Full-size SUVs, like this week’s Lincoln Navigator — the largest sport utility vehicle from Ford’s premium car division — still offer traditional American-style luxury. Unlike crossovers, the Navigator truly offers spacious comfort for six to seven adults in three rows of quiet luxury, plus, it can tow up to 8,700 pounds of horse trailer, camper, boat or race cars. None of today’s crossovers come close to either dynamic.
While Ford sells five Expeditions to every Navigator, this duo has seen marked improvements in overall sales since moving to a fully independent rear suspension for the current generation, as well as swapping out V-8 engines for turbocharged V-6 power. Granted, GM’s SUV lineup has just moved to a fully independent chassis arrangement, too, but the Cadillac, GMC and Chevy SUVs still use conventional gas V-8 engines, while adding a turbocharged diesel to their presentation in an effort to improve fuel economy.
The big Navigator, and at over 3 tons there is no masking its girth or dimensions, utilizes the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 from the Raptor pickup to create 450 urgent horsepower that fosters lively acceleration. A 10-speed automatic, plus optional AWD, work smoothly while capably handling the impressive 510 pound/feet of peak torque — the power that achieves that 8,700-pound tow rating. Impressively, our mid-level Reserve edition ($83,260 start, $92,020 sticker) returned over 22 mpg during its visit. For those of you keeping score at home, that approximates the realized fuel economy of our recently sampled smaller, lighter and less powerful Acura MDX.
This also betters the EPA fuel economy rating of 16/21/18 mpg, so perhaps we had a well-broken in ringer, or, a truck that reflected relaxed operation.
Everyone who samples the Navigator’s interior comes away swayed by the spaciousness, the comfort, the features and the serenity. Power running boards improve ingress/egress for all, and then you slide into large, supportive seats. Lincoln’s statement on front buckets is now well known: 30-way, massaging thrones with memory, heating and cooling, as well as separate left and right thigh adjustments. The side bolsters move in and out, plus you can select levels of intensity for the massage, what areas of your lumbar and back to massage, as well as your buttocks. Leather-clad heaven in a Lincoln.
Cargo space is rather small if all three rows are occupied, but if you travel with a full load of people, you can consider the Navigator L — a longer wheelbase model that more than doubles available cargo room.
Controls are a mix of the new digital age and conventional buttons, knobs and dials, all intuitive, all easily accessed. The shifter is a bank of piano keys on the dash — which saves space but requires a predetermined gaze before touching, yet the console is a pleasant mix of covered bins, slots and compartments complemented by a bank of plug-in ports. The touchscreen, 10 inches now but certainly larger with the planned mid-life upgrades coming this fall, is clear and also easy to manage. Textures, surfaces and fit and finish all suggest premium quality.
A bonus is the excellent HID, heads-up display, which flows across the base of the windshield below the driver’s direct line of sight. You get time, outside temp, your speed, the speed limit, your current fuel economy, your mileage range and more — all without diverting your eyes from your primary object, driving. If your dynamic cruise control is active, an icon will light up if forward traffic impedes your lane’s progress, giving you time to move left to pass without sacrificing your pace, or, negatively affecting fuel economy.
Built in Kentucky, the Navigator Reserve is well stocked. Panoramic roof, an outstanding 20-speaker Revel Audio system, heated second row captain’s chairs, power-folding third row seats, automated self-parking program, remote start, dual rear-screen entertainment, rear seating climate controls and power running boards are part of the features. New this year is monochromatic trim, which omits chrome outside, replacing it with dark paint — even on the wheels. You can also get the front grille emblem illuminated.
About those optional 22-inch wheels: unless your daily drive covers mostly tabletop-smooth surfaces, which are very uncommon in rural Maine, you may consider sticking with the standard 20-inch rims. The 22s look great, but the ride dynamics are not enhanced by this fashion statement.
Big power in a big wagon with big space inside still has more than niche appeal. The Navigator’s graceful manners, distinctive appearance and abundant features will help it retain its particular popularity for customers who cherish American luxury touring.
Next week: Kia Carnival SX Prestige