Lincoln Navigator (1998) Debuts Sans Jackie Stewart
10 June 1997Ford Motor Co. V.P. and Lincoln-Mercury division Genral Manager Jim O'Connor led the press proceedings in Los Angeles to debut the luxurious 1998 Lincoln Navigator SUV. He was supposed to share the podium with former world driving champion and Ford spokesman Jackie Stewart, but F-1 team owner Stewart was a no-show due to an emercency FOCA/FIA meeting in London, the outcome of which will be team re-alignments and new rules.
O'Connor, who has been with Ford for 33 years, shaped his remarks to illustrate how attractive the big Navigator will be to the west coast market where, O'Connor said, the car owner's creed seems to be "I am what I drive."
The full sized Navigator--which, Jim hastened to point out, is NOT a re-worked Ford Expedition--will be in dealers' showrooms on August 14. The regions where the vehicle is expected to sell best are New York/New Jersey, closely followed by California.
The key words used to describe the personality of the vehicle (the designers' goals) are: ride, safety, high tech, and luxury. The Lincoln division does not expect to take away sales from other nameplates and they say Lincoln has the highest owner loyalty rating, 70%, of any car on the market.
To illustrate the phenomonal growth of the SUV market, sales of these vehicles in 1990 were 500,000 units; by 1996 they hit 2.3 million. California sales are up 52%, and it is expected that Navigator sales will come from import owners. Buyers will be affluent, with 30% owning four or more vehicles.
Lincoln says its ad theme will center around the line "most luxurious way to travel anywhere!"
The Navigator is attractive, much more so than a Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser, vehicles that haven't had a face lift in eons. The massive grill is very Lincoln-ish, closely resembling the other models in the line. It has running boards with lights, 17 inch wheels/tires, and comes with a 5.4 liter V-8, 230hp engine with an EPA of 13-17 mpg. Unlike the Expedition, it has air suspension that allows the car to maintain its ride height as it is loaded down with goodies for a trip. It comes as 2WD, 4WD/high, 4WD/lo, and automatic 4WD.
The interior is trimmed with real wood and a genuine Jaguar leather-wrapped stering wheel. The major innovation is the addition of a center console in the second row of seats. This can also be removed and the seating arrangement goes from two to three across. Also a first is the addition of a towing package with 8,000 pounds capacity as standard equipment. The radio is a dual control deal with steering wheel buttons, and the vehicle has all the usual luxury goodies, such as power door locks, seats, windows and memory mirrors. Driving the unit is a blast and the Lincoln folks had us cruise world famous Mulholland drive with its twisty/turny format in order to demonstrate the handling of the Navigator. It works. It is not entirely truck-like and, of course, has great forward visibility. The division is going to build just 25,000, and already has had 20,000 inquiries from its web site.
1998 Lincoln Navigator specifications Engine 5.4 liter SOHC V-8 Fuel injection 230 horsepower 325 foot torque pounds @3000 rpm Dimensions wheelbase 119.0 track 65.4 height 75.2 width 79.9 length 204.8 Seating capacity 8 Cargo area vol 116.4 cu ft load height 30.1 curb weight 5,150 lbs fuel tank 30 gals
Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel