On the Road Review: Lincoln Navigator Black Label

Every now and then a vehicle shows up that simply blows away preconceived notions or earlier perceptions of either the brand or that particular model. The latest Navigator does both.

Now assembled with numerous aluminum body parts like Ford’s latest pickups, saving 200 pounds of weight despite countless new components, this three-ton, three-row sport utility vehicle surges to the top of the segment with a modern fully independent adaptive suspension that delivers control, composure and comfort no matter what surface you are traveling over. The Navigator’s steering responses and tremendous path accuracy — never requiring any steering wheel fiddling or corrections while pounding rural roads or tire-rutted interstate pavement in 1,200 miles of winter driving — are simply borderline athletic. Never mind 210 inches long (222 inches long in the ‘L’ version), the latest Navigator is a superior driving machine to any rival.

Surprised? How about 450 horsepower and a drive shaft twisting 510 pound/feet of torque from the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 (yes, V-6) engine — the same engine that powers the extroverted Ford Raptor. Funneling this much power through a 10-speed automatic jointly developed with GM, the Navigator delivers ultra-smooth low-end and mid-range acceleration with little throttle engagement, holding in reserve a mind-altering top-end punch for highway merging and passing that will make you think Mustang GT. Polished, quiet and remarkably stout whenever summoned, the Navigator’s power delivery will never leave you thinking you need a V-8. Fuel economy, enduring several days of wintry conditions, including a 6.5-hour slog home from northern Vermont in a snowstorm, was in the middle of the EPA estimates of 16/21 mpg.

Wearing a refreshed frontal image that points to a new design emphasis from Lincoln overall, this fourth-generation Navigator makes a grand statement. The diamond-pattern grille (with aerodynamic shutters behind) plus numerous LED lighting features including welcoming lamps all around (with the Lincoln logo shining around the doors), as well as an illuminated Lincoln badge in the grille plus a red-bar that runs all the way across the back, the Navigator greets you every time you approach and signals presence to all others. Painted a luscious Chroma Chrystal Blue ($1,750 extra) that helped this full-size truck actually look smaller than it is, the Navigator drew admiring glances despite wearing winter’s salty highlights.

Yet, the new Navigator is far more than just show and go. Dressed up in top Black Label trim, with a cool list price of $100,315 — $27,000 more than base 4X2 trim — our sample Navigator was brimming with features that turn normal travel into a relaxing experience.

Power-folding running boards assist your entrance. Thirty-way power adjusting seats covered in Venetian leather coddle you with individual thigh supports, heating and cooling, plus selectable massage action for your buttocks as well as a rolling lumbar massage. Always lock your new Navigator. Crooks will be looking to steal the seats — they are that good.

Real wood plus stainless steel and aluminum trim, Dinamica suede liberally spread throughout, and the plush seating around multi-function consoles front and rear will leave you with thoughts of driving your living room rather than this spacious, comfortable truck. Real human space (class leading) is found in both second- and third-row passenger areas, while amenities include a 20-speaker Audio Revel stereo, active noise control, six USB ports along with Wi-Fi access and a 110V inverter. A dual-panel panoramic roof replaces the usual metal panel, while power folding rear seats and power liftgate are included.

At the helm of our “yacht club-trimmed” Navigator, the driver has access to a 12-inch digital dash that is configurable to what information you want, or what drive mode you select. Running with auto 4X4 mode, a simple digital speedometer is supplemented by various data, but click over to “deep conditions” and a tachometer and conventional speedometer appears. Included here is the largest HUD, (heads-up display) unit we’ve ever seen with great information support at the base of the windshield — convenient to your line of sight.

There is a 10-inch center display screen configurable for entertainment, climate, or navigation, employing intuitive controls, while shifting is managed by a horizontal bank of buttons in the center of the dash just below the push-button ignition. Looking and feeling quite modern, the Lincoln’s layout is also user-friendly. The climate system was also the best digital/automatic system ever experienced — bar none.

With salient points like powerfully swift, politely hushed, living room comfortable, excellent chassis and road manners, supportive aids and electronics, as well as a confident stance, it is easy to see why the new Navigator is the North American Truck of the Year.

Four years ago, I was among the critics picking out headstones for Lincoln. Ford’s luxury brand was irrelevant, with sales shrinking swiftly. Today, this Navigator proves that there is life at Lincoln and it is very, very good.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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