The Lincoln Navigator pretty much started the whole fullsize luxury SUV craze when it debuted more than 20 years ago. But while it may have lagged behind the competition in recent years -- especially against its key crosstown rival, the Cadillac Escalade -- the new Navigator aims to once again regain its place as the flagship of the fullsize class.
Large and in charge
Lincoln first showed the big, bold Navigator in concept form at the 2016 New York Auto Show, and the production version looks pretty much the same -- just without those crazy doors. The grille is massive but still looks sleek, and I love the 22-inch wheels of this test car. Approach the Navigator at night and it performs what's known as the "Lincoln Embrace," where the LED running lights and puddle lights perform a little light show.
Make no mistake, the Navigator is massive. Even despite a 200-pound weight reduction in this new generation, this thing tips the scales at nearly 6,000 pounds. The standard-wheelbase model is over 17 feet long; opt for the long-wheelbase version and you've got 18.5 feet of SUV to move around. A city runabout, this definitely is not.
With size comes power
On twisty roads, the Navigator is best described as ponderous. But get it on the highway, or around town on suburban streets, and the comfy-cozy Navigator will feel right at home.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6, putting out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. That's more than enough power to get this big boy up and moving with ease, and it has no trouble merging into traffic or executing quick passes. Turn the drive mode selector to Excite -- Lincoln's version of sport mode -- and the throttle and 10-speed automatic transmission get a little more eager to please. The suspension apparently stiffens up, too, but it's tough to discern any noticeable change.
The Conserve drive mode tones things down for the sake of better fuel economy, though given its power and size, EPA ratings of 16 miles per gallon city, 21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined (for this four-wheel-drive model) should come as no surprise. That said, 18 mpg combined still beats the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80 and Land Rover Range Rover.
Other drive modes include 4x4 Automatic (the default setting), Slippery for mud and snow, Deep for even tougher terrain and Slow Climb, which you can only get as part of the optional tow package. Speaking of which, the Navigator can tow up to 8,700 pounds. And Lincoln makes it easy with the addition of trailer monitoring tech, as well as a handy back-up assist.
As for other driving aids, blind-spot monitoring is standard (this thing has huge blind spots, after all). Lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are also available, though I find the latter to be a bit jerky in low-speed operation, like waiting in line at a toll plaza where you're just traveling a few inches at a time.
Plush doesn't even begin to describe it
The thing about the new Navigator is arguably its interior. The optional Perfect Position front seats are borrowed from the Lincoln Continental sedan and are so seriously comfortable that they might just put all other luxury seats to shame. Both front seats have 30-way adjustability and offer heating, cooling and massage.
Lest your back-seat passengers get too jealous, the second row captain's chairs get their own audio and climate controls. The third row is actually pretty luxurious, too, with tons of legroom and the ability to recline.
This top-trim Black Label tester comes with baby blue leather, and while that sounds like it might be some ugly 1970s throwback, it's actually gorgeous. This is an incredibly sophisticated and unique color scheme.
Cargo space is, of course, more than ample. You've got 19 cubic feet of space behind the third row, but fold them flat (electronically, natch) and you'll find 57 cubic feet. Fold both rows and you've got over 103 cubic feet of usable cargo space. But be warned: If you get second row captain's chairs, the tall center console means you won't have a completely flat load floor.
Oh, and if you need even more room, the long-wheelbase Navigator has 120 cubic feet of cargo space. I'm pretty sure I could fit my Miata back there.
Easy-to-use infotainment tech
A 10-inch touchscreen runs Lincoln's version of Ford's Sync 3 infotainment software. A reconfigurable home screen with lots of shortcut buttons makes Sync 3 super easy to use. The embedded navigation software has one-box address entry and pinch-to-zoom map capability, though there's just a touch of lag. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, and Sync 3 is even compatible with Amazon Alexa.
A Wi-Fi hotspot is also standard and can support 10 devices. Wireless charging is available, in addition to six USB ports scattered throughout the cabin.
Because the Navigator is so wide, it's quite a stretch for me to reach any of the buttons on the right side of the infotainment screen. There are no redundant controls on the steering wheel or center console, unfortunately. If you're a short-statured person, make sure you can reach everything from the driver's seat before committing to life with the Navigator.
Big SUV, big price tag
Nice as the Black Label tester is, I'd personally go for the mid-level Navigator Select. At $78,850, it's the least-expensive trim that allows me to add the $2,640 Technology Package in order to get adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. The $1,500 Perfect Position seats are an absolute must. And since I live in California and don't really need four-wheel drive, I'll save $2,655 and stick with rear-wheel drive.
All told, my preferred spec comes out to $85,645, including $1,295 for destination. The fully loaded model you see here, however, costs $97,800.
That's the price you pay for full-size luxury SUVs these days, though. And with its good looks, over-the-top luxury features and strong powerplant, the Navigator is once again one of the best buys in this class.