2015 Lincoln Navigator Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 27, 2015

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.

Review continues below

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.

6

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Styling

The Navigator's luxury veneer isn't as gaudy--or as convincing--as that on some other blingy SUVs.

The Navigator is of an advanced age--that is a nice way of saying it's old, correct? Even though it's been around in its basic form for nearly a decade, it's still charming in its big-boy stance. What's not entirely charming is the latest layer of grillework that attempts to modernize the look, to fit in with other Lincolns and their twin-wing grilles.

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.

Admittedly, it looks passable in light colors, and the proportions still wear well after all these years. It's just that, compared to more emphatic styling statements, the Navigator is neither as bold as an Escalade, nor as tasteful as other utes its size--something like Ford's own Expedition, for example.

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. It's effective though, as well as straightforward and perhaps a little trucklike, but with soft detailing.

7

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Performance

Twin-turbo power elevates the Navigator's acceleration to the same plane as its quite good handling.

The drivetrain in the Lincoln Navigator has been one of its downsides. The former 5.4-liter V-8 produced just 310 horsepower–much less than its competitors, putting the Navigator at a disadvantage even though its ride and handling were superior to many newer full-size SUVs.

With its new twin-turbo V-6, the Navigator pulls back into contention with trucks like the Escalade, Yukon, and GL-Class. The 3.5-liter engine kicks out more power and torque than its predecessor and makes the Expedition truly quick--and appealing to listen to. The six generates 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and some of the car-nut magazines have registered 0-60 mph times at less than six seconds.

As before, the engine is teamed with a six-speed automatic. The transmission is smooth and decisive, and both rear- and four-wheel-drive are available on the Navigator, both standard and L long-wheelbase models.

Even with the major improvements in power, gas mileage in the Navigator has been boosted, to a lineup-best 16/22 mpg in the rear-drive, short-wheelbase model.

The Navigator handles 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. new electric steering helps the Navigator feel smaller by cutting the wheel motion needed to dock in a parking space, or simply to change lanes.

We have yet to drive a Navigator in base spec--i.e., one with the non-adaptive dampers. They're a major reason the Navigator rides so well--they're also a part of option packages that can add as much as $7,800 to the Navigator's price, pushing it to nearly $70,000.

The Navigator remains a reasonable device for weekend towing needs, at a rating of 9,000 pounds max. With a curb weight of around 6,200 pounds, though, the Navigator has just a few thousand pounds of pull behind its receiver hitch--an Airstream, for example, is more than a match for its rated capacity.

9

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Comfort & Quality

The third-row seat is tough for adults to reach, but power folding and vast cargo space play to the Navigator's strengths.

The Lincoln Navigator still offers one of the most spacious cabins of all the full-size SUVs. It's quite comfortable for adults in almost every seat, and with some upgrades to materials and trim, it's more luxurious than its plainer predecessors have felt. 

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.

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.

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. A new top-of-the-line 'Reserve' models add hand-wrapped leather for the dash, a rich-looking Ziricote wood interior, and 22-inch wheels. Lincoln's also paid more attention to sound quality: more deadening and noise suppression gives the Navigator a near-silent cabin at speed, with just a touch of twin-turbo six exhaust filtering inside.

9

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Safety

The NHTSA gives the Navigator's near-twin five stars; the IIHS has yet to opine.

The Navigator has been crash-tested by the Federal government, and like its Ford Expedition cousin, it's performed quite well. 

The Navigator now earns a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nearly all ratings are five stars, but in rollover resistance, the Navigator slips a bit: it's pegged at four stars for four-wheel-drive models, a low three stars for those with rear-wheel drive.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't tested the Navigator.

The Navigator's size and list of safety features make it a reasonable choice option for both driver and passengers. Some drivers might find outward visibility challenging in the Navigator because of its sheer height, but the Navigator actually fares better than other big SUVs because of very large glass areas--a throwback feature, in a way, since the Lincoln's basic design is nearly a decade old.

The big Lincoln also comes with blind-spot monitors, 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.

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.

9

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Features

With touchscreen connectivity and power everything, the Navigator comes up to modern luxury standards--but doesn't reach for new heights.

The big news for the Navigator in the new year, is the appearance of Lincoln's high-tech MyLincoln Touch infotainment system. It's factored into a restyled dash, and brings in smartphone connectivity, streaming audio, and other mobile technology that's been missing from the Navigator, while its competition has pushed them live in the past few years.

The voice-activated nav system bundled into most Navigators works well enough, though we've long held Ford's infotainment systems as some of the more cluttered interfaces, with some of the more troublesome when it comes to voice recognition. The Navigator's new interface also includes Sirius Travel Link, HD Radio, and of course, SYNC, the Bluetooth controller that enables voice commands for some audio, navigation and phone controls.

A rearview camera is now standard on the Navigator, as are blind-spot monitors. Other standard items include rain-sensing windshield wipers, EasyFuel capless fuel fill, and heated second-row seats.

The Navigator also offers a few over-the-top luxury features like a power-folding third-row seat, power-deploying running boards and cooled front seats. Options on the Navigator include a power moonroof, rear-seat DVD system, perimeter alarm, illuminated entry with approach lamps, remote start, and adjustable pedals. New top-of-the-line 'Reserve' models add hand-wrapped leather for the dash, a rich-looking Ziricote wood interior, the adaptive-damping suspension, and 22-inch wheels--for $7,800.

Base prices start at more than $62,000.

5

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is a little better with the new drivetrain, but it's still low by absolute standards.

Lincoln has ditched the Navigator's old modular V-8 for the 2015 model year, and fuel-economy figures have gone up. They're still low, by absolute standards.

Last year's Navigator was rated at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway in rear-wheel-drive models. With four-wheel drive, the Navigator was rated at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway.

This year, with the new twin-turbo six, the rear-drive Navigator gets EPA ratings of 16/22 mpg, or 18 mpg combined. Adding four-wheel drive--or choosing the rear-drive, long-wheelbase Navigator L--drops economy to 15/20 mpg, or 17 mpg combined. With the long body and four-wheel drive, the Navigator L is rated at 15/19 mpg, or 16 mpg combined.

Those are among the lowest ratings of any vehicles we rate, among vehicles with more than two seats. 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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August 2, 2017
2015 Lincoln Navigator 4WD 4-Door

2015 Navigator L (Review from an actual owner)

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It seems that negative reviews I've read for the most part are subjective, and not from an actual owner. First and foremost I would suggest you actually DRIVE one and then go drive an Escalade or loaded up... + More »
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August 12, 2015
2015 Lincoln Navigator 4WD 4-Door

the 2015 Navigator is just a rehash of previous years with a new nose and new rear tailgate lighting.

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I am very disappointed with the 2015 Navigator I have. It really is just a Ford Expedition with a few minor improvements. I definitely would not consider it to be a luxury SUV, far from it. The instrument... + More »
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February 4, 2015
For 2015 Lincoln Navigator

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There seems to be a lot of misinformation and unfounded criticism about this truck on the Internet so I'd like to provide some facts and an informed opinion since I own one. First of all the truck runs on... + More »
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