Winds of change are starting to blow. Lincoln’s new Navigator is the transformative product this struggling luxury automaker has needed for years.
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6
Output: 450 horsepower, 510 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
U.S. Fuel Economy (MPG): 16 city, 21 highway, 18 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 14.9 city, 11.3 highway, 13.3 combined
U.S. As-Tested Price: $96,150 including $1,195 for delivery
CAN Base Price: $90,250 including $2,000 for delivery
In its latest form, this fabled body-on-frame SUV delivers all-around excellence with no qualifying statements like, “If only they’d done this,” or “But other models have that.” Lincoln’s new Navigator is the real deal, a lungful of fresh air for a brand that’s been hypoxic far too long.
Not only has it inspired a return to real product names, like Continental, Nautilus, and Aviator, this vehicle has already worked wonders to revive the automaker’s long-lost prestige. Since it launched, deliveries are up more than 80 percent compared to the previous version. Beyond that, nine out of every 10 examples sold are either Reserve or Black Label models, the two highest and most expensive trims offered. This shift upmarket has undoubtedly been advantageous to Lincoln’s financial health.
Justifying its princely pricing are newfound features, extra refinement, and more interior opulence than ever, upgrades that allow the Navigator to compete with more than just Cadillac’s Escalade. Indeed, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and other luxury-vehicle owners have taken notice of this luxury truck as about 50 percent of buyers are brand-new to Lincoln.
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And one thing those conquest customers are sure to appreciate is the posh new interior, which is unquestionably this luxury SUV’s most outstanding feature.
The Navigator’s cabin is especially ritzy if you spring for one of the top-shelf Black Label models, of which three different themes are offered. Chalet features silver-hued wood trim and high-contrast leathers rendered in light gray and espresso. Examples fitted with the Yacht Club cabin have white-washed teak and smoky-blue cow hides throughout. Finally, there’s Destination, the theme our test Navigator was embellished with. It surrounds passengers in vast swaths of khaya wood and mahogany-hued Venetian leather. From the stitching on the grab handles (There are seven in total!) to the metal speaker grilles to the tape deck-inspired push-button shifter, everything looks rich and feels expensive; there’s no cheapness or corner cutting (at least in any obvious places.) Even the very bottoms of the door panels, components usually rendered in the most brittle of bargain-basement hard plastic are made of squishy-soft materials in the Navigator.
The vehicle’s horizontal dashboard design has a simple, timeless elegance to it, bringing to mind the interior of a late 1960s Continental. But the standard 10-inch infotainment screen, which is home to the company’s Sync 3 infotainment system, has an abundance of features while the digital instrument cluster brings everything ahead to the 21st century. I especially like the gold-flecked wood trimmings, which have been etched by a laser allowing the backing material to shine through.
Comfort is nothing short of astonishing in the Navigator thanks to available 30-way adjustable front bucket seats that allow you to dial things in perfectly for nearly every part of your body, provided you take the time for fine tuning, of course. A $1,250 option on Black Label Navigators, they’re arguably worth every penny.
The second-row buckets are also decidedly throne-like, with ample space in all directions and a massive center console that provides tons of storage as well as redundant controls for the audio system. Lesser models feature a three-spot bench seat for added passenger capacity if slightly reduced luxury.
As in the previous-generation Navigator, even this vehicle’s aft-most accommodations are hospitable, more comfortable for adult riders than many rival vehicles’ second-row seats. It’s even relatively easy to get back there thanks to the clever second-row buckets that tip and slide forward, creating a large walkway.
Not surprisingly, cargo space in the Navigator is generous, with nearly 20 cubic feet (547 liters) available in the way-back, or more than 103 (2,925 liters) if you fold everything flat. Of course, if that’s not enough, you can get an extended-length Navigator L, which offers significantly more room. Its body is nearly a foot longer (30.2 cm) with a wheelbase that’s been stretched by more than 9 inches (23.1 cm).
Luxurious, comfortable and spacious, the only thing I really don’t care for in this vehicle’s cabin is the overdose of chrome trim, which could stand to be toned down or perhaps replaced with matte-finish accents.
Don’t forget, the Navigator rides on a ladder-style frame borrowed largely from the F-150, but it drives remarkably well. An independent rear suspension keeps the back-end planted and prevents it from bouncing around or shimmying from side to side while traversing rough surfaces like a traditional live axle might, though the massive 22-inch wheels give you the impression there’s A LOT of mass moving around beneath your feet. This vehicle’s ride and handling would probably be measurably improved with a smaller wheel-tire combo.
At all speeds, the interior remains eerily silent, which is appropriate given the brand’s “quiet luxury” message. It also encourages you to crank up the optional – and AWESOME – 20-speaker Revel Ultima audio system. Lesser models feature a similar system with a mere 14 speakers. One of the brightest, clearest and largest head-up displays available today is also standard on Black Label models.
The Navigator offers seven different driving modes, each one changing how the vehicle behaves. Excite, for instance, enhances driving performance, Conserve reduces fuel consumption and Deep Conditions is designed for tackling mud, sand and snow. Keeping things simple, you access all these settings via a single knob on the center console. Beautiful animated graphics appear in meter cluster to reflect the mode you’ve selected.
But one thing that can’t be changed is the powertrain. Every Navigator features the same engine-and-transmission combo: a smooth-running 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 bolted to a 10-speed automatic gearbox, essentially the same drivetrain as in the dune-dominating Ford Raptor. Rear- or all-wheel drive is available, though the latter is standard on Black Label Navigators.
Output is a mighty 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque, meaning even this 5,855-pound SUV accelerates with authority, that resourceful gearbox ensuring it’s never caught flat-footed.
Like other Ford trucks, this Lincoln features lightweight aluminum bodywork. But it’s only about 200 or 300 pounds (91 to 136 kg) trimmer than its predecessor because product planners decided to reinvest about 400 pounds (181 kg) by adding more features and amenities. That’s good news for passengers and, regrettably, oil companies as well.
With colossal performance and luxury comes enormous consumption. The Navigator stickers at 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 21 on the highway. Expect it to average just 18 MPG in mixed driving. A Toyota Prius it most certainly is not.
Nor is it a rival to Mazda’s famed Miata. This Lincoln’s steering and braking are quite favorable for a vehicle of such size and weight, though it could hardly be called agile. The wheel seems to require a lot of cranking at low speeds, likewise there’s a fair bit of body motion in corners, though this is to be expected given the high center of gravity and soft suspension. Serene, smooth and silent best describe how the Navigator drives, not sporty, sharp or sprightly.
The Verdict: 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label Review
From front to back, this new Lincoln is a seriously impressive product. It’s easily the best vehicle in this brand’s somewhat limited lineup. Comfortable, luxurious and even spacious in every row of seats, it offers luxury SUV buyers a lot. The muscular powertrain, abundance of features and near-silent running should make it a strong contender in its rarefied class.
Aside from an overabundance of chrome accents inside and frightening fuel consumption, which is, unfortunately, par for the course in this segment, there little to grouse about with the new Navigator. If you can afford one it shouldn’t disappoint, though that’s a big if.
An entry-level, rear-drive Premiere model starts just shy of $74,000, but the top shelf Black Label version tested here stickered for $96,150 including $1,195 in delivery fees. But you know something? Even at basically six figures, the Navigator actually feels worth it, which is perhaps its most surprising attribute. When’s the last time you could say that about a Lincoln?
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