2013 Lincoln Navigator Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 18, 2012

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator feels uniquely American in a way that's unmatched by most other big SUVs; but it's behind the times in many respects.

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator stands as a last holdout for a couple of old-guard groups. First, it's one of an ever-decreasing number of body-on-frame, truck-based SUVs; second, it's an old-style luxury vehicle, seemingly designed for Middle America, the excess of the 72-ounce steak, and the ever-present fantasy that yes, you could tow a loaded horse trailer if you wanted.

And that image is in part the fault of Ford. The automaker hasn't changed the look of the Navigator in years; it retains the boxy proportions with smoothed-and-rounded corners that the automaker's pickups had some years earlier, and while it and the closely related Ford Expedition used to be more or less synchronized with those haulers, they never inherited a version of the F-150's crisper look. At once iconic and retro (yes, in both a good and bad way), the Navigator collects trinkets from the brand's heritage going back to the 1960s station-wagon era and matching it with a boldness that counters that of the Cadillac Escalade. Inside the retro-themed gauges and styling no longer look fresh (retro-grade?), although they convey the luxury message.

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator finds its way through another model year with a powertrain that puts it at a disadvantage compared to most other big, truck-based SUVs, although in other respects the Navigator doesn't at all handle like the land yacht it is. With 310 horsepower, the Navigator's 5.4-liter V-8 is woefully behind nearly every competing model. And it's no surprise that the Navigator isn't quick. That said, the six-speed automatic transmission does make the best of it, with smooth, decisive shifts, and most of the lineup can be equipped with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Provided you're okay with merely adequate power, the Navigator does handle better than many other models this big and heavy. 

Review continues below

The Navigator remains a reasonably match for weekend towing needs--at a rating of 9,100 pounds max--but consider that with a curb weight of around 6,200 pounds, it's a strained relationship.

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.

Vehicles as large as the 2013 Navigator can sometimes disappoint on functionality. But the Navigator's plus-sized exterior doesn't preclude space-efficiency here; you'll find big seats but also reasonably good versatility and one of the best interiors of any large SUV.

Compared to the more basic models of the Ford Expedition, which the Navigator is related to, the Lincoln gets better materials and trims even though their interiors are essentially of the same design. And just like the Expedition and other SUVs in this class, the Navigator is offered in two different lengths--Navigator and Navigator L. The Navigator L adds 14.7 inches of overall length while doling out an additional 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Plus, power fold capability means the third row can be quickly and easily stowed when not in use, and it can be used to scoot faraway cargo toward the rear, as it moves the cargo aft when unfolding the seats.

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator isn't cutting-edge, but it does offer a very long list of features combined with some over-the-top luxury features like cooled front seats, power-deploying running boards, and a power-folding third-row seat. What's sorely missing from the Navigator's feature set is a modern infotainment system, such as MyLincoln Touch. But an EasyFuel capless fuel fill and heated second-row seats are on the standard-feature list and options include a power moonroof, rear-seat DVD system, perimeter alarm, illuminated entry with approach lamps, remote start, and adjustable pedals.

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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Styling

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator's styling is behind the times--though depending on your aesthetic sense, that could be a good thing.

It's been more than five years since the Lincoln Navigator at all changed its game; and while this full-size SUV is now at the point where it looks a little unintentionally retro, its very traditional luxury-vehicle look and feel could be an asset to some who simply don't want to go modern.

The 2013 Navigator remains a huge two-box ute with lots of metallic trim and bejeweled details. That said, it's slightly less flashy on the outside than the Cadillac Escalade, a model that eclipsed it years ago and became the choice for those looking to show off their glitz and gluttony.

Take a step back, and while the Navigator definitely has its share of overdrawn details--like the somewhat over-the-top Sixties-sized grille, and oversized taillamps--and the body shell is at the least tastefully proportioned. On the down side, Ford has failed to touch up either the Navigator or its Ford sibling, the Expedition, with the somewhat brawnier, more chiseled update that the F-150 pickup (which both models are somewhat related to) received.

On the inside, there's a similar story. The Navigator's cabin feels part unintentionally retro from the last decade, and part inspired from earlier Lincolns of the 1970s and '80s. The Navigator really bears little semblance in its interior details or design to newer Lincoln models like the new MKZ or MKS sedans, or the MKX crossover. It's effective though, as well as straightforward and perhaps a little trucklike, but with soft detailing.
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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Performance

The Navigator's acceleration is disappointing for a large SUV, and a high-priced one at that, but it handles surprisingly well.

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator finds its way through another model year with a powertrain that puts it at a disadvantage compared to most other big, truck-based SUVs, although in other respects the Navigator doesn't at all handle like the land yacht it is.

With 310 horsepower, the Navigator's 5.4-liter V-8 is woefully behind nearly every competing model. And it's no surprise that the Navigator isn't quick. That said, the six-speed automatic transmission does make the best of it, with smooth, decisive shifts, and most of the lineup can be equipped with either rear- or four-wheel drive. 

