2014 Lincoln Navigator Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
April 9, 2014

The Lincoln Navigator is behind the times in many ways, but still has that uniquely American feel that comes from sheer size.

The 2014 Lincoln Navigator may be one of the last bastions of old-style American luxury, as embodied in a full-size, truck-based, body-on-frame luxury sport-utility vehicle. Lincoln's biggest and oldest vehicle offers a more luxurious take on the Ford Expedition, seemingly designed for the Middle American buyers it abandoned when the Town Car was discontinued. If success is signaled by a 72-ounce steak and an ever-present fantasy that you may need to tow a loaded horse trailer, this is the vehicle for you.

The design of the Navigator, based on a Ford F-150 from two generations earlier, is now relatively dated. It's not been substantially changed for almost a decade, and the smoothed-and-rounded corners of its boxy shape recall Ford's pickup trucks of years earlier. The same criticism applies to the Expedition as well, but the large Lincoln is now by far the oldest luxury utility vehicle in its segment.

At once iconic and retro (in both a good and bad way), the Navigator's design incorporates themes and trinkets from Lincoln heritage going back to the 1960s, employed with a boldness that compares to that of the Cadillac Escalade. Inside the retro-themed gauges and styling no longer look fresh (retro-grade?), although they convey the luxury message.

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Vehicles as large as the Navigator can sometimes disappoint on functionality. But t here; you'll find big seats but also reasonably good versatility and one of the best interiors of any large SUV. 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.

It's under the hood where Lincoln's big SUV can be disappointing. The Navigator racks up yet another model year with a powertrain that puts it at a disadvantage compared to most other big, truck-based SUVs. With 310 horsepower, the Navigator's 5.4-liter V-8 is woefully underpowered against nearly every competing model. That makes it no surprise that the Navigator isn't quick--though the six-speed automatic transmission makes the best of it, delivering smooth, decisive shifts, and most of the lineup can be equipped with either rear- or four-wheel drive.

If you're okay with merely adequate power, the Navigator handles better than many other models this big and heavy. Its roadholding feels more confident--if hardly sporty--than you'd expect from the land yacht it is. 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.

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. 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 no shortage of handy small storage spaces or cupholders.

The 2014 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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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Styling

Without an update for years, the aging Navigator hasn't kept up with its glam neighbors.

The 2014 Lincoln Navigator's styling is getting up there in age–now looking almost retro from some angles–but it's a traditional luxury SUV at its finest, and may actually satisfy someone who preferred those old-school SUV charms. It's a big, boxy utility vehicle with a lot of extra glitz and chrome. However, it's not quite as flashy as an Escalade, which has essentially claimed the throne to the kingdom of SUV 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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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Performance

Handling is above par, but the Navigator's V-8 can't keep the pace with the newest full-size SUVs.

The drivetrain in the 2014 Lincoln Navigator puts it at a disadvantage compared to so many other luxury SUVs, but the vehicles surprisingly crisp handling keeps it from being a complete disappointment. It's powered by a 5.4-liter V-8 that produces 310 horsepower–much less than its competitors–so the Navigator isn't quick. However, its six-speed automatic is smooth and decisive, and both rear- and four-wheel-drive are available on most Navigator models.

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.

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.

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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Comfort & Quality

The luxurious, spacious cabin in the Navigator is mostly comfortable adults, except in the third row.

Despite its aging design, the 2014 Lincoln Navigator has one of the best interiors in its class–with ample space and comfort for passengers and cargo.

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.

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.

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.

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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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Safety

Crash tests are missing, but there's no missing the Navigator's frame-construction strength.

While the Navigator hasn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it four out of five stars for overall safety.

All Navigators, both standard and extended-wheelbase, with rear-wheel-drive or 4WD, get four stars for frontal crash and five stars for side crash from the NHTSA. But the 4WD models get four stars for rollover safety, while the rear-wheel-drive versions get only three out of five stars on the same test.

The 2014 Navigator includes 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. And the luxury SUV's substantial size and short list of driving aides should make it a relatively safe option for both driver and passengers.

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 limit things like top speed and audio volume when you're not in the vehicle.

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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Features

Luxury goods are in fair supply, but the Navigator hasn't added Ford's latest technology features.

There are more cutting-edge options on the market, but the Navigator does come with a few over-the-top luxury features like a power-folding third-row seat, power-deploying running boards and cooled front seats. The biggest disappointment is the lack of Lincoln's high-tech MyLincoln Touch infotainment system, though.

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.

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.

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2014 Lincoln Navigator

Fuel Economy

Thirst for gas is the Navigator's downfall.

An old engine and sheer mass work against the 2014 Lincoln Navigator, and it's only rated at  16 mpg combined (14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway) in rear-wheel-drive models. Those equipped with four-wheel drive do worse, with ratings of 15 mpg combined (13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway). It's officially a flex-fuel vehicle, with the ability to run on E85 if you happen to be near the 1 percent of U.S. gas stations that offer it--but then fuel efficiency falls to 12 mpg or 11 mpg combined, respectively.

However, if you fill each of the seven seats with a passenger, fill the cargo hold with stuff, and decide to tow a boat, you'll find that the environmental impact per person isn't all that bad. 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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Styling 6.0
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