2011 Lincoln Navigator Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 19, 2011

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator is large and lavish, in a uniquely American way, though its powertrains are a step behind those of rival truck-based SUVs.

There aren't many vehicles on the market like the 2011 Lincoln Navigator; the big, stately luxury SUV excels at carrying a full load of passengers, yet its truck-based underpinnings make it surprisingly deft at towing.

The Lincoln Navigator hasn't changed much in appearance in many years—it's still a big body-on-frame box on wheels, albeit one dressed up with a lot of bling. Along with the Cadillac Escalade it's become iconic among some cultural subsets, and some of the Navigator's styling cues—its huge, chrome grille, for instance, which at once brings to mind 1960s-era station wagons, and more recent full-size pickups—might be horrible and garish to some tastes, stylish and fresh to others. In any case, it's uniquely American. Inside, there's a lot of inspiration from earlier Lincolns, this time with gauges modeled after those found in 1970s and '80s vehicles. There's a retro look, no doubt, but they're very visible and straightforward.

In Navigator and longer-wheelbase Navigator L models, a 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 engine drives either two or four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Hauling is second nature to the Navigator—the maximum tow rating is 9,100 pounds. The size and 6,200-pound curb weight of the vehicle tax the V-8 engine at times compared to other vehicles in the class. Shifting is slick and easy, though, turning low revs at highway speeds to reduce engine noise. The Navigator handles solidly and stably, but you'll never forget you're in such a big, heavy vehicle. Body roll is what you'd expect from a big, heavy SUV—and expect heavy nosedive and lots of body motion during quick stops, or any change in direction for that matter—but the four-wheel independent suspension helps provide a smooth ride.

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Though the Lincoln Navigator is closely related to the Ford Expedition, it's more upscale inside, offering a little more quiet, and a little more comfort. Inside, in fact, the Navigator feels like a true luxury vehicle—the payoff of additional insulation and noise-canceling materials.

Design and function of all the interior's core elements are good. Seating comfort is top-notch in the 2011 Navigator, whether you go for the Navigator or Navigator L. Two models are available, the Navigator and Navigator L; the latter is 14.7 inches longer than the standard model, and some of that length goes into improved third-row access. Cargo space is better in the Navigator L, too.

Materials inside the 2011 Lincoln Navigator are mostly high-quality, though there are a few low points. Premium trappings—the real-wood trim and leather upholstery—feel genuinely premium, but they're let down by bargain-bin trim like hard plastics, chrome-painted plastics, and cheap-feeling switchgear in places. But there are plenty of places to store smaller items, as well as cupholders for all.

The Navigator has an equipment list that keeps with first impressions; its features list delivers exactly what you'd expect in a richly appointed but conservative luxury vehicle—along with a surprisingly up-to-date set of connectivity and convenience features. Power-deployable running boards, to help ease ingress and egress, are standard, and for 2011, a voice-controlled navigation system, HD Radio, Sync connectivity, and Sirius Travel Link information services are now standard. Ford's MyKey system, which allows owners to set limits on top speed and radio volume, is now standard. The SYNC and Sirius Travel Link system offers voice-activated control of climate and navigation systems, plus the ability to search traffic and weather conditions in real time. Other noteworthy features include a rearview camera system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, EasyFuel capless fuel fill, Front Park Assist, and heated second-row seats.

6

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Styling

Depending on how you see it, the 2011 Lincoln Navigator is either a relic of another time, or the king of bling. Either way, its style is uniquely American.

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator hasn't changed much in appearance in many years—it's still a big body-on-frame box on wheels, albeit one dressed up with a lot of bling. Along with the Cadillac Escalade it's become iconic among some cultural subsets, and some of the Navigator's styling cues—its huge, chrome grille, for instance, which at once brings to mind 1960s-era station wagons, and more recent full-size pickups—might be horrible and garish to some tastes, stylish and fresh to others.

Inside, there's a lot of inspiration from earlier Lincolns, this time with gauges modeled after those found in 1970s and '80s vehicles. There's a retro look, no doubt, but they're very visible and straightforward.

6

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Performance

While performance isn't a strong point for the 2011 Lincoln Navigator, it handles much better than it accelerates.

In Navigator and longer-wheelbase Navigator L models, a 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 engine drives either two or four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Hauling is second nature to the Navigator—the maximum tow rating is 9,100 pounds.

