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2015 Lincoln Navigator Review - On The Bourbon Trail With Larry Nutson

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2015 Lincoln Navigator
Navigating the Bourbon Trail

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

Luxurious, stylish, refined, aesthetically pleasing, tasteful, smooth, quiet, these are words that appropriately describe the redesigned for 2015 Lincoln Navigator.

“The new Navigator is for the individual who wants to provide a business class experience for themselves and their families”, said Carey White, Navigator Marketing Manager at a recent media introduction.

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A contingent of automotive writers from across the U.S. was invited to experience the new Navigator at its production-home (and corporate headquarters for The Auto Channel,in Louisville Kentucky. We followed the bourbon trail on a drive route that took us to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, the oldest continuous operating distillery in America. Interestingly, Buffalo Trace operated during prohibition for “medicinal” purposes.

We saved the bourbon tasting for later in the evening, but we did get a taste of the refinement that Lincoln has put in to the Navigator. The exterior and the interior have been redesigned by the Lincoln Design Studio to be more aesthetically pleasing and now incorporate design elements seen on other Lincoln models.

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Up front Lincoln’s split-wing grille is prominently featured on the sleek front end that includes a newly designed hood. Navigator now wears jewel-like daytime running lights, as well as high-intensity discharge adaptive headlamps with LED accents. A new full width taillight runs across the new back end featuring a power liftgate. A total of 222 LEDs illuminate the exterior and give Navigator a distinct personality. The vehicle side has been cleaned up with the former wide chrome trim now eliminated.

Navigator comes standard with 20-inch…up from the former 18-inch, ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels while Reserve Package vehicles are equipped with 22-inch bright machined aluminum wheels. The Reserve Package offers power running boards in Tuxedo Black or bright stainless steel.

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Enhancements to the interior include luxurious high-end leather and additional customer-focused technologies such as SYNC with MyLincoln Touch. Knobs have returned for volume and tune functions. The instrument panel is hand-wrapped in leather with contrast stitching. The Reserve Package adds upgraded Travino leather and Ziricote wood accents. Until it was introduced on the 2015 Lincoln MKC small premium utility, Ziricote wood was usually reserved for use on yachts, musical instruments and fine cabinetry.

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Under the hood the noisy and thirsty V8 is no more. Now the new Lincoln Navigator is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. Our drive experience proved out that it delivers outstanding power on demand, and Lincoln says it delivers best-in-class fuel economy for the standard-wheelbase 4x2 model. The twin-turbocharged, direct-injected engine is rated at 380 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 460 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,750 rpm running on the recommended premium fuel.

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Our drive through the Kentucky countryside was in a luxuriously quiet environment. Compared with the outgoing model, the new Navigator achieves improved interior quietness and scores a higher articulation index rating – a measure of how easy it is to hear a conversation – courtesy of nearly two dozen vehicle upgrades. We found conversation easy and an absence of wind and tire noise.

Bumper to bumper, roof to floor, the 2015 Navigator was built by Lincoln with a comfortable passenger experience in mind. Acoustic laminated glass called SoundScreen, enhanced carpet, headliner and insulated door and floor panels now create a quieter interior.

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When properly equipped, the 2015 Navigator also delivers best-in-class towing of 9,000 pounds with maximum payload of 1,570 pounds.

Navigator’s six-speed automatic transmission includes Lincoln SelectShift, which allows the driver to manually control gears if desired.

Navigator is available in rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations. An available Control Trac four-wheel-drive system enhances traction on slippery surfaces, helