New & Used Lincoln Navigator: In Depth
2015 Lincoln Navigator on display at the 2014 Chicago Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
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The Lincoln Navigator is a full-size luxury SUV that reigns over the Ford range. It’s considered to be the originator of the large-size premium SUV market, while competing almost exclusively with the Cadillac Escalade.
The Navigator is mechanically related to the Ford Expedition SUV and to the Ford F-150 pickup truck. In the past it's been flanked in showrooms by a smaller Lincoln Aviator derived from the Ford Explorer. Today, it's sold alongside the full-size Lincoln MKT crossover--which is itself a rebodied version of the Ford Flex. The competition includes the Cadillac Escalade, the GMC Yukon Denali, the Infiniti QX56 and the Jeep Commander.
With this year's Navigator, Lincoln is in the SUV's third generation and its second decade on the market. The big ute has always come with a sole engine option--a 5.4-liter V-8 engine--coupled to an automatic transmission and outfitted with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Along with the tried and true running gear, the Navigator also has offered seven-passenger seating, a cushy interior with leather trim, and a standup Lincoln grille to differentiate it from its Ford corporate cousins.In its first generation, which included the 1998-2002 model years, the Navigator gained instant status among celebrities, athletes and music stars for its urbane touches and its tough ability. SUVs were popular, gas was cheap, and the chrome-crusted Navigator hit an upscale demographic right on target. Its 230-horsepower V-8 teamed with a four-speed automatic for uninspiring acceleration, and handling rated along the same lines--with even its off-road ability ignored in favor of wood trim, high-powered audio systems and rear-seat LCD screens with DVD players. Power rose to 300 hp through the years, and the Navigator added side airbags, reverse parking sensors and an optional navigation system to its equipment list.
For the second-generation Navigator--sold in the 2003-2006 model years--Ford spent ample time on the SUV's styling and safety. The new Navigator received a larger grille, a better integrated look with smoother sheetmetal, and a new interior with twin binnacles, soft white instrument lighting and satin-nickel and matte wood trim. Curtain airbags were added, and the third-row seat and tailgate both added power controls. The biggest improvement came in ride quality and packaging: a new independent rear suspension opened more cargo space in back, and softened the Navigator's trucky ride. In its final years, this Navigator also upgraded to a six-speed automatic and to stability control with anti-roll technology.
Today, the Lincoln Navigator is as big and blingy as ever. Introduced as a 2007 model, the latest version also comes in a long-wheelbase Navigator L edition with even more cargo room--better to take on the biggest Cadillac Escalade ESVs and GMC Suburbans. The uniquely American-inflected styling remains, and it's a less brash, more evocative set of details than you'll find in the outright glitzy Escalade--especially inside. Power still comes from the 310-hp V-8 and through a six-speed automatic--and so outfitted the Navigator gets a tow rating of 9,100 pounds. Handling is SUV-sized but fine, and the ride quality is good, though we wish there were less road noise and more speed payoff for the big, torquey V-8.
The Navigator hasn't changed significantly in many model years; although an all-new model is anticipated—possibly as soon as 2014. For 2012, the rear sideview mirrors got new spotters, and AppLink, a system that lets the Navigator control mobile apps like Pandora with built-in Bluetooth and voice commands.