The size and 6,200-pound curb weight of the vehicle tax the V-8 engine at times compared to other vehicles in the class. Shifting is slick and easy, though, turning low revs at highway speeds to reduce engine noise. The Navigator handles solidly and stably, but you'll never forget you're in such a big, heavy vehicle. Body roll is what you'd expect from a big, heavy SUV—and expect heavy nosedive and lots of body motion during quick stops, or any change in direction for that matter—but the four-wheel independent suspension helps provide a smooth ride.

8

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Comfort & Quality

The plush, spacious, and quiet interior of the 2011 Lincoln Navigator is only let down by a few cheap-feeling details.

Though the Lincoln Navigator is closely related to the Ford Expedition, it's more upscale inside, offering a little more quiet, and a little more comfort. Inside, in fact, the Navigator feels like a true luxury vehicle—the payoff of additional insulation and noise-canceling materials; the only exception is that you hear the engine a little too much.

Design and function of all the interior's core elements are good. Seating comfort is top-notch in the 2011 Navigator, whether you go for the Navigator or Navigator L. Two models are available, the Navigator and Navigator L; the latter is 14.7 inches longer than the standard model. The Navigator L also features 24.5 cubic feet of extra cargo capacity compared to the Navigator, which clocks in at 18.2 cubic feet total with the seats up. Fold the second- and third-row seats down and that figure grows to 103.5 cubic feet for the Navigator and 128.2 cubic feet for the L.

The only true difference between the two is at the third seat, which is a little more spacious and easier to reach in the L, and there the seat isn't nearly as compromised as it is in many other vehicles—it's actually usable by adults. Power fold capability means the third row can be quickly and easily stowed when not in use, and the power fold feature can be used to scoot faraway cargo toward the rear, as it moves the cargo aft when unfolding the seats.

Materials inside the 2011 Lincoln Navigator are mostly high-quality, though there are a few low points. Premium trappings—the real-wood trim and leather upholstery—feel genuinely premium, but they're belied by bargain-bin trim like hard plastics, chrome-painted plastics, and cheap-feeling switchgear in places. But there are plenty of places to store smaller items, as well as cupholders for all.

8

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Safety

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator is one of the better picks for the security-conscious.

Safety is a strong point with the new Navigator; it comes with an impressive feature set and has a good record for occupant protection, even though there's a relative lack of crash-test ratings for such a mainstream vehicle.

Trailer Sway Control is standard on the Navigator, along with a Roll Stability Control stability control system, anti-lock brakes, and safety canopy and side-impact airbags, plus a child-tether system, driver-seat position sensor, crash severity sensor, and SOS post-crash alert system.

The Navigator hasn't yet been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), or by the federal government's completely revised testing and rating system that began for 2011. But under the former system, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2010 Navigator a top five-star rating in both frontal and side-impact tests.

Some drivers might find outward visibility challenging in the 2011 Navigator because of its sheer height. A rearview camera system is optional, though it's only offered as part of pricer option packages.

9

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Features

It's all good: Luxury-vehicle shoppers likely won't be disappointed with the Navigator's feature set.

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator has an equipment list that keeps with first impressions; its features list delivers exactly what you'd expect in a richly appointed but conservative luxury vehicle—along with a surprisingly up-to-date set of connectivity and convenience features.

Power-deployable running boards, to help ease ingress and egress, are standard, as well as leather-trimmed seats. And for 2011, a voice-controlled navigation system, HD Radio, Sync connectivity, and Sirius Travel Link information services are now standard. Ford's MyKey system, which allows owners to set limits on top speed and radio volume, is now standard. The SYNC and Sirius Travel Link system offers voice-activated control of climate and navigation systems, plus the ability to search traffic and weather conditions in real time.

Other noteworthy features include a rearview camera system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, EasyFuel capless fuel fill, Front Park Assist, and heated second-row seats.

There are plenty of chances to option the 2011 Navigator with items including a power moonroof, rear-seat DVD system, perimeter alarm, illuminated entry with approach lamps, remote start, and adjustable pedals. Adaptive cruise control is one of the few increasingly common options that's missing.

4

2011 Lincoln Navigator

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator drinks gasoline at alarming rates, though it's arguably not as bad if you're using its tremendous passenger capability and comfort.

The 2011 Lincoln Navigator is one of the biggest, heaviest SUVs available, so it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that it's also one of the thirstiest. With fuel economy ratings of 13 or 14 mpg city, and 18 or 20 mpg highway, the Navigator isn't at all green.

However, much of how green the Navigator is depends on how you plan to use it; fit seven or eight in the Navigator, and it's a greener pick over taking two compact or mid-size crossovers.

All 2011 Navigator models are E85-compatible, but with that fuel its ratings drop to 9/13 (4WD).

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