Lincoln Navigator is a three-row luxury SUV with the towing potential of a full-size pickup and the cargo volume of a van, with comfortable room for up to eight adults, and the features and conveniences of a luxury sedan.
The 2015 Navigator features a more powerful, more fuel-efficient engine. The new Ecoboost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine is smaller than the V8 it replaced, but it delivers more power and better fuel economy, rated at 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, while attaining an EPA-estimated 16/22 mpg City/Highway on Premium gasoline. It pairs well to a 6-speed automatic transmission and comes with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or electronically engaged four-wheel drive (4WD). The four-wheel drive can be used on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing. Unless you live in the Sun Belt we recommend the four-wheel drive.
Also new for the 2015 Navigator is Lincoln Drive Control, continuously controlled dampers, 22-inch wheels, and blind-spot warning with rear cross-path detection. The dashboard is updated for 2015, including a new instrument panel that flanks the speedometer with a pair of four-inch screens, as has MyLincoln Touch.
While a Navigator can mimic a pickup in work capacity, it is smooth and quiet on the road, with a compliant, fully independent rear suspension that smoothes over the roughest of pavement. It uses a ladder-type truck frame adapted from Ford’s F-150 and separate body, giving it towing capability and off-pavement durability. For this reason, the Navigator is not as responsive as the Lincoln MKX crossover utility.
Lincoln Navigator is available in two lengths, standard and a long-wheelbase version dubbed Navigator L. Both can seat seven or eight passengers, depending on the configuration ordered, with essentially identical passenger accommodations. Navigator L is 15 inches longer overall, adding a substantial amount of cargo space, and it is 12 inches longer in wheelbase, aiding towing stability.
Of course the Navigator also offers all the infotainment electronics you’d expect in this price class. Voice-controlled navigation, HD radio, and Sirius Travel Link are just a few of the Navigator’s standard features; a dual-screen DVD system is available. Lincoln’s corporate SYNC system includes voice activation with standard operator assist and SOS post-crash alert, while SYNC AppLink software provides hands-free voice control of select smartphone apps. Navigator does not offer a head-up display or automatic cruise control/forward collision warning system many alternatives do.
The Lincoln Navigator is a truck. But unlike most truck-based vehicles, the Navigator features a fully independent rear suspension, which contributes to a smoother ride and better handling than the solid rear axle design shared by some competitors and all full-size pickup trucks.
Lincoln’s familiar wings adorn the grille and align with lighting elements, though the five big cross bars aren’t as sleekly sophisticated as the more numerous, slender designs on Lincoln’s cars. Maybe it’s a utility thing, like the new MKC, and two bars better than Ford’s Expedition. It is ready to brand anything it runs into with the Lincoln logo centered on the bow, and to our eyes the front looks more cohesive in dark colors where lower ducting doesn’t break up the lines so much.
The Navigator L is nearly 15 inches longer than the standard model, extending its full length to almost 19 feet. The extra length yields only two significant changes to cabin space: Considerably more third-row shoulder room, and an additional 24 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat (an extra 32 behind the second row). For comparison Lincoln’s MKC crossover has 25 cubic feet total behind the seats and Audi’s big A7 hatchback 24.5 cubic feet. The additional overall length makes this big sport-utility a little more challenging to park, however, requiring an extra four feet of space for a U-turn.
Navigator’s profile view is classic SUV, long and horizontal with a near-vertical hatch, almost like a big passenger van towards the rear. The window line is level front to rear yielding side windows as tall as they are long and expansive glass area, and all the side windows open one way or another. Navigator isn’t especially sleek and we think the side cladding unnecessary, nor do we find it offensively dull.
New full-width tail lights appear a wider, flatter version of Dodge’s Durango, and all the horizontal lines amplify the Navigator’s already broad beam. The rear bumper blends in clean, while the solo chrome tailpipe optional on most competitors looks a bit lonely and the first thing you’ll back into.
Twenty-inch wheels are standard, 22-inch 22-spoke wheels available in conjunction with Lincoln Drive Control. We tend to prefer smaller-diameter wheels for trucks that see use off-highway or on poor infrastructure, and might go so far as to swap an Expedition owner for their 17s or 18s. That said, the suspension package that goes with the 22s helps minimize the detriment to ride quality from low-profile tires.
