Since air travel ranks with drinking molten gold on my want-to-do list this year, I've piled on thousands more interstate miles than I'd planned in January. Some 1,200 of them happened this month in a 2020 Lincoln Navigator Reserve, which easily beat down the existential dread of I-85 with square feet of soft leather, crisp Revel audio high notes, and a box-done-right stance that pleased even my dad, who owns only fire trucks and an '84 Bronco.
We've made a lot of fuss about the latest Navigator, but maybe not enough. With the Navigator Lincoln's built a rolling vault that channels '60s heritage without going mawkishly overboard. It's landed a haymaker to the Escalade. It's scored a 7.4 out of 10 in our TCC Ratings, despite a sticker price that blasts past $100,000 in the form we'd fill out on an order sheet.
Refreshingly little has changed for 2020 with the Navigator, which feels like the rare vehicle that could saunter through a decade without major changes (just bring us new color schemes and Black Label themes). Standard cooled front seats and new monochromatic paint schemes aside, it's still a massively powerful SUV with 450 horsepower, 10 forward gears, available four-wheel drive, space for up to eight people, towing of up to 8,700 pounds, and a long-body Navigator L that copes with eight sets of luggage in its boot, to boot. It's also the rare SUV with excellent crash-safety performance and standard crash-safety hardware, down to blind-spot monitors and active lane control.
We said the 2020 Navigator "marks a return to form for American luxury SUVs," and dubbed it "a massive, stylish land yacht that makes no apologies for its glitz and opulence."
We stand by our words—but here's a little more context for where the Navigator shines, and where it's a bit dull, after our Tobacco Road road trip.
Hit: Love, American style. Few vehicles can match the Navigator's presence, and the cabin's one of Ford's best. Not even Cadillac's Escalade can spar with the Navigator's brash homage to excess. Lincoln's ginned up some marvelous interior themes at the Black Label trim, but even the Reserve is unabashedly unreserved. Still, give me whitewashed teak and coastal blue leather of the Yacht Club interior.
Miss: Plastic metal. To get that dazzling interior you have to willingly suspend disbelief in some of the materials Lincoln uses to trim out the darker recesses of the Navigator cabin. The metallic trim's not cold metal, it's warm plastic, and it feels like it—though it's not insubstantial.
Hit: The unrestrained power. The Navigator is Dearborn's version of a ZIL limousine. It doesn't just imply total control and power, it exercises it. The 450-hp twin-turbo V-6 isn't saddled with a 10-speed automatic, it's liberated by it.
Miss: The high cargo floor. You may not use it as a cargo van, but some people will. It's a waist-height lift for heavy objects, which leads to back strain and insurance claims and lots of ibuprofen.
Hit: The expansive interior. That load floor may be true, but you can still stuff the Navi with a dozen plastic tubs to tote to crafty mothers in need of new projects. That's with the seats up.
Miss: Climb-in height. Despite power running boards, it's still an athletic exercise for smaller people and older people to get in and out of the Navigator.
Hit: Ceramic pearl paint. It's like Porsche's Chalk Grey, only from Dearborn, which is fine since Dearborn is the Weissach of Michigan. In a pinch, Lincoln's Chroma Crystal Blue will do, too.
Hit: Concierge service. For $100,000, I'd like you to come and get my car for service and bring it back clean. Lincoln washes the Black Label cars it services for free—but not this Reserve, though it will pick it up and drop it off for its spa days.
2020 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Reserve
Base price: $85,330, including destination
Price as tested: $92,020
Drivetrain: 450-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6; 10-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 16/21/18 mpg
The hits: Glamour by the bucketful, powerlifter strength, vast interior room
The misses: High cargo floor, no free car washes, some plasticky bits