- 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 2017 Lincoln Navigator has exceptional interior room, lots of bling, and unexpectedly good handling.
Crossovers come, crossovers go, but full-size SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator have spent more time in vogue than Elle MacPherson. When gas prices are low, they're on the A-list; when fuel costs as much as an airplane ticket, they're still on the A-list, and they're not shy about it.
Whether it's a Navigator or the Navigator L, the long-body cargo specialist, Lincoln's biggest vehicle is also its most enduring nameplate. It's also one of the better-driving big utility vehicles, and it has a beautifully outfitted cabin with more comfortable seats than its top domestic rival.
We give it an 7.0 out of 10. Predictably, fuel economy and safety are big drags on its score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Lincoln Navigator styling and performance
The Navigator kicked off the BUV (Blingy Utility Vehicle) trend, but it's since been eclipsed by the Range Rover and the Escalade. Multiple front-end updates and two new interiors haven't altered its basic shape. And while that shape is overdue for a reboot, it's still authentic SUV, still handsome, still proportioned well. Lincoln last revisited the shape in 2015, adding a slimmer grille and LED accent lighting, but only attentive followers can pick it out. Inside, the dash now wears a leather wrap and a big touchscreen dominates the center stack.
The Navigator now draws power from a fantastic twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6. Also fitted to some F-150s, the engine kicks out 380 hp through a 6-speed automatic and rear- or 4-wheel drive. It's a gutsy performer that enables big towing numbers, and it works well with the steering and suspension to evaporate long stretches of road, even some curvy ones. We recommend the adaptive damping system that's available on rear-wheel-drive models and standard with 4WD or the big 22-inch wheels.
Navigator comfort, utility, and features
Interior space is copious and comfortable. 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. Navigators have more head room than the Escalade, and the seats are shaped better for adults. The cargo floor sits lower, thanks to the Navigator's suspension design, so it's easier to load it full.
Safety data isn't in the Navigator's corner. It earns five stars overall from the NHTSA, but rollover-resistance ratings are as low as three stars.
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 Sync3, 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, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, dark-finished 20-inch alloys, or 22-inch polished aluminum wheels. 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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln blends reserved lines and glitzy details in the Navigator, and it works.
It's been on the road for a long time, but the basic outline of the Lincoln Navigator still holds up. It's a glassy, traditional shape dressed in lots of chrome, and for some it's the ultimate marriage of vintage luxury cues and an ultra-traditional shape.
We give it an 8 out of 10 in this category, with a point for its sheet metal and a couple for its inviting interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Compared to more emphatic styling statements—cough, Escalade—the Navigator has a more reserved look. It's been refreshed and updated many times. Its front end may have had more updates than any other vehicle in the Ford lineup, and in its latest iteration, it's cleaner and slimmer than the immense grilles on the Navigator of a few years ago. The proportions still wear well, but if the next Navigator had a little more drama, it wouldn't hurt.
Inside, the Navigator's twin-binnacle dash wears a leather-wrapped dash with twin-stitched seams. A big touchscreen 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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
Twin-turbo power pushes the Navigator along very quickly, and it handling well for a vehicle of its kind.
In 2015, Lincoln ditched the V-8 that had powered the Navigator for a generation. It replaced it with a stronger, better, nominally more efficient twin-turbo V-6, and as a result the Navigator's never been better to drive.
We give it an 7 out of 10 for performance, giving it points for its excellent engine and ride quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 wastes no time with turbo lag. It's more powerful than the previous 310-hp V-8, and it makes its power—380 hp and 460 lb-ft—over a wider span of the tach.
The Navigator isn't just moderately quick anymore, it's aggressively quick. It weighs more than 6,000 pounds in some forms, but it can post 0-60 mph times of less than 6 seconds.
A 6-speed automatic handles the shifting duties. It's behind the optics curve compared to GM's 8-speeds and other rivals' 9-speed units. On the road, it's a wash: the Navigator's gearbox shifts smoothly and decisively.
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.
Both rear- and 4-wheel-drive are available on the Navigator, in both standard and long-wheelbase models. With 4-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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
Comfort & Quality
The Navigator's vast interior has better second- and third-row accommodations than its rivals.
Even in standard form, the Lincoln Navigator has one of the largest interiors in the automotive world. It's always nailed its duties as a massive people- and cargo-carrier, and it gets even better at those things in its extended-length Navigator L form.
It's also a lavishly trimmed vehicle, and its cabin is a far cry from its plainer past.
We give it an 9 out of 10. It earns points for exceptional space and seating comfort, and leaves only an "exceptional" point on the table. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Navigator stretches to lengths nearly identical to those posted by its kin, the Ford Expedition. The standard version is 207.4 inches long between the wheels; the Navigator L, 222.3 inches. Navigators offers up 103.3 cubic feet of interior space; L versions add 24.9 to that for a total of 128.2 cubic feet. The contents of a studio apartment can fit inside, as long as you're not into baby grand pianos.
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.
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.
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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
The NHTSA has some things to say about the Navigator's rollover resistance.
The Navigator earns a lot of very good crash-test scores, but two in particular shave points off our safety rating.
We give it an 5 out of 10. There's no IIHS data to report; the NHTSA publishes mixed scores. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The IIHS hasn't tested the Navigator, but the NHTSA has, and some of its scores give us pause. The federal agency gives the SUV a five-star overall rating, and nearly all its scores in individual crash tests are five stars.
However, it's rollover safety was rated at four stars for four-wheel-drive models, and at a low three stars for those with rear-wheel drive. Stability control helps keep the Lincoln safer in accidents, but a three-star rating in any category is a rare event, except among big vans and full-size SUVs.
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.
All Navigators come with a standard rearview camera, front parking sensors, and blind-spot monitors. With its big side mirrors and glassy cabin, the Navigator also gives the driver an expansive view in almost every direction. It doesn't offer features such as adaptive cruise control or lane-keep assist.
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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln trims out every Navigator with a lush list of standard features.
With base price at more than $65,000, and long-body versions topping $77,000 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.
We give it an 8 out of 10 for its great standard and optional features list and for the Sync 3 infotainment system. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Every Navigator comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; a powerful audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity; cruise control; a rearview camera; leather; heated first- and second-row seats; ventilated front seats; blind-spot monitors; power-deploying running boards; and a power-folding third-row seat.
On the options list are extravagances like a power moonroof; adjustable pedals; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and remote start. Choose a "Reserve" package and the Navigator adopts 22-inch wheels; an adaptive-damping suspension; a leather-wrapped dash; and a wood-trimmed interior.
The big news for the Navigator in its latest generation is the arrival of the Sync3 infotainment system. A vastly superior interface to the previous MyLincoln Touch setup, Sync3 has clearer screens, better resolution, easier command structures, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you want to bypass all that.
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.
2017 Lincoln Navigator
The Navigator's gas mileage hovers in the mid-teens.
Big tow rigs like the Lincoln Navigator can't overcome physics. It takes a lot of gas to generate the power they need to pull heavy things.
It's irrefutable science and it means the Navigator's fuel economy rates a 5 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Prior to the 2015 model year, the Navigator tapped a big V-8 for its brute force. Now it relies on a twin-turbo V-6 that's not much better by the EPA's standards.
The agency rates the standard Navigator at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined when it's fitted with rear-wheel drive. With 4-wheel drive, the highway number drops to 20 mpg.
Long-body Navigator L SUVs are rated at 15/20/17 mpg with rear-wheel drive, and 15/19/16 when outfitted with 4WD.
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.