Two exterior features have definite benefits. The outside mirrors are large, with . integrated spotter mirrors to help cover the usual blind spots. They also feature repeating turn signals along the bottom edge and approach lamps underneath. The lamps light when the doors are unlocked with the remote key fob, and cast a Lincoln logo and some ambient light on the area beneath the doors. More than that, the big mirrors retract against the windows with the touch of a button. That’s handy when parking in tight confines.
The Navigator comes standard with retractable running boards. When the doors open, the running boards drop and extend, creating a step that makes climbing in and out easier. They are artfully integrated into the overall exterior design, and are almost impossible to detect when the doors are closed. Look before you step if you leave it outside in icy conditions.
Navigator excels at the basics of full-size luxury vehicles. Assuming lots of passenger room and cargo space top your priorities, no production SUV offers more. For that you need a van.
Leather comes standard, the wood trim is real and the finishes are for the most part appropriate; the steering wheel feels the part but a few pieces like vents and upper speaker covers seem more work-ute than luxury-ute. Front seats are large and well padded, fairly adjustable and heated and ventilated: Building an armchair suitable for driving is nothing new to Lincoln. Power-adjustable pedals, power tilt and telescope column and broad adjustment range ensure virtually everyone can get comfortable. Unlike some brands the auto-exit seat runs at the standard adjustment speed.
Vaguely echoing Lincoln’s wings grille the center console rises to clearly segment the instrument panel. New for 2015 the analog speedometer is dead ahead, flanked by 4-inch screens. The right display echoes the navigation, phone and entertainment of the large central screen, while the left covers vehicle settings, fuel use and range, and the adjustable suspension when fitted. All are run through the revised steering wheel and will be familiar to recent Lincoln or Ford owners, though changing suspension to soft for a section of bad road requires more scroll/click than we like.
The revised center panels includes a large rearview camera image. Various personal electronics inputs are offered, more with the optional DVD entertainment, but can’t match the quantity on some competitors..
MyLincoln Touch with SYNC controls all infotainment and hands-free communication, and uses real knobs and rockers for things like volume, temperature, seek tuning, fan and so forth, rather than finicky touch-sensitive sliders. The 14-speaker sound system is certified for THXII 5.1 surround sound and SiriusXM radio carries a six-month subscription but SiriusXM Traffic and TravelLink include a six-year subscription, years longer than competitors. A 110-volt outlet for charging tablets is standard, while Invision’s headrest mounted dual-screen DVD rear entertainment is optional and includes screens that tilt down for easier kids’ viewing, dual wireless headphones, USB and RCA inputs and run can run independent movies or games.
Cabin storage is reasonably good with deep cupholders for all riders and a big center console bin. The door pockets are on the narrow side of the spectrum.
Default second-row seating is two heated captain’s chairs with climate control and overhead and floor vents; a center console is available. Individual, adjustable seats offer advantages even if they are flat and firm relative many competitors. However, for maximum capacity a 40/20/40 split bench seat is a no-cost choice and has a fold-down center section that slides forward to the front seats for baby-seat proximity and folds for flat cargo floor. All outboard rear seats have full-size headrests that drop down for better no-passenger rear visibility.
Large door openings, especially on the L, ease access to the third row and you’ll appreciate it since the third row seat accommodates adults. Styled and contoured much like the second row but split 60/40, the third row’s outboard headrests fold-flat for better rear vision. Every seat in Navigator is a step up but power-deploy running boards are standard; just be sure to step carefully in icy conditions and clean them at the car wash.
The various interior dimensions of Navigator and targets Escalade/Denali, and their respective L and ESV/XL long-wheelbase versions, have nominal differences (typically within an inch) with notable exceptions. In the third row the Navigator has 13 inches more legroom than Escalade, and the L three inches more legroom and about four inches of extra shoulder room.
Navigator’s third-row seats power down and up at the touch of a button; second –row seats fold easily by lever. The open cargo floor is flat, horizontal, level with the hatch aperture to slide awkward items in easier and a bumper cover minimizes scratching. Navigator’s cargo volume behind the various seating rows is about 10-20% larger than the competitive Escalade or Denali, and nothing has more space than the Navigator L. Infiniti’s QX80 compares favorably to the Navigator. A full-size spare is carried beneath the rear.
Cargo capacity is the Navigator’s forte, in most configurations class-leading: 18.1/54.4/103.3 cubic feet behind the third, second and first rows of seats respectively. The larger L boasts 42.6/86.3/128.2 cubic feet, a rough average of 10-percent greater cargo volume than Escalade/Denali. Navigator’s cargo area is accessed by power hatch or separate glass opening, with a flat, horizontal floor from the hatch aperture forward.
Navigator L includes a double-deck cargo management system for stack and side-by-side loading so smaller items don’t slide about the big cargo hold. We didn’t have the product to verify the L’s ability to carry 4×8 sheets of building materials.
The Lincoln Navigator rides like a big, heavy vehicle, but not like a pickup. It need not be loaded to deliver a smooth ride, and in a similar vein, loading it does not degrade the dynamics. By classic SUV definition it is all utility, not sporty.
A twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, adapted from the F-150, is the only engine. On premium fuel it rates 380 horsepower at 5250 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at just 2750 rpm, and on regular fuel 15-16 EPA city and 19-22 EPA highway miles per gallon depending on wheelbase and driven wheels. Many vehicles rate power on higher-octane fuel and mileage on lower octane, and a Navigator may be driven on regular unleaded. Escalade’s 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, at higher revs and deliver 14-15 city and 20/21 highway.
Don’t let number of cylinders concern you since the V6 is more relaxed than the old V8, has a better exhaust note, and forced-induction V6 power is used by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Range Rover SUVs.
The 6-speed automatic sorts out gears and situations well, using the engine’s deep torque curve to good effect and the power only when needed. It come in rear or all-wheel drive; the latter can be used on highway but does not include low-range gearing. Unlike the sister-vehicle Ford Expeiditon, Navigator axle ratios are chosen more for performance than fuel economy but it still lopes along at freeway speeds turning less than 2000 rpm. The engine makes little fuss, delivering effortless performance without racket despite three tons to haul around, but remember the EcoBoost tag is more an either/or proposition: If you’re on boost making big power you’re going to use gas.
Navigator is rated to tow from 8300-9000 pounds model-dependent, 200 to 700 more than Escalade. But take these numbers with a grain of salt since none are quoted to the industry accepted standard. Navigator weighs a bit more than the Cadillac but carries nearly 1600 pounds of cargo, people and tow ball weight on the most capable version. If you can keep your Navigator, trailer and any loads less than 15,000 pounds it should tow just fine.
Self-leveling rear suspension is standard and it’s independent so there is no heavy solid axle to control underneath. Rough roads and bumps don’t make the back tires want to skip or skate like a pickup, and headlights aren’t astray in trees with a big load on board.
Most Navigators come with or can be equipped with Lincoln Drive Control, adaptive shock damping that offers sport, normal and comfort ride modes. Sport leans to the firm side, best if you’re in a hurry on a meandering road with decent pavement. Comfort emphasizes softness, so much so that we’d recommend it only for sub-expressway speeds. Unless you know better and want to scroll through settings, leave it in Normal and Navigator takes care of what it does best. While Navigator always remained stable and predictable, this much mass this far off the ground isn’t ideal for making quick transitions or late decisions so use the high seating and visibility to your advantage.
For 2015 electric-assist steering is used. Effort is very light at maneuvering speeds and ramps up a bit in motion, aiming the Navigator directly and isolating bumps road surfaces irregularities. Brakes feel fine but we’d use the transmission for speed control on steep surfaces; it has more engine braking than we expected.
Noise is generally well controlled, with wind noise from the mirrors beginning to seep in at freeway speeds and it can’t compare to the Escalade’s hushed cabin. Road noise depends heavily on tires and the Navigator offers a few choices; the 22-inch Pirelli Scorpion Verdes an all the vehicles we drove didn’t stand out as noisy or quiet but no passengers will complain. Standard 20-inch tires are likely to be slightly better regarding noise and ride comfort, the ideal pairing 20s and the Lincoln Drive Control.
Relative its size Navigator is reasonably maneuverable. Slab sides, deep windows, park sensors at both ends and a rearview camera ease parking. The 43.9 feet a long-wheelbase Navigator L requires for a U-turn is typical for this size vehicle. The standard-length Navigator needs 39.0 feet to perform the same task, nearly five feet less.
Blind-spot and cross-path warnings gave no false alarms, though Navigator does not offer the active cruise control/forward collision alert and lane departure warning most competitors do.
The Lincoln Navigator is why you buy a large or extra-large luxury SUV: a roomy, comfortable cabin with plenty of features, excellent cargo capacity, pickup-like towing ability, substantial thrust and a good view. It’s not for everyone…those not towing could consider a loaded van, but when style, power and space trump fuel economy and sportiness, it’s a viable competitor.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale contributed to this report after his test drives in Appalachia. With Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles, Kirk Bell in Chicago and J.P. Vettraino in Detroit.