Navigating a course back to Lincoln’s luxury heyday
Words by: Adam Allen
Hip hop music video producers, rejoice! This baby will look great in your next project.
Anyone who tuned into Hip hop music videos from the late 1990’s will no doubt recall the Battle of the Bling between the Lincoln Navigator and the Cadillac Escalade. The trucks carried a swagger that was unmatched at the time and were the pinnacle of conspicuous consumption. Some preferred the Lincoln while others were partial to the Caddy- it was really a matter of personal preference which one you’d covet. At the turn of the decade, the Escalade emerged as the front runner of desirable jumbo-sized luxury SUVs and while the Navigator was never a bad choice, it simply couldn’t keep pace with its crosstown rival. After spending time in the current 4th generation, hot-off-the-press Navigator, we can see the tables have turned. The current Escalade is a great truck, and that’s the keyword- it’s heavily based on a General Motors truck platform and feels it. The Navigator, for its part, is built off the bones of a Ford Expedition (which itself is based on the F-150 pickup) but Lincoln has done a commendable job of hiding its blue-collar roots under a thick veneer of opulence. The battle of one gunmanship will surely continue, especially with a completely revamped Escalade due out in a few years but trust us- as you read this, the Lincoln is definitely the one you want.
That said, the Navigator will appeal to a broader audience other than those who enjoy the occasional flute of chilled Cristal.
The Navigator should prove just as popular parked outside a country club or nice restaurant as it would parked in front of a nightclub. Large families who want something luxurious- perhaps they were considering an Infiniti QX80 or a Mercedes Benz GLS- will undoubtedly have their eye on Lincoln’s behemoth. It’s a cavernous vehicle and those aboard will never be left wanting for space. Don’t need the third row? It’ll fold down silently on electric power, and the space that remains looks as though it could accommodate a Mazda MX-5. Besides the roominess, the Navigator is also adept at towing, and the maximum it can lug around is an impressive 3,765 kilos, soundly defeating all of its competitors by a lengthy margin (the Escalade can match it, however.) It also has a feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist which we first marvelled at when it proliferated the F150 lineup a few years ago. No entry challenging the Navigator offers something similar, and if you’ve ever tried backing up a trailer, you will find the system nothing short of magical. Just watch the screen and turn the dial according to where you want the trailer to go, and the Navigator will figure out the rest.
The Navigator has some Best-In-Class bragging rights, doesn’t it?
Lincoln claims that the Navigator has best-in-class room for both second and third row passengers, respectively. Sit in those areas in say, an Escalade, and the difference is stark in the Navi’s favour. There are two metrics that while we cannot verify empirically they rank the Navigator as superior over its competition. The first is the serenity of the hushed cabin at speed, leading us to conclude with minimal hesitation that it should be the quietest. While it isn’t clear how much of the truck’s prodigious weight can be traced to its thick, laminated glass and generous amount of sound deadening material, it certainly must be a whole lot. With the Ford Raptor’s excellent twin-turbo V6 and 10-speed automatic handling drivetrain duties, we feel comfortable claiming that it’s the quickest- some car mags have recorded a blistering mid-5 second sprint from naught to 100 km/h. That is ludicrously fast for something this big and heavy.
Lincoln hasn’t simply dipped a Ford Expedition in gold and called it a day.
While the Navigator shares many parts with the Expedition, the two have distinctly different personalities. In the past we’ve scolded Lincoln for not doing enough to differentiate their products from their workaday stablemates, but the Navigator gives you little to complain about. The leather is supple, the wood trim looks first rate and the digital gauges and nearby infotainment screen offer fashionable design, high-res graphics and respond faithfully to whatever you ask for. There are a couple of unique features that are worth mentioning, one of them being what we referred to as ‘Polite HVAC’. On a recent day where the mercury soared well past the 30-degree Celsius mark we had the A/C going at full blast when a phone call came in over Bluetooth. So that our conversation wouldn’t be drowned out by the fan on max speed but ensuring that we would stay comfortable, the Navigator slowed the torrent of chilly air coming from the air vents just enough so we could hear what was being said, and vice versa for the party conversing with us. Additionally, with its plethora of USB ports and WiFi hotspot capabilities everyone on board is looked after so there’ll be no fights for connectivity, should you want to peruse LinkedIn in your Lincoln. Oh, and the Revel Ultima sound system still sounds as great as ever.
Some have said the Navigator is the size of a house and therefore must drive like one, too.
While we have never driven an actual house, we have driven RV’s which are not at all known for being svelte or enjoyable to drive. The Navigator is not as large as those vehicles, its immensity is easy to see by everyone who encounters it. Yet, with its slick drivetrain and fully independent suspension, the big Linc drives much better than something so massive ought to. There’s more than enough power on tap, and as long as you don’t push it too hard it will handle surprisingly well. It features a number of selectable drive modes to help the Navigator perform according to your mood, our favorite being ‘Excite’ (which is would be more commonly known as Sport Mode.) Your fellow motorists will gaze in amazement as the Navigator charges by, wondering how something so large can manage its extraordinary weight as well as it does.
What might go wrong?
Despite the Navigator’s startling dynamic abilities, this is still a pickup truck-based conveyance that tips the scales at a tarmac buckling 2,757 kilos. It is never going to earn any praise for steering precision, brake feel and of course, fuel economy. With gas prices on the rise recently it will cost the same to fill the Navigator’s tank as it would for a nice meal for two accompanied by a good bottle of wine. That isn’t at all surprising, but what did shock us somewhat was the 30-way Perfect Position seats and how difficult we found it to get comfortable in them. You would think with that many adjustments at your disposal anyone and any body type would be able to settle on a bespoke combination of cushions and supports but complete comfort eluded us, something that couldn’t be said when we drive a Continental several months ago which also had this feature. Lastly, those that like to swap out their summer wheels and tires for winters on their own- and we suspect there are very few of you out there- you’d better make sure you eat your Wheaties in the morning before you attempt that. We had to deal with a puncture (no fault of the Navigator, likely a careless construction crew that left the road’s surface scattered with nails) and learned that each corner is just under a back straining 45 kilos to lug around.
Should I buy a Lincoln Navigator?
If you need something huge and festooned with the latest luxury and convenience features, you don’t have a glut of choices from which to select your next vehicle. At this point in time, the Lincoln offers the most compelling blend of those assets and for those that might have been thinking Escalade, you know where we stand on choosing between it and the Navigator. Plus, the Lincoln has robust towing capacity so you can rest assured that your Arabian thoroughbreds will journey to the stables and back with ease. Or, if you simply need good background eye candy for your next hip-hop video, you know who’s ready for their closeup.
2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L– Specifications
- Price as tested: $106,300
- Body Type: 4-door, 7 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Engine: 3.5 litre twin-turbo V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 450 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 510 @ 3,000 rpm
- Curb weight: 2,747 kg (6,056 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 16.9L/100km (14 mpg)