We’re huge fans of the current crop of body-on-frame SUVs.
They all have their own strong points, and the entire segment has come a very long way in efficiency, overall comfort, and luxury. 2018 marked a new start for both the Ford Expedition (reviewed here) as well as Lincoln’s aging Navigator. This top-to-bottom redesign brought Ford’s SUVs up to par and attempted to surpass a segment that was effectively dominated by General Motors. When the need came for me to do a 2,000km road trip to New York and New Jersey with my family in tow, I grabbed the keys to a 2019 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L.
Since the major redesign for model year 2015, our team has logged thousands of kilometers in GM’s big SUVs, including me doing this exact road trip two years ago in a full-jam Escalade ESV (reviewed here). This time around, we really wanted to experience a true long-distance drive with the Navigator to test highway manners and see just how it carries itself, both in terms of fuel consumption as well as how coddled it keeps its occupants. If it surpasses the Escalade and Yukon Denali, this just might be the one to buy.
All models of the Navigator share the same powertrain. Hauling this cruise ship around is a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6, the same engine seen in the F-150 Raptor. It offers 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft. of torque, more than enough to feel extremely quick despite being the size of your average Manhattan apartment. There is noticeable turbocharger lag off the line, but once you’re at speed, cruising is effortless. A 10-speed automatic transmission controls shifts, and while there is a manual shifting mode available, you won’t need or want to ever make use of it.
The powertrain is just fine, and ride quality is also cloud-like despite the massive wheels on our test vehicle, but where we really were let down is how the chassis handles secondary motions. Our test vehicle is the Reserve L, with the “L” standing for long wheelbase. While it feels adequately comfortable from the first row, we had repeated complaints from second and third row passengers about a “sway” effect. It almost feels like the Navigator is swaying from side to side like a skyscraper on a windy day. This is something we have seen in the Expedition as well, and body control is notably better sorted on the GMs.
Navigator models with the “L” moniker are roughly 14 inches longer than the regular Navigator, providing a very usable 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row as opposed to the shorty’s 19.3. It easily swallowed up six carry-ons, three or four backpacks, and six garment bags with space to spare. Even with all of this behind the third row, there was perfect visibility out of the rear window from the driver’s seat. Reserve L models are equipped with second row captain’s chairs, which are decently comfortable.
Third row passengers will be comfortable if under five-feet in height, so these accommodations are perfect for children. The seat itself is fairly flat and short in length, so taller folks will definitely complain. Lastly, that body sway is most noticeable in the third row, which resulted in our passengers exhibiting signs of nausea. I tried a stint back there myself, and felt the same issue. Head and legroom is more than adequate for taller passengers in all three rows, with the only restriction being the aforementioned seat comfort in the third row.
Redemption from the swaying skyscraper comes in the way of fuel economy, where the Navigator pleasantly surprised us. While turbocharged Ford V6s have been delivering adequate fuel mileage in highway situations, combined mileage is still a challenge with the engine being quick to jump into boost. Without much of an attempt to keep things thrifty, the first 800km highway run delivered 10.6L/100km on premium fuel. Our combined average with a ton of city driving mixed in was still 12.0L/100km, not bad at all for your average suburban townhouse.
Interior materials are one of the Navigator Reserve’s strong suits, with top-notch quality throughout. The Ebony/Russet leather is stunning to look at and the perfect colour combination to exude the luxury that the Lincoln brand is going for. Matte finish wood lines the dashboard and surroundings, and looks excellent as well. This thing has presence inside and out, and most major controls are easy to access and immediately responsive with hard, physical buttons. We did find the push-button gear selector a bit gimmicky and difficult to get used to; a change to the rotary dial in most Ford products would be beneficial.
Lincoln has been talking for quite some time about the Perfect Position 30-way adjustable front seats, which have been a conversation point since the launch of the current Continental. They offer all of the adjustability you can think of. For example, the thigh support can be extended separately for your left and right legs, just in case your clutch leg needs more support. These front seats are heated, ventilated, and offer a massage feature. The problem is – even with this customizability, they’re not as comfortable as the simple, well-bolstered seats in the GMs. No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to get the, well, perfect position.
Other noteworthy tech includes a Revel Ultima 20-speaker stereo that is one of the best in the business, and almost approaches the level of Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins application. The instrument cluster is fully digital and provides some level of customization, though it’s still not on par with the Germans. The typical host of active safety is also on board, including adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and lane keep assist. The adaptive cruise control works fairly well, though we found the lane keep assist provide more of a “Pong” effect, bouncing between the lines rather than maintaining a straight trajectory like the Hyundai Palisade (reviewed here).
Pricing for the 2019 Navigator starts at $84,045 for the short-wheelbase Select trim, and $89,241 for the Reserve. Going to the long-wheelbase model brings these prices to $86,744 and $91,940, respectively. The Reserve trim adds power illuminated running boards, 22” wheels, Revel Ultima 20-speaker sound system, and a few other unique touches. The Iced Mocha paint on our test vehicle was an extra $700, and a Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package adds $2,000. The final option are the Perfect Position 30-way front seats, an added $1,000, bringing the as-tested total to just shy of $98,000.
On its own, the 2019 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L is a very nice SUV, with unmatched road presence, exquisite interior materials and a smooth powertrain. The issue is that the Navigator is very new in its life cycle, and the GM models that it has just caught up to are on their way out. If you’re looking for more modern technology and connectivity as it stands today, the Lincoln is the way to go. But, if you can wait another year or so, the new crop of GMs will be on the road, and if the current Silverado and Sierra are any indication, they will be exceptional.