Finally, the Navigator re-emerges as a worthy competitor to the Escalade and QX80.
WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Ford’s luxury brand, Lincoln, is one of the most well known automotive names in the North American landscape. Over the past two years or so, they have been attempting to rejuvenate this marque back to the prestige it was once known for. This first started with the Continental (reviewed here) and finally, the time has come for Lincoln’s flagship SUV to hit showroom floors. We were invited to snowy Whistler, British Columbia to drive the 2018 Lincoln Navigator and sample for ourselves the opulence and luxury of this new model.
Introduced for the 1998 model year, the Navigator was always a serious rival to the Cadillac Escalade (reviewed here). A full-sized luxury SUV, the Navigator always shared its platform with the Ford Expedition and in certain model years, offered little more than slightly different styling, oodles of chrome and wood, and a more upscale interior when compared to its Ford sibling. The last Navigator stuck around well past its expiry date, and was obsolete to a point of irrelevance. All of that has changed now, and the new model is particularly special.
Lincoln has employed their latest design language on the new Navigator, while retaining the signature cues that the big ute is known for. The large chrome grille is still in play, and now offers active shutters for aerodynamics. The wheel designs are unique to this vehicle but not gaudy, and we found them to be tasteful. A subtle crease along the side of the truck brings the front and rear fasciae together, and this comes across as a more elegant SUV than the current Escalade.
This new Navigator is available in two lengths; the 210” Navigator and the 221.9” Navigator L. The wheelbase of the regular-length model is 3.5” longer than the outgoing model, at 122.5”. The massive Navigator L is actually 0.4” shorter than its predecessor, but the 131.6” wheelbase is up 0.6” over the 2017 truck. Regardless of configuration, the Navi is absolutely massive and those opting for the L will not be disappointed. Behind the third row, the cavern boasts 36 cubic feet of storage space for luggage. The US gets a rear-drive model as well, but Canadian examples of the Navigator can only be had with four-wheel-drive.
The Navigator’s sole powertrain option is the twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 that we have seen in the Expedition (reviewed here) under the “EcoBoost” name. However, Lincoln does not use this branding in their products, and this particular version uses a different tune. Rather than the Expedition’s “measly” 400 horses, the Navigator sees 450 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 510 lb-ft. of torque at just 3,000RPM. It can be expected to hit 100km/h from a standing start in the 5.3-second range, and hustles with aggression and confidence. By no means do we miss the lumbering V8, because the refinement of the new V6 jives wonderfully with the Navigator’s personality.
When we last drove the Continental, the single biggest weakness of the car was the six-speed automatic transmission in a segment where the vast majority of rivals are offering eight or more gears. Lincoln has fixed this, and the Navigator gets a 10-speed unit as seen in the new F-150. This transmission is a joint venture between Ford and General Motors, and we found it to be a smooth and effortless unit. The gearbox skips gears or holds them longer depending on driving style, and maximizes fuel consumption on the highway.
Out on the open road, the Navigator feels big and cushy, with minimal fuss. It appears to shrink a little bit at highway speeds; moreso than the current crop of GM full-sizers. The body-on-frame construction has not changed, and ride quality is reflective of that. Imperfections in the road are noticed immediately, but isolation from the road is quite good. The all-wheel-drive system isn’t a true off-roading system, as Lincoln has predicted its market and assumed that more Navigators would be seeing the Four Seasons valet parking lot than the Rubicon trail. There is a dual-range transfer case should you want to venture into the dirt, however.
Lincoln Canada rates the 2018 Navigator at 14.9L/100km in the city and 11.3L/100km on the highway. Our first drive included a considerable amount of mountain pass driving as well as some spirited runs, and we observed 14.8L/100km in less-than-ideal situations. I can foresee the average buyer seeing numbers in the 13L/100km region with no issues, as that’s what we have experienced from other 3.5L products in the Ford portfolio. The Navigator requires premium 91-octane fuel to operate optimally.
The interior is one area in which the Navigator surpasses the Escalade generously, with plenty of gadgets and more importantly, high-end materials that would put many rivals to shame. The cabin is generally laid out quite well, with subtle buttons for gear selection and plenty of fine leathers and woods used throughout. Some ergonomics are almost “too much”, like the Perfect Position seats that are 30-way powered. They are also heated and cooled, and offer a relaxing massage function. All in all, my driving partner and I had no trouble maintaining comfort once settled in, and the commandeering driving position is something rather addictive.
Infotainment on the Navigator is pretty straightforward for anybody who has been in a recent Ford or Lincoln product with SYNC 3, but there are a series of other features worth mentioning. For instance, there is now a 4G-LTE Wifi hotspot to match what GM is doing, along with a Lincoln Play rear seat entertainment system. Doing away with DVD, this system can use one of the 10” screens mounted behind the front seats to stream media using mobile devices, SD card, USB or even HDMI. Active driving aids such as adaptive cruise control are also available.
In Canada, the Navigator starts at $87,500 for the regular-length Select trim. Stepping up to the top-trim Reserve is $90,650. The Navigator L is priced at $90,650 for the Select and $93,650 for the Reserve. A variety of options are available on both trim levels, and things to look out for include the panoramic Vista Roof, a 20-speaker Revel Ultima sound system, and of course, Perfect Position seats.
Luxury sport-utility-vehicles are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, but with the sheer number of crossovers and SUVs entering our market, it’s important to differentiate between the classes. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator sits at a price point where it plays ball with the likes of the Cadillac Escalade, but also attempts to encroach on the territory of the mighty Range Rover (reviewed here) as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. It’s a few notches above its predecessor in refinement and overall opulence, and the Navigator has also surpassed the Escalade in my own preferences. This is one worthy of consideration if you’re in the market.