New & Used Lincoln Navigator: In Depth
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The Lincoln Navigator is a full-size luxury SUV that reigns over the Ford range; and It’s considered to be the originator of the large-size premium SUV market, while competing almost exclusively with the Cadillac Escalade.
With a large V-8 engine and heavy body-on-frame construction, the Navigator has never in the past been considered very fuel-efficient. But that's improved for 2015, due to a new EcoBoost (turbocharged) V-6 engine that's been subbed in for the entire model line.
The Navigator is mechanically related to the Expedition 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.
The heavy update that came for 2015 keeps the Navigator in its third generation. Up until this point, the big Lincoln SUV has been powered by one engine, a 5.4-liter V-8, paired with an automatic transmission and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. The package has also included seating for seven, a leather-lined interior, and LIncoln styling to differentiate it from its near-twin, the Ford Expedition.
The new EcoBoost V-6 makes 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque -- more than the V-8 on both counts -- and the 2015 Navigator now includes standard magnetic ride control, with continuous damping; furthermore the instrument panel has been refreshed, and the Navigator at last includes the latest version of MyFord Touch, plus a blind-spot system with cross-traffic alert, and a revised feature set. Gas mileage numbers are up to 16 mpg city, 22 highway with rear-wheel drive.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.
One thing to keep in mind: Presently for 2015 -- and for most of the time the Navigator has been offered -- it's been available in both Navigator and Navigator L versions, with the L adding 12 inches of wheelbase, as well as almost 14 inches of length. It doesn't make the third row all that much more spacious, but it's easier to get to.