The Navigator remains a reasonably match for weekend towing needs--at a rating of 9,100 pounds max--but consider that with a curb weight of around 6,200 pounds, it's a strained relationship.

Provided you're okay with merely adequate power, the Navigator does handle better than many other models this big and heavy. Expect heavy nosedive and lots of body motion during quick stops, for sure, but the four-wheel independent suspension helps provide a smooth ride, and this is one truck that steers and maneuvers with some degree of precision on a curvy road.
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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Comfort & Quality

The Navigator is roomy and luxurious, and a few truck-like qualities aren't enough to disrupt the impression of opulence.

Vehicles as large as the 2013 Navigator can sometimes disappoint on functionality. But the Navigator's plus-sized exterior doesn't preclude space-efficiency here; you'll find big seats but also reasonably good versatility and one of the best interiors of any large SUV.

Compared to the more basic models of the Ford Expedition, which the Navigator is related to, the Lincoln gets better materials and trims even though their interiors are essentially of the same design. And just like the Expedition and other SUVs in this class, the Navigator is offered in two different lengths: Compared to the standard-length model, the Navigator L adds 14.7 inches of overall length while doling out an additional 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space. In short-wheelbase versions you get at least 18 cubic feet behind the third-row seats, which is enough for a small grocery run even when you're shuttling a bunch of kids from school. Fold down the second and third rows, and cargo space grows to about 128 cubic feet in the Navigator L or 103.5 in the standard edition.

Power fold capability means the third row can be quickly and easily stowed when not in use, and it can be used to scoot faraway cargo toward the rear, as it moves the cargo aft when unfolding the seats.

Seating in the front two rows is superb in either Navigator. With wide yet soft and supportive buckets in front, along with extra space in every direction, the Navigator has accommodations to make any large or mature crew comfortable. In the second row you get a pair of bucket seats, while the third row is where adults will feel the pinch. Navigator L versions are a bit better in entry and exit, if you're planning to use the rearmost row.

For the most part, Lincoln does a fine job giving this truck-based design a sophisticated-feeling, mostly quiet interior; though there are a few inexpensive-looking passages. We see stretches of real wood trim and fine leather upholstery, yet they're flanked by old-school switchgear, some chrome-painted trim, and hard plastics.

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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Safety

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator includes a reassuring list of safety features -- even if there aren't up-to-date crash-test ratings.

The Lincoln Navigator hasn't been rated by either of the major U.S. crash-test agencies in several years. But it does offer all the requisite safety features for a big SUV along with items like parking sensors and a camera system to help get over some of the parking-lot and driveway hazards of piloting such a mammoth vehicle.

Included in the Navigator is the usual assortment of dual front, side and curtain airbags, along with anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control with roll mitigation. There's also trailer-sway control, which helps the vehicle correct for the swinging motion induced when it's towing.

Some drivers might find outward visibility challenging in the Navigator because of its sheer height, but thankfully the big Lincoln comes with front parking sensors and a rearview camera system. And in case you have teens in the house or want valets to take it easy, Ford's MyKey system can put the kibosh on things like speeding or sound-system volume when you're not in the vehicle.

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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Features

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator is packed with features, but it's missing a modern infotainment interface.

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator isn't cutting-edge, but it does offer a very long list of features combined with some over-the-top luxury features like cooled front seats, power-deploying running boards, and a power-folding third-row seat. What's sorely missing from the Navigator's feature set is a modern infotainment system, such as MyLincoln Touch.

In addition to a very extensive standard-feature set, options on the Navigator include 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, although thankfully both forward and reverse sensing systems are included standard. Other standard items include rain-sensing windshield wipers, EasyFuel capless fuel fill, and heated second-row seats.

Nearly every luxury-brand vehicle now included some kind of sophisticated infotainment system that combines smartphone connectivity with configurability, apps, and often navigation, and in this respect the Navigator is sorely lacking. The voice-activated nav system that is included works well enough, though, and has Sirius Travel Link, HD Radio, and SYNC, the Bluetooth controller that enables voice commands for some audio, navigation and phone controls.

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2013 Lincoln Navigator

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Lincoln Navigator is oh-so thirsty -- although if you plan to use it to its passenger or towing potential, it works hard per gallon.

There's really no way around it; the 2013 Lincoln Navigator is a guzzler. It's one of the biggest, heaviest vehicles on the market, and its EPA ratings of 13 mpg city, 18 highway with four-wheel drive (or 14/20 with rear-wheel drive) reflect that.

However if you plan to store the Navigator in the garage and only use it when you really do plan to take advantage of its people- and cargo-carrying capacity, that's another thing. With a luxurious space for up to seven, plus cargo--with some towing ability built in--it just might replace two vehicles on a road trip.

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