It is not very often that someone looks forward to spending an entire day with a car dealer, let alone almost a hundred of them, but I was anxiously awaiting being the guest of Pete Watson, owner of Old Forge Ford Lincoln Mercury in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, to witness several of many firsts from Lincoln. We were among many guests invited to the launch of the Navigator, Lincoln's first attempt at competing in the sports utility vehicle class.
We were introduced to Navigator just two weeks before its official introduction day and were given the chance to see the genuine pride and excitement Lincoln has for this new automobile. Navigator is the result of only 23 months from initial team concept to the completion of the first truck off the assembly line. Ford has taken steps like this to help increase quality while minimizing costs, which they call the Ford Product Development System. What this team has done in such a short time has created a terrific vehicle that I feel will, as General Sales Manager Steve Lyons said, "Change the image of the name Lincoln."
After being wined, dined, and overall schmoozed by the big-wigs at Ford, they gave the media a chance to take the Navigator home for the weekend. This was the first time Lincoln has ever had a mass media driveaway from an event, and it shows the confidence they have in this vehicle. I was more fortunate than most because Pete had arranged for us to be driven down in the Ford Expedition, Navigator's concept twin introduced this year, so I could really compare the two trucks.
I was impressed that Navigator is completely different from the Expedition. Sticking with the luxury car theme, Lincoln has added a complete leather interior, a leather and wood steering wheel that is very similar to that used on the jaguar XK8, sleeker lines to the body, and their signature bright metal grille. They have also added wraparound reflector headlamps, integrated illuminated running boards, complex reflector fog lamps, and a trailer towing package that has been built into the car. It is difficult to make a 205-inch long, 80-inch wide vehicle look like a luxury car, but with Navigator's exterior designing you soon overlook its vastness and begin to appreciate that it is indeed luxury.
When I sat behind the wheel for the first time I forgot I was driving a monstrous truck. The plush leather seats are quite comfortable, and both the driver and passenger have automatic controls. All of the controls are easy to understand and everything is well within reach of the driver. I particularly liked the steering wheel compared to the Expedition, because it looked nicer and was much more comfortable to handle.
Visibility is quite good, especially with the help of the enormous side mirrors. I had no difficulty maneuvering the Navigator through the narrow side streets of Philadelphia, but I did find it to be a pain to park, not being used to its length. I also felt quite safe driving, because of the second generation air bags, the adjustable seat belt, and the reinforced side impact door beams. The power locks helped too, being a country girl in downtown Philly!
Keeping in line with their goal to maintain Lincoln luxury in a sports utility vehicle, the designers of Navigator have definitely worked overtime. They get outstanding marks from me in practicality and accessibility. I rarely had to look away from the road to work the windows, the climate controls, or the radio. I like the position of the controls on the steering wheel and found myself using them frequently. Since the weekend I drove this car was one of the hottest we have had so far, I was really pleased (and so were my passengers!) that the designers have reduced the cabin's cool-down time to a mere twenty-eight minutes. That is terrific for such a large interior.
The Navigator has plenty of leg room for its second and third row passengers. The third row bench seat is light and easy to remove for added cargo space. The second row seats mirror the shape and comfort of the driver's and are equally equipped with a spacious and practical center console, the first of its kind in a sports utility vehicle. This console, with its separate radio controls and storage area, would be great for those long rides with kids in the car. Some of the people I spoke with did not like this console because it is not removable to provide a larger cargo area. This may be something for Lincoln to consider in the future, along with removable seats, but they should definitely keep the console's design similar to this one. The Navigator also comes with a second row 60/40 bench seat if the console controversy is too much for you to handle.
Anyone who looks forward to driving a sports car at high speeds on curvy roads would not appreciate the handling of a truck like the Navigator. While it is no Porsche, it holds its own when it comes to cornering. I mean, how do you expect over 5000 pounds of automobile to move?! Even though it is enormous, the Navigator handled as well as any standard luxury car I have driven from Lincoln. It had reasonable acceleration and maintained the faster speeds quite well. I was impressed with how quiet this vehicle is compared to most sport utility vehicles, but again, this is something Lincoln has worked hard to accomplish. I was also happy that 30 gallons of fuel lasted longer than I thought they would, averaging about 15 mpg.
Navigator is one of the expensive sport utility vehicles on the market, starting at $39,950. In order for me to even consider an automobile in this price range, it has to really impress me. I would definitely be willing to purchase this vehicle. It is thrilling to see that a quality Lincoln luxury car can now be taken safely onto the muddy backroads of America without destroying the comfort of its driver.