, the dual-binnacle dashboard is wrapped in leather, highlighted by twin-stitched seams. A large touchscreen sits high on the center stack, but knobs and buttons haven’t disappeared. In fact, they’re present throughout the dashboard and steering wheel. All told, despite soft detail work, the Navigator still comes across as a tad trucklike. Standard SYNC3 infotainment operates using touch, voice, or steering-wheel controls.
Sound-deadening materials and noise-suppression techniques make the cabin nearly silent at highway speeds. Only a hint of exhaust sound can be heard.
Navigator delivers excellent ride comfort and impressive handling capability for its size.
Substantial nosedive and abundant body motions are inevitable when stopping abruptly. But otherwise, Lincoln’s fully independent suspension yields a pleasantly smooth ride. Credit for ride comfort goes largely to Lincoln’s available adaptive dampers, available in expensive option packages for rear-wheel-drive models. The adaptive suspension is standard with four-wheel drive.
Few models of this size and weight handle so adeptly, maneuvering with a significant level of precision even when the road turns curvy. Electric power steering reduces the amount of steering-wheel motion needed for parking or lane-changing, helping to make this biggie feel smaller than its dimensions suggest.
Twin-turbo V6 power propels the big SUV with gusto, helping to make the Navigator a better-driving vehicle than before, as well as a more efficient one. Turbo lag is not an issue, and the V6 unravels its power over a broad range of engine speeds, making it impressively quick. Despite weight that hovers around three tons, 0-60 mph acceleration can be achieved in less than 6 seconds, a startling figure in this vehicle league. Lincoln’s 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly, without annoying indecision.
As expected, gas mileage wins no prizes, EPA-rated with rear-drive at 15/21 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined. Four-wheel drive drops the highway estimate to 20 mpg. The Navigator L is EPA-rated at 15/20 mpg City/Highway with rear-drive, and 15/19 mpg with four-wheel drive. In the realm of three-row vehicles, Navigator falls near the bottom of the fuel-economy scale.
The Lincoln Navigator might be considered a relative bargain in the large-SUV class, when considering its lavish list of standard features, when compared with Cadillac Escalades and Range Rovers.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.