- Spacious third row
- Retro, classy design
- Smooth, slick-shifting six-speed automatic
- Noisy engine
- Limited outward visibility
Lavish and large, the 2012 Lincoln Navigator is luxury, American-style, but its powertrains are a step behind those of the competition.
Standing as one of the few stalwarts of the old guard of full-size SUVs, the stately Lincoln Navigator carries a full load of passengers readily, yet just as easily takes on the truck-like duties of towing.
As a truck-based SUV, the Lincoln Navigator hasn't seen a need to change its appearance much over the years. It retains its tall, boxy, body-on-frame makeup and its heavy dose of chromed trim. Instantly recognizable and even iconic among some subcultures, the Navigator's styling cues remain true to the brand's heritage, with some elements traceable all the way back to the 1960s station wagon era. Not everyone will love the Navigator's bold look, but others will find it to be exactly what they're after. The same holds true inside, with retro-themed gauges and styling that still gets the job of conveying information done smartly.
Whether you choose the standard Navigator or the longer-wheelbase Navigator L, you'll get a 5.4-liter V-8 engine rated for 310 horsepower and your choice of two- or four-wheel drive. Both Navigators are able towers, rated for 9,100 pounds. Once you add in the Navigator's own 6,200-pound curb weight, however, a full load on the trail can put a strain on the engine, especially in comparison to modern heavy-duty trucks with similar towing capacities. Nevertheless, the transmission is up to snuff, shifting easily and keeping engine revs low.
Handling is about what you'd expect of a large SUV: it's stable and solid, but there's plenty of body motion and nosedive in quick maneuvers and stops. Four-wheel independent suspension smooths out the ride and makes the most of the Navigator's abilities, however.
Inside, the 2012 Lincoln Navigator is more upscale than its close corporate cousin, the Ford Expedition. Noise insulation, higher-grade materials and more touchable finishes make the Navigator a true luxury-grade vehicle. A few small exceptions to the quality feel are the hard plastic trim elements, chrome-painted plastics, and sometimes cheap-feeling switchgear. Despite the small downside, there's not shortage of handy small storage spaces or cupholders.
Seating is comfortable and roomy throughout the Navigator, though the Navigator L offers better access to the third-row seats thanks to its 14.7-inch longer wheelbase. Some of the Navigator L's extra length also expands its cargo capacity, though both models offer plenty of room for the average family.
When it comes to features and available equipment, the Navigator lives up to its exterior promise: plenty of space for plenty of stuff. The 2012 Navigator even offers a dash of high tech courtesy of the SYNC infotainment system, which includes Sirius Travel Link, voice-activated control of climate and navigation, and real-time traffic and weather searches. New for 2012, the SYNC system in the Navigator also features AppLink, which enables voice control of select smartphone apps.
Along with the SYNC system, HD Radio and power-deployable running boards are also standard. Other interesting features include a rearview camera system, rain-sensing wipers, capless fuel filling, Front Park Assist, heated second-row seats.
When it comes to safety, you might think the size of the Navigator alone would lend itself to near-invulnerability, but the two-wheel drive versions of the Navigator only score three out of five stars in the NHTSA's rollover rating. Four-wheel-drive models rate four out of five stars, however. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has published crash test ratings for the 2012 Lincoln Navigator. For 2012 the Navigator adds standard integrated spotter mirrors to improve safety when maneuvering the vehicle in tighter confines.