2021 Lincoln Navigator Reserve

2021 Lincoln Navigator Reserve

Regardless of your thoughts on the exterior, the interior is everything a big luxury SUV should be.

Fall is upon us and as we start closing up for the season, thoughts turn to the most comfortable way to get around. For that, it’s hard to beat a big honking full-sized luxury SUV, for which the competition is growing increasingly stiff. If you’re more interested in space and comfort over driving dynamics, there are a few domestic options that will also save you a few dollars. Now nearly four years into its fourth generation, the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Reserve will be going up against its toughest competition yet.

The Navigator’s outward appearance is unapologetically Lincoln, featuring trademark Lincoln cues such as the full length LED rear light bar, honeycomb style grille and an illuminated emblem, all on a grand scale due to the sheer size of the Navigator. Even our short-wheelbase tester looks massive in the driveway next to my wife’s older Escalade. The styling, in general, is more crossover/wagon than traditional SUV, which is in-line with the direction other full-sized SUVs have been heading.

Our tester also came equipped with the Monochromatic Appearance Package which features a color-matched grille, emblems and nice black 22-inch wheels. I think simply swapping the monochromatic color to black would transform our test vehicle from an SUV that catches a casual glance to an absolute showstopper. Choose your color accordingly from Lincoln’s long list of options.

Regardless of your thoughts on the exterior, the interior is everything a big luxury SUV should be. Firstly, it’s massive; even in this short wheelbase model the second and third rows seats have tons of leg and headroom. If you’re not using the third row, the second row captain’s chairs slide back for more comfort. Our tester came equipped with an optional center console between the second row chairs, which adds some functionality for rear passengers, but since it’s fixed to the floor, you lose the ability to fold all the seats and load big bulky items.

If you do plan on using the third row regularly, you’ll probably want to opt for the long wheelbase model, as our tester had limited open cargo space behind the third row when upright. Up front, total comfort is the first priority, due in part to the Luxury Package ($3,200) equipped which includes space-aged looking 30-way adjustable massaging, heated and ventilated front seats. It can take some time to get them set just right, but once you do they’re heavenly. You’re surrounded in luxurious materials as well, from the soft leather extending onto the door panels, the gorgeous satin finish real wood inlays on the center console and dash, to the knurled aluminum knobs.

All of the materials come together well, and overall fit and finish is strong here. Storage hasn’t been forgotten either with a very deep center console, two-tier console with storage underneath, large cupholders, and a handy wireless charging compartment within easy reach.  Lastly, the huge panoramic sunroof easily brightens up the cavernous space at the touch of a button.

Consoles are generally pretty intuitive and functions such as climate and the heated/cooled seats have physical buttons which makes things simple and convenient. Infotainment is via Ford’s SYNC 3, with an intuitive user interface and acceptable resolution. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is supported, and wireless charging is standard. Our tester came equipped with the optional 20-speaker Revel Ultima premium audio system, pumping out rich quality sound throughout the cabin.

The tech doesn’t end there; the Lincoln Navigator comes standard with Lincoln Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technologies. This includes automatic high beam control, Blind Spot Detection with Cross-Traffic Alert and trailer coverage, Lane-Keeping Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Dynamic Brake Support, Forward Collision Warning, and Pedestrian Detection systems. It also adds the exclusive ‘Phone As A Key’ system which allows drivers to use their phones and the Lincoln Way mobile app in lieu of the key fob.

The Lincoln Navigator only has one powertrain, and that’s the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged (EcoBoost) V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic. The 440 horsepower, 510 lb-ft of torque powerhouse does a great job propelling the mammoth Navigator with grace. It accelerates with authority, has plenty of passing power, and despite its turbochargers delivers a very refined and smooth driving experience. I must admit I miss the V8 growl that you’d get in others in the segment. The 10-speed automatic works hard, but is quick and intuitive enough to get the job done without interfering, and that’s really all you can ask for. The brute is also able to tow up to 8,600-pounds, which actually bests the Escalade and its 6.2-liter V8 which tops out at 8,000-pounds.

There are six standard drive modes available on the Navigator, allowing for quick suspension, transmission, 4×4 Drive Line, and information display configuration using the knob on the centre console. An additional seventh Slow Climb mode is included as part of the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package on our test vehicle.

While the powertrain impresses from a power and refinement standpoint, the rest of the driving experience is a letdown. Steering is numb and the sheer size of the Navigator is felt in its slow response to inputs. It’s a vehicle that feels every bit of its size, in a time where many SUVs feel a lot smaller than they really are.  Ride quality is generally soft and comfortable, though certain sharp bumps do penetrate the cabin and there is an unexpected jittery rebound effect that unsettling. As a result, it’s not as confident to drive on bad roads or in bad weather as some rivals that offer a stronger sense of control.

Fuel economy has never been a strong point for Ford’s boosted V6, and the Navigator is no exception. After a week of mixed driving, with one good two-hour run out of town on backroads, the Lincoln returned 13.7L/100km. It’s on-par with V8 competitors, but don’t buy the Navigator thinking the V6 is going to save fuel. What is nice though is that the Navigator is happy running on regular 87 octane fuel, with premium being recommended for maximum performance or towing situations.

In the full-sized luxury SUV segment, pricing is typically not the buyers top priority, but the Navigator does offer a lot of value. For 2021 the Navigator is only available in the top-tier Reserve trim, and a short wheelbase like our tester starts at $97,000. The Reserve trim comes pretty well equipped and most buyers wouldn’t be disappointed to stop there, but there are a few options to consider.

The Luxury Package ($3,200) for the alien-like massage seats, the Monochromatic Appearance Package ($2,250), second row console ($750), heavy-duty towing package ($750) and the premium Ceramic Pearl paint ($900) are all options equipped here. These toys brought the as-tested price on our test vehicle to $107,195. That’s comparable to a low-option Escalade with significantly fewer features, or roughly $30,000 less than a comparably equipped German option.

The bottom line on the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Reserve is that it does have more age on it than its closest competition right now. It has a fantastic interior, is exceptionally comfortable, and features classic Lincoln styling. It doesn’t have the driving dynamics that an enthusiast would want, and that’s where it falls short of the Germans or even the Cadillac Escalade. If your SUV is going to spend most of its time shuttling kids around town, driving dynamics may be less of a concern. In that case, the Navigator offers tremendous value over rivals for a full-feature luxury experience.

See Also:

2021 GMC Yukon AT4

2020 Lincoln Navigator Reserve

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country

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