- Vast cabin—or vaster, if you need
- Tops in ride and handling
- New infotainment features
- Gas mileage is on the rise
- Twin-turbo V-6 is a blast
- Still a big 'ute in a downsized era
- Still a 6-speed automatic
- Adaptive dampers bundled as expensive options
The 2016 Lincoln Navigator counts power and unexpectedly good handling as wins—and a top-notch interior joins the list.
In the past decade, full-size sport-utility vehicles like the Lincoln Navigator have been out of fashion as often as they've been in vogue. With gas prices low again, they're back on the A-list.
The Navigator may have kicked off the BUV (Blingy Utility Vehicle) trend, but it's since been eclipsed by Range Rover, GL-Class, and Escalade. That should change, since the 2015 update to the Navigator blessed it with a new look and new power that puts it easily on par with those American-made luxury SUVs, if not the British-built one.
The Navigator now has a fresh injection of life thanks to twin wings on its grille and twin turbos under its hood, but 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 refurbished Navigator boasts great power and new technology. In styling, it's more than ready for a redo. The Navigator still carries the standard for a strain of American luxury that pairs big grilles and big towing numbers with big pricetags, enticing athletes and rappers and ranchers and everyone in between.
And yet, it looks more dated and restrained than most of its competition. 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. But the basic shape is nearly a decade old, and though it pays off with excellent outward vision, it doesn't telegraph how vital the Navigator now feels.
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 configurable 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.
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'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 Lincoln Navigator includes push-button start, the MyLincoln Touch interface, blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alert, and a new LED-backlit instrument cluster.
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.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln's refreshed the luxury veneer on the Navigator, but it's time for a total reboot.
The Lincoln Navigator is a familiar piece. In its current shape, it's been on the road nearly a decade. And it still has its charms, among them a glassy, airy cabin and an ultra-traditional shape.
But it's well overdue for a styling reboot. Admittedly, 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.
Over the years, it's been garnished and trimmed and detailed time and time again, to make its same-old proportions look new again. It's probably had more reconstructive surgery on its nose than any vehicle on sale today—and its current twin-wing grille is one of the few pieces that gives it a distinctive flair, love it or not.
At least these days the grille has been downsized. It's slimmed down and refactored into the hood for an imposing and less distracting presence. New lighting helps it blend in more effectively: 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 configurable 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 truck-like, but with soft detailing.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
Handling is quite good, and the Lincoln Navigator's twin-turbo V-6 kicks it into a higher gear.
Before the 2015 model year, the Lincoln Navigator's drivetrain was a sore point. While the Escalade and GL-Class positively bloomed with horsepower, the Navigator's old Triton V-8 sat stuck at 310 horsepower—a big disadvantage in a class where 400- and even 500-hp vehicles were becoming the norm.
In 2015, the Navigator adopted Ford's latest twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6, and a light flicked on. Not only does the new engine pump out more torque and horsepower than its predecessor—380 hp and 460 lb-ft, to be precise—it does it over a fatter wedge of the powerband.
It transforms the Navigator from acceptable to aggressively quick. Some car magazines have posted 0-60 mph times of less than six seconds for the new Navigator—a vehicle that can weigh more than 6,000 pounds.
The Lincoln SUV still shifts via a 6-speed automatic, but that number of gears compares a little better on the road to rivals' 8- and 9-speed units. Ford's transmission is smooth and decisive, with quick gear changes.
Both rear- and four-wheel-drive are available on the Navigator, in both standard and long-wheelbase models. With four-wheel drive, the Navigator makes for a good choices for weekend towing, 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.
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 without 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.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
Comfort & Quality
The Navigator can transport seven people and a lot of cargo; minor flaws include third-row access and a high cargo floor.
With one of the roomiest interiors in the SUV kingdom—even before it grows into extended-wheelbase L form—the Lincoln Navigator has always nailed the utility part of its personality. With its recent updates, it's finally assumed its ultimate form as a truly luxurious vehicle, a far cry from some of its plainer predecessors.
By the numbers, the Navigator's nearly identical to the Expedition, with an overall length of 207.4 inches in standard-wheelbase form, 222.3 inches in long-wheelbase form. The Navigator sports 103.3 cubic feet of interior space; L versions add 24.9 to that for a total of 128.2 cubic feet, or enough room behind the front seats to move a one-bedroom condo in one or two trips.
The cargo hold itself is vast, and with a power-folding third-row seat and a power tailgate, it's easily accessible. On the downside, the cargo floor sits high, so loading can be a challenge for shorter drivers. There's also not as much vertical space in back compared to most front-wheel-drive minivans, which don't have space-stealing off-road hardware packaged under the back seats.
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.
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-turbocharged V-6 exhaust filtering inside.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
Crash tests confirm the Navigator's safety, and technology backs up those scores.
Big and sturdy SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator usually fare well in crash tests. Above and beyond the usual star ratings, the Navigator does other things right, too.
Standard safety equipment goes beyond the usual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. The Navigator also factors in trailer-sway control, which corrects for the pendulum-like swing a towed vehicle can induce on highways.
It also adds a standard rearview camera, front parking sensors, and blind-spot monitors—although with its big side mirrors and glassy cabin, the Navigator also gives the driver an expansive view in almost every direction.
In case you have teens in the house or want valets to take it easy, Ford's MyKey system can limit top speed or audio volume when you're not in the vehicle.
But when it comes down to hard data, the Navigator doesn't fail. The NHTSA gives it a five-star overall rating, and nearly all its scores in individual crash tests are five stars. 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 IIHS hasn't tested the Navigator.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
Some luxury touches finally make their way into the Navigator, including touchscreen controls and adaptive damping.
With base prices well over $60,000, the Lincoln Navigator still is something of a bargain in its class, in a day when Range Rovers and Escalades regularly top the $100,000 mark.
For that price, the Navigator comes standard with the usual power accessories; cruise control; a powerful audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity; a rearview camera; blind-spot monitors; leather; heated first- and second-row seats; ventilated front seats; and power-deploying running boards and a power-folding third-row seat.
Major options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; a power moonroof; adjustable pedals; and remote start. Under its new "Reserve" styling themes, the Navigator also adds an adaptive-damping suspension; 22-inch wheels; a leather-wrapped dash; and a wood-trimmed interior.
The big news for the Navigator in its latest generation is the arrival of the MyLincoln Touch infotainment system. It's been factored into a restyled dash, and introduces smartphone connectivity, streaming audio, and other mobile technology to the big SUV.
Unfortunately, it's also the older system that Ford is gradually purging from its rolls in favor of the cleaner, more user-friendly Sync 3 interface. MyLincoln Touch remains one of the more cluttered interfaces, and it's 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.
2016 Lincoln Navigator
The Navigator is still among the least efficient vehicles on the road, but it's better than it once was.
The Lincoln Navigator's fuel economy still is on the low side, but with its recent powertrain updates, it's better than it once was.
Before the 2015 model year, the Navigator soldiered on with a version of Ford's durable-but-dated Triton V-8 engines. The EPA shrugged, and gave the Navigator barely mediocre ratings.
Last year, Lincoln replaced the big luxury SUV's V-8 engine with a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6. The revised figures put the rear-drive SUV at 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined—and with either four-wheel drive or the longer Navigator L body style, those ratings fall to 15/20/17 mpg.
Put the long body and four-wheel drive together, and the Navigator L earns an EPA-rated 15/19/16 mpg.
Among vehicles with more than two seats, the Navigator's gas mileage is near the bottom of the pack. Using it to its intended purpose helps soften the blow: fill it with passengers and cargo, and tow something in its wake, and the Navigator does tasks that might otherwise take two vehicles.