- Vast cabin--or vaster, if you need
- Tops in ride and handling
- New infotainment features
- Gas mileage is on the rise
- Twin-turbo six is a blast
- Still a big ute in a downsized era
- Still a six-speed automatic
- Adaptive dampers bundled as expensive options
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator polishes its user interface with EcoBoost and MyLincoln Touch--but for some, its size is still its killer app.
Big SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator have been in fashion, and then awkwardly out of it, but that doesn't mean they're an extinct species. The diehards -- Land Cruiser, Range Rover, GL-Class, Escalade, and Navigator -- live on, and in a couple of instances, are living better than ever.
In recent years, the Navigator has seemed a bit like a relic in the Lincoln lineup. It was as if the Navi was a model that the brand, after purging the Town Car sedan, couldn't quite figure out what to do with. But now for 2015 the Navigator finds a fresh direction: with some new details from front end to tailgate, a new infotainment system, and a new, more fuel-efficient (and stronger) twin-turbo engine packed into its mega-sized dimensions.
Does it still feel like the 72-ounce steak of Lincolns? And is it enough to tackle the new, fully redesigned Escalade? In both cases, the answer is yes.
The Navigator represents a strain of American luxury that conjoins big grilles and big towing numbers with big pricetags, enticing rappers and athletes and ranchers and everything in between. And yet, it's a little more restrained this time around the north forty. The grille's slimmer, its wings split like those on the Lincoln MKZ sedan and refactored along with the hood for a less showy, still imposing presence. The Navigator's LED accent lighting squares off its headlamps, linking it subtly with the Land Rover Range Rover, and LEDs work with cutlines to lower the rear end visually.
Inside, the Navigator's twin-binnacle dash wears a new leather-wrapped dash with twin-stitched seams. A big touchscreen now dominates the center stack, but it hasn't elbowed out buttons and knobs entirely; they're all over the dash and the steering wheel, while another reconfigurable LCD screen tucks into the gauge pod. It's a scaled-up restatement of the shapes Lincoln used in the MKZ before it went dramatically aero in 2013.
The Navigator's body-on-frame construction hasn't changed, but its drivetrain and suspension have. The former 5.4-liter V-8 has been put to the curb; in its place, the Navigator elects for a fantastic twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 that's been in the F-150 trucks for the past few years. Here it makes 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque -- more than in other applications, such as the Ford F-150 -- and Lincoln claims it offers the best towing numbers in the class. It's a gutsy performer and works with the steering and suspension to evaporate long stretches of road, even some curvy ones. Rear-drive models are available, though we fearlessly predict four-wheel-drive models will account for most Navigator sales, since the fuel economy penalty is a rounding error for vehicles such as this one.
The most recent Navigator handled reasonably well for its size, but its independent suspension feels better with the continuous damping system that's optional on rear-wheel-drive models and standard with 4WD or the big 22-inch wheels. Unfortunately it's a big price jump to opt into packages that feature the new system. Four-wheel-drive models additionally include hill start assist plus Hill Descent Control. Across the model line, the 2015 Lincoln Navigator includes push-button start, the MyLincoln Touch interface, blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alert, and a new LED-backlit instrument cluster.
In terms of interior space, the Navigator is essentially unchanged. Like the Expedition and other SUVs in this class, the Navigator is offered in both standard and extended-wheelbase editions. The Navigator sits at 207.4 inches long; the Navigator L adds 14.9 inches of overall length for a total of 222.3 inches, while doling out an additional 24.9 cubic feet of cargo space. Standard-wheelbase models have 103.3 cubic feet of interior space; long-wheelbase versions have 128.2 cubic feet. Power-fold capability means the third row can be quickly and easily stowed when not in use.
The Navigator has suffered from a lack of infotainment and safety features, languishing while other Fords have prospered in the electronic era. That's changed now with the installation of MyLincoln Touch, which uses voice or touch or steering-wheel controls to operate phone, climate, navigation, and audio functions. It's standard, along with a rearview camera and three rows of leather-trimmed seats. The options list for the Navigator lineup includes a power moonroof, InVision headrest-mounted DVD entertainment system, dark-finished 20-inch alloys, or 22-inch polished aluminum wheels -- and new top-of-the-line 'Reserve' models add hand-wrapped leather for the dash, a rich-looking Ziricote wood interior, and 22-inch wheels, as well as the adaptive suspension.