If you need a vehicle that can legitimately seat seven people in comfort, you can do a lot worse than buy a 2018 Lincoln Navigator. That’s our takeaway after spending several days with this leather, metal, and wood-lined behemoth on daily errands and a little sightseeing. More than that, the Navigator is quick, agile for an SUV of this size and positively plush with a road-soaking suspension and plenty of creature comforts.
Launched nearly a year ago, the 2018 Navigator is a return to form for the Lincoln brand with styling that is contemporary, while nodding to the stylish Lincolns of the 1960s. In that decade, Lincoln’s vehicles transported the POTUS along with the merely affluent and influential and the marque’s, shall we say cache, was riding high. Today, Lincoln is trying to forget its years of mediocrity and cost cutting and that’s strongly evident in the new Navigator.
Weighing in at nearly 6,000 pounds, over 200 inches in length (there’s an even longer ‘L’ version available), and nearly 80 inches in width, the Navigator certainly appeals to those who prefer the proportions of 1960s American luxury vehicles. The Ford Expedition-based Navigator is a full-size SUV and you never really forget that from behind the wheel, especially when navigating tight parking lots or twisting two-lane roads.
Still, with Ford’s 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 making 450 hp and a whopping 510 lb-ft of torque, the Navigator is able to get up and boogie when it needs to. That grunt is paired to Ford’s new 10-speed automatic and we’re happy to report it’s tuned far better than the same unit in Ford’s Mustang GT. We had none of the harsh shifts, lazy response or other irritations that we experience in the Mustang while piloting this Lincoln—in fact, the transmission was nearly perfect in this application with buttery-smooth shifts and no undue cog hunting. If there’s one criticism we have of the powertrain it’s that it doesn’t sound particularly powerful under acceleration in the manner a rumbly V-8 would. That said, a V-8 would undoubtedly provide less than this Navigator’s 16/21 city/highway mpg.
Some have called the Navigator’s styling bland, but we appreciate its relatively understated elegance. In a design era filled with unnecessary creases, folds, vents, and scoops, the Navigator remains bold but not over-styled. The oversized chrome grille and LED headlights are imposing in rear view mirrors and we’re unabashed fans of the Blue Diamond Metallic paint our 4×4 Premium (three steps up the trim level ladder and just one from the top-flight Black Label) tester wore. Our model had standard lighted power running boards that retract into the body—a nice touch for getting in and out of this high-rider while keeping a sleek appearance on the road.
Inside, the Navigator is simply a nice place to be, with rich feeling leather, dark-stained walnut-looking wood trim, and bright metal accent trim. The instrument panel is a digital 10-inch display while the premium Revel audio system, standard with the Reserve trim, also has rich-looking aluminum speaker grilles that look as nice as the system sounds. Access to and space in the second row is excellent, and while the third row is a bit more cramped and without some of the premium trim of the first two rows, you could seat adults in the space comfortably for short distances. Young children should find the third row comfortable for even longer trips, we’d imagine.
The Lincoln version of Ford Sync 3 is found in the Navigator and this is easily the best attempt at Sync yet, helped along by the gargantuan 10-inch display atop the center stack. Our tester also had CarPlay connectivity. It also had such niceties as a heated steering wheel, heated first and second row seating, no fewer than six USB ports, three-zone climate control, and a large panoramic glass roof. Optional on our Navigator was the $1,250 Perfect Position seating package which adds extra adjustability along with a massage function for both driver and the front row passenger seat. The second and third row seats are able to fold flat with the push of a button, making it easy to load larger items in the Navigator in seconds. We also appreciate the many cubbies for holding odds and ends found in the center console and elsewhere.
As we noted in our First Drive review in late 2017, the Navigator does still manage to feel slightly truck-like in contrast to its sportier European competitors although it has made strong in-roads in terms of maneuverability and comfort. This is really more of an individual consumer preference rather than a ding on the Navigator, as some folks prefer their large vehicle to feel a little more substantial.
The center console-mounted Drive Mode switch toggles through several settings, with a sport mode (called Excite mode in Lincoln speak) that sharpens throttle and transmission response (as well as holding gears longer) for passing along steep mountain roads. We kept the Navigator in Normal mode for 99-percent of our driving and never felt worse off for it.
With an as-tested price of $85,290, our tested Navigator doesn’t come cheap but it’s priced right to compete with the top tiers of the large SUV market including the Cadillac Escalade. Don’t need something quite this large? The Ford Explorer-based Lincoln Aviator should offer similar style with a smaller footprint when the production version launches at the Los Angeles auto show later this month.
2018 Lincoln Navigator 4×4 Reserve Specifications
|$82,400/$85,290 (base/as tested)
|3.5L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/450 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 510 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
|4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
|16/21 mpg (city/hwy)
|L x W x H
|210.0 x 79.9 x 76.3 in
|6.0 sec (est)
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