Sorry, Escalade—this is the new "standard of the world"
For decades, driving a Lincoln meant you had arrived. Lincolns were not only symbols of wealth and success but also genuinely luxurious—for the time—inside and out. Lincoln has been desperately trying to get that real luxury status back for the past few years, and it finally succeeded with the new 2018 Navigator.
The Lincoln Navigator has always been nice for a full-size body-on-frame SUV, but previous models were clearly derivatives of a Ford product. The same can’t be said about the all-new 2018 model. Yes, it owes its existence to the Ford Expedition it’s based on, but Lincoln’s reliance on the Ford parts bin isn’t nearly as obvious this time around, especially once you step inside.
Our tester was a top-of-the-line 2018 Navigator 4×4 Black Label, meaning you’re looking at nearly six figures even before you start checking option boxes. Once you throw in the $1,995 USD rear-seat entertainment package, $1,750 USD Chroma Molten Gold exterior paint, $1,250 USD Perfect Position seats with Active Motion massage function, and $420 USD tiered cargo management system, this build rang up to an eye-popping $100,315 USD. Does it feel like a vehicle that’s worth a hundred grand? Yes. Absolutely.
We already said it in our First Drive review, but I’ll say it again: Lincoln nailed the interior on this SUV. At no point do you feel like you’re in a warmed-over Expedition. The materials and design all communicate that you’re getting into a genuine luxury car. The free-standing 10.0-inch center touchscreen runs a version of Ford’s Sync 3, but the sharp graphics and responsive touch controls make the unit feel like something much higher-rent. The 12.0-inch digital gauge display also feels appropriate for a six-figure car. When driving, the cluster is predominantly black with minimal graphics to form the speedometer and tachometer. It’s understated, elegant, and effective at the same time. But hit the drive-mode selector knob, and the screen comes alive with vibrant color and motion, as each of the 2018 Navigator’s seven modes has its own colorful animation sequence.
The wow factor continues when you stare straight ahead and notice the Black Label’s standard head-up display, which is unusually wide. The projection is large without being distracting, and it’s plenty bright enough to see clearly during the day. And unlike many other cars that make you fumble around the dash looking for the height adjustment or dimmer switch, the HUD controls are located conveniently on the steering wheel.
Then there are the optional 30-way adjustable Perfect Position front seats, which we first saw in the Continental sedan. The unique buckets build on the cabin’s space theme with futuristic-looking cushions that form around your body as you play with the many controls located on the door. It’ll take a while to find your ideal setting, but once you do the front seat is a comfortable place to be. I found the Active Motion massage as soothing as any massage feature I’ve experienced in a Mercedes.
The second-row captain’s chairs are comfortable, too, offering plenty of legroom as well as storage in the center console and USB power below the rear HVAC controls and built into the optional rear entertainment screens. The captain’s chairs are the only seats in the house that adjust manually, and that makes them feel a bit out of place in a vehicle that costs more than $100,000 USD. Get over that fact, and you’ll enjoy a first-class-like experience with a plush armrest and controls for the 20-speaker Revel Ultima stereo system, which sounds amazing. If you spring for the dual rear screens, you also have in-flight entertainment, as you can stream content from your mobile device wirelessly through Miracast. But as nice as those 10.0-inch displays are, the capacitive buttons at the bottom make the menus awkward to navigate. They really feel like they should have been touchscreens.
Like the Expedition, the Navigator has a third row fit for adults. You sit mostly flat with your hips bent at almost 90 degrees, making the rearmost bench comfortable enough for road trips. You also have ample legroom and the ability to recline the seat backs, though your head will eventually touch the rear glass. Also like the Expedition, all of the Navigator’s rear seats can be laid flat using switches in the cargo area. Just be careful when you drop the second-row seats if you have the rear entertainment package, as the headrests smack the screens pretty hard.
Although most of the pampering happens inside the Navigator, the experience starts outside with power running boards, which lower automatically, and LED accents in the headlights and grille emblem, which slowly illuminate as you approach with the key in your pocket. One of the most interesting things about the illuminated star badge is that it appears chrome when not lit up. The rest of the exterior looks distinctive enough from the Expedition, but it doesn’t quite prepare you for what’s going on inside.
The Navigator rides well for a body-on-frame SUV, and it’s subtly more comfortable than its Ford counterpart thanks to a set of electronic adaptive shocks. The available 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires do transmit more impacts to the cabin than you’d want in a luxury car, but we have to admit they’re kind of necessary to achieve that ultra-baller look. Rolling on 20s just won’t do anymore. Other than the occasional tire noise from imperfections in the road, the Navigator’s cabin is exceptionally quiet. You feel isolated from the outside world, just as you should in a luxury flagship.
