Ford created the big, blingy SUV niche back in the late 1990s with the original Navigator. Then it sat back and watched its halftime lead evaporate. The Cadillac Escalade came along and thoroughly ate its lunch with the hip-hopping, sports-playing, coutoure-wearing crowd — and a phenomenon was born.
’Slade is so popular it has a nickname. The Navigator? It once was so white-hot
that, on the strength of Navigator sales alone,
So now, in the same year a really fine new Escalade has come to bear, Ford is trying to put some polish back in the Navigator’s profile. But we predict the Escalade will still rule this niche — for some very powerful reasons.
Back in the ring
2007 Lincoln Navigator
On the upside, the new Navigator is finally available in both standard and long-wheelbase L versions, with the L version being 14.7 inches longer overall than the standard model. This provides an additional 25 cubic feet of storage capacity (42.7 cubic feet versus 18.2 cubic feet). With both the second- and third-row seats folded, the standard wheelbase model offers 103.5 cubic feet of cargo space — but the L model ups that to 128.2 cubic feet. Seven (even eight) passengers can now ride in the Navigator, along with all their stuff.
The ride is much improved, too. Modifications to the chassis are extensive and highlights include a wider and stronger boxed steel frame with a fully independent, five-link rear suspension designed to smooth out ride quality over uneven terrain. That, combined with a lower center of gravity helps make this super-sized SUV (at 5872 pounds without passengers on board) less tipsy in a hard corner.
It’s still body-on-frame construction and available with a real four-wheel-drive system that includes a transfer case and locking differential, but it’s the rare owner that would ever consider taking this wide load off road for a run between trees and trails.
The new Nav’s brakes have also been updated with larger, thicker rotors for more effective braking. And one of the biggest improvements comes in noise reduction. Thicker glass and the new six-speed automatic both contribute to lower noise at highway speeds, by blocking out noise and creating less by turning a lower engine speed in freeway hauls.
Eighteen inch wheels are standard on the Luxury version, with rap-mogul-friendly chromed 20-inchers available optionally. Top-of-the-line Ultimate versions (either standard wheelbase or extended L versions) offer the amenities you’d expect: power folding third-row seats, power liftgate, heated and cooled front seats, sunroof, etc. Power running boards, a 600-watt THX premium audio system with 14 speakers, MP3 capability and Sirius satellite radio hook-up, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with eight-inch screen and wireless headphones can be ordered up.
And the new interior is another area worth praising. It’s certainly as soft and opulent as it ought to be. It sports a more distinctive, Lincoln-specific design than the previous Navigator, which didn’t do a very convincing job of hiding its Ford Expedition roots.
Down on power
2007 Lincoln Navigator
The big difference between the Escalade and Navigator, this time around, comes under the hood. The ’07 Navigator comes with just one engine choice and that is the same 5.4-liter, 300-horsepower V-8 that’s also used in the Lincoln Mark LT — and the Expedition, alas.
1954 Chevy Sedan
Consider that Ford’s own Explorer
gets an optional 292-hp V-8 and costs about half as much. Or that our as-tested
model came to a heart-seizing $60,585. Either way, at best, it’s a huge
competitive disadvantage for
Any armchair quarterback will tell you it’s easier to keep an early lead than to have to scramble to get it back.
Price: $45,755 base; $60,585 as tested
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Engine: 5.4-liter V-8, 300 hp/365 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear- or four-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 208.4 x 82.4 x 78.3 in
Wheelbase: 119 in
Curb weight: 5872 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): N/A
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control
Dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, wood trim, digital keypad door
locks, nine-speaker MP3 sound system with six-disc CD changer
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles