The Beauty of the Beast: New Navigator Posts Impressive Numbers
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator — the last remaining Lincoln with an actual name — is an elegant brute. Its gruff, straight-edge exterior looks as if the designers used a meat cleaver to cut through the clay. It’s massive. The roof is 78 inches high, the same height as Michael Jordan.
Yes, Lincoln did refresh the Navigator’s looks by changing out the grille and adding high-intensity discharge headlamps and LED accent lights. The SUV’s backside was gussied up, as well, and there’s a new power liftgate. But this Lincoln doesn’t look too different than previous iterations. It’s huge, it’s boxy, and that’s just the way it looks. The wheelbase on the extended model stretches 131 inches, and the body is bigger than some Tuff Sheds.
Naturally, the interior comes with wide-open spaces. There are optional captain’s chairs in the second row, and there’s 18.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row on the regular Navigator. (The Navigator L has 42.6 cubic feet behind its third row. Fold down the second row, and the Navigator L has 128 cubic feet of storage. That’s more space than the interior of a Fiat 500, which is 123 cubic feet.)
This made the Navigator L a perfect partner in crime for me to rescue more than 100 paintings down in Florida, as well as spend some serious quality time in the Navigator, driving from Detroit to New Orleans to Ocala, Florida, and back to Detroit.
Meanwhile, at Motor Trend‘s mother ship in Los Angeles, editors were putting another Navigator through its paces, offering us evidence of something I was about to learn. The 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 turns this big SUV into something completely different. It’s an absolute beast of a machine despite weighing three tons. On the highway, it flies. Around town on tight streets, it’s a bully, shoving that split wing grille in every car’s rearview mirror until they finally move out of the way like a dog rolling onto its back and admitting it has met its match.
The first EcoBoost engine to carry that marketing moniker now produces 380 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. That low-end torque (all 460 lb-ft are available at 2,750 rpm) leaves you pressed into your seat when you find a straight on-ramp and gun it. It’s responsive and downright fun. Quite often I found myself saying “EcoBooooosssttt” when I mashed the accelerator.
So did, apparently, our testers. The test vehicle, which weighed 6,146 pounds, still managed a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds (test data and as-tested pricing below reflects the SUV we tested). That Navigator hit 80 mph from a standstill in 11.6 seconds. It seemed to slow from there and managed a quarter mile in 15.1 seconds with a top speed of 90.1 mph. Still, considering the size of this machine and the aero of a pole barn, it’s impressive. Its braking was equally impressive, stopping from 60 mph in 125 feet.
One weakness is the Navigator’s height, which might explain the 28.1 seconds it averaged on Motor Trend‘s figure-eight test. Additionally, lateral acceleration ended early at 0.77 g. It weebles and wobbles, but it won’t fall down — in part thanks to Ford‘s electronic stability control and roll stability control. But if you hit a corner at speed, the body leans heavily.
More important, the Navigator is very easy and comfortable to drive. The body does sway some, but it never felt out of control, even when taking an exit a little faster than you initially planned. Along the highway, the Navigator was extremely quiet. Stomp the accelerator, and there’s that wonderful engine whine, but other than that, the ride was compliant and smooth. Those big 20-inch wheels did nothing to impair the ride. Lincoln Drive Control provides continual dampening that also smooths out the road. Drivers can select one of three modes: Normal, Sport, and Comfort. Many enthusiasts will prefer the stiffer Sport mode, but I always selected Comfort. It’s a Navigator — relax and enjoy the ride.
Lincoln has also dialed in great steering feel with its electronic variable assist rack-and-pinion steering. It tightens up on the highway and needs less effort on city streets, providing the best of both worlds for such a big vehicle.
The interior isn’t quite the definition of high-end luxury to me, but it is nice. Leather covers everything, and the dash stitching is attractive. The second row captain’s chairs mean that adults can easily fit back there and ride in style. The one addition for the 2015 model year that I do really like is the Ziricote wood trim, which looks like high-end furniture.
There is also a slew of technology throughout the cabin. Things such as MyLincoln Touch provide a good user interface and a crisp 8-inch center stack screen. Blind-spot detection is absolutely critical if driving this SUV, which has two very big blind spots.
But the interior doesn’t quite feel done. It’s certainly on its way, but there were some fit and finish issues along the center stack with uneven gaps and some hard plastics. Minor stuff, but it’s the little details that truly define luxury.
That said, Lincoln is moving in the right direction. The way the running boards automatically open up with an electric whirl and provide a step to climb into the Navigator is a great detail. So are the puddle lights that shine out from the Lincoln logo. Those are little rewards for the owner, who will be pleasantly surprised by them again and again.
When we arrived in Florida and began loading up those paintings (the remaining work of my wife’s great-uncle), we walked to the back of the Navigator and only had to push a button to watch the third row fold flat. We loaded up almost exactly 128 cubic feet of paintings in the cavernous space.
On the way back to Michigan, a 1,200-mile, nonstop drive, the Navigator kept chugging along, averaging 19 mpg along the way. That was another impressive number for such a big vehicle and spot on the EPA highway mileage number for a 4×4 Navigator L. The 33-gallon tank on the Navigator L means that your bladder will give up before the vehicle runs out of gas.
Although the group of people who think they need a big SUV like the Navigator is certainly larger than the group of people who actually do need to frequently cart around seven or eight people, I can understand why this machine has such appeal. The miles fall behind you without a second thought. And when you finally arrive, even on a long journey, you feel refreshed and ready for whatever else the day will bring you.
As Lincoln continues to polish its badge with strong offerings such as the MKC, a tiny crossover compared to this behemoth, the Navigator will continue to roll. It may have the makings of a luxury SUV, but don’t let its looks fool you. It now has the heart of a beast.
|2015 Lincoln Navigator EcoBoost|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$73,895|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/380-hp/460-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6146 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||207.4 x 78.8 x 78.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.1 sec @ 90.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/22/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.06 lb/mile|