We put the luxury SUV through our usual battery of tests and came away impressed with its acceleration. The 2018 Navigator gets the high-output version of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 also found in the F-150 Raptor, meaning it has 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque on tap. That extra 75 hp and 40 lb-ft over the 2018 Expedition helped the Navigator reach 60 mph in a quicker 5.9 seconds—0.3 second sooner than the Ford despite the Lincoln weighing nearly 400 pounds (181 kg) more. That 0.3-second gap was maintained in the quarter mile, with the Navigator needing 14.5 seconds to cover that distance at a faster trap speed of 94.9 mph (152.7 km/h). The Cadillac Escalade, with its 420-hp, 460-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8, is about as quick as the Navigator at 5.9 seconds to 60 mph and 14.4 seconds in the quarter, though our last tester had a nearly 300-pound (136-kg) weight advantage. The rest of the Navigator’s body-on-frame competitors fall short in the acceleration department. A pre-refresh 2015 Infiniti QX80 needed 6.3 seconds to hit 60, and a 2015 Lexus LX 570 needed a full 7.0 seconds. Compared to the previous Navigator, which got a first-generation EcoBoost powerplant, the new 2018 model is 0.3 second quicker to 60 and 0.4 second quicker in the quarter mile.
From behind the wheel, the Navigator feels as quick as the test results suggest. The rush of power doesn’t start immediately after pressing the pedal like in a V-8, but you’re not waiting long at all. At cruising speed, you can just apply a little throttle to wake up the 10-speed automatic and have it kick down to an appropriate gear for passing. When you really get on the throttle, the twin-turbo V-6 has a nice, burly tone, but those trading in their Escalade or Infiniti might miss that V-8 growl.
If you have a lead foot, know that you’ll need a sizeable distance to stop. The Navigator braked from 60 to 0 mph in 132 feet, just 1 foot shorter than the Escalade. A QX80 weighing 6,013 pounds (2,727 kg) needed only 123 feet, and an LX 570 weighing nearly as much as the Lincoln was able to stop in 125 feet. Still, the test team reported no stability issues during the braking run, and they called the Navigator a solid stopper. And although you shouldn’t rely on active safety tech to save your bacon, the Black Label gets a standard forward collision warning system with auto braking as well as an adaptive cruise control setup that can slow to a complete stop and resume speed in traffic.
The Lincoln completed our figure-eight test in 27.8 seconds at an average of 0.64 g, quicker than a 2015 Infiniti QX80 (28.3 seconds) and a 2015 Lexus LX 570 (27.9 seconds). The Cadillac Escalade beat the Navigator around the course with a time of 27.4 seconds, however, as did unibody options like the Mercedes-Benz GLS 550 (27.5 seconds) and Range Rover HSE (27.7 seconds). Testing director Kim Reynolds noted that in this test, which most owners will never subject their Navigators to, you feel the weight and get some pretty big body motions.
But on the street, the Navigator handles better than you might expect a vehicle weighing more than three tons. Other SUVs of this size usually bring to mind nautical adjectives whenever you ask the front wheels to do something other than point straight, but the Navigator feels surprisingly responsive in turns. You shouldn’t take an on-ramp too quickly in something this big, but if the mood strikes you, you can do it with relative confidence in the Navigator. The turning circle is also reasonably good for a large SUV, making most U-turns doable in one shot. The steering is light with a slow ratio, but that helps when you’re parking and need to make small corrections.
Speaking of parking, those intimidated by the Navigator’s size might be less apprehensive after getting behind the wheel. Apart from one big blind spot when looking over your left shoulder (thanks to an extra-thick B-pillar), visibility is good. You get used to the high seating position and will feel vulnerable and exposed the minute you go back to driving anything smaller. Maneuvering in tight parking lots will always be challenging for the 17.5-foot-long, 6.5-foot-wide Navigator, but the Black Label’s standard 360-degree camera system takes some of the stress out of it. The backup camera is clear, and the composite bird’s-eye view of the SUV is pretty accurate. I like that you can activate the camera at any time via an easy-to-find button just below the screen. If you don’t feel comfortable parallel parking a giant SUV by yourself, the Black Label’s standard Active Park Assist feature can do most of the work for you. Just identify a suitable space, follow the instructions, and you’re in.
You can get a Navigator for less than $100,000 USD, but I think it’s best in loaded Black Label form. You really get the sense that this is the best Lincoln has to offer—and it’s awe-inspiring. The Navigator is closer to the level of the smaller Mercedes GLS and Range Rover in terms of quality, and the Lincoln is better in some areas. It’s also arguably a better value, as the Navigator tops out at just over $100,000 USD, while the three-rows from Benz and Land Rover can get well north of that.
For those of us too young to remember Lincoln’s heyday, the Navigator offers a taste of the glamor and class we’ve only heard about from our grandparents or seen in black and white movies. Expect this era in Lincoln’s history to be just as legendary to future generations.
|2018 Lincoln Navigator 4×4 Black Label|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$100,315|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/450-hp/510-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6,162 lb (49/51%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||210.0 x 78.8 x 76.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.5 sec @ 94.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||132 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.8 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/21/18 mpg*|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.08 lb/mile|
|* Horsepower and torque values derived from 93-octane fuel; EPA fuel economy from 87-octane fuel|