Lincoln's ActiveGlide hands-free driver aid adds to the Navigator's already impressive complement of tech and high-end trimmings.
The fourth-generation Lincoln Navigator is already in its fourth model year. But thanks to a raft of updates that cover the spectrum from style to tech, the 2022 Lincoln Navigator retains its position as one of the more interesting luxury three-row SUVs money can buy.
The Navigator's exterior doesn't change too much, but what's new is welcome. The rear end is perhaps the biggest benefactor, with a slim taillight design that now does a fun little flourish when the car is locked or unlocked. Up front, adaptive headlights pair with a restyled bumper, and all trims get some flashy new grilles -- the chromed teeth on my Black Label tester are quite prominent in the daylight. I also really like my tester's Manhattan Green Metallic paint job, which really pops in the sun, and it's not a bad option at just $695.
The Navigator's interior is the real star of the show, though. New Black Label color combinations are available, and my personal favorite is the Central Park theme seen on my tester. The interior feels super warm, thanks to an eye-catching combination of green leather, white contrast stitching and matte wood trim, complete with a laser-etched street map of Manhattan. The metal trim adds a bit of shine throughout. The Navigator's interior design team earned a vacation for this one; it's one of the best cabins available on any three-row SUV across the industry.
But as luxurious as the Navigator's interior is, it's still extremely practical for folks in all three rows. The front seats offer storage galore, whether it's under the armrest, in the door pocket or atop the massive tray underneath the climate controls. The second row offers loads of space, an equally excellent storage solution in the center console and optional massaging that feels like a must-have at $625. Even the third row stays out of the cold, with ample legroom and easy access thanks to a tilt-and-slide second row seat.
There's a whole bunch of new tech inside the 2022 Navigator, as well. The most obvious update is front and center, where a new 13.2-inch display drastically scales up the infotainment system, eliminating the nasty gargantuan bezel that used to surround the old, smaller screen. It runs Ford's Sync 4 infotainment system, which is responsive and very easy to get used to. Navigating through screens happens on the dock, and a split screen lets me look at two things at once, like Apple CarPlay and the climate menu. Wireless smartphone mirroring is standard, and there's a wireless device charger in the center console for juicing on the go. If you're more of the wired sort, there are USB ports aplenty: one USB-A and USB-C in each of the front two rows, plus a pair of USB-A's for the folks in the nosebleeds. Second-row passengers also get a small 5.8-inch display for changing audio and climate settings.
And then there's ActiveGlide, Lincoln's unfortunate name (go ask a teenager why) for Ford's BlueCruise hands-free driving tech. It's basically a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and speed sign recognition that lets the driver go hands-free on premapped stretches of highway. If you're familiar with GM's Super Cruise, it's about the same thing.
Or is it? While a very early test drive in a Ford F-150 equipped with this technology provided some smooth hands-free cruising, my experience in the Navigator isn't as nice. The basic operation remains comfortable, but certain curves throw the steering for a loop; ActiveGlide turns in too late and with too much gusto, lurching more than I'd prefer. Some premapped curves are simply too much, with the system asking me to put my hands on the wheel out of an abundance of caution, resuming full control after the bend flattens out -- something Super Cruise never asked of me when tested on the same stretch of road.
ActiveGlide's eye-tracking camera doesn't like it when I look at the same thing for too long, either, throwing "watch the road" warnings every couple of minutes and forcing me to wiggle my head and dance my eyeballs around their sockets in an effort to remind the car that I am, in fact, looking at the road, like I have been the entire time. This is a preproduction Navigator, so I'm hoping a little more time in the oven will smooth out these wrinkles, as ActiveGlide does a generally commendable job outside of those edge cases. I also really like how obvious the commands are for going hands-free; unfamiliar buyers shouldn't have to spend too much time learning the ins and outs.
Beyond ActiveGlide, there are a number of standard safety systems in the 2022 Navigator. In addition to things like adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assist, the Navi comes with a surround-view camera, parking sensors, active parking assistant, blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.
The facet of the 2022 Lincoln Navigator that changed the least in its midcycle refresh is on-road demeanor, which was and is still lovely. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 makes great use of all its 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, accelerating with gusto when required, but it's eminently smooth at an around-town pace, as well. The 10-speed automatic transmission does a great job controlling the show from behind a curtain, swapping up and down the ratios with nary a shudder in the cabin. It's a thirsty engine, but not too thirsty, racking up an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with four-wheel drive.
The Navigator's ride is plush, thanks to a four-corner air suspension that now utilizes a camera to help map the road ahead and adjust for any upcoming bumps, humps or divots. There's no hiding the ladder frame under the body -- the Navi is subject to the same shudders and bounces as any large pickup truck -- but in 90% of on-road situations, all I feel is smooth cruising.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the 2022 Navigator's fanciest trim can't exactly be bought for a discount. A 2022 Navigator Black Label starts at $91,440 including a lofty $1,695 for destination, and my tester's two options (the $695 paint job and the $625 second-row massaging seats) brings the total to $92,760. That's a far cry from the Navigator's $78,405 base price, but when you put it up against similarly equipped offerings like a BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, I don't think Lincoln is asking too much, especially when something as advanced as ActiveGlide is in the mix.
The Navigator has come a long way from feeling like a fancy Ford F-150. This fourth generation is its best yet, bringing a unique interior and a serious amount of luxury into play while offering a pillowy-soft ride and a complement of in-car tech that nearly every competitor cannot beat at the moment. If you're the kind of luxury three-row SUV owner who has a hard time looking beyond Deutschland, let the 2022 Lincoln Navigator be your reason to stray beyond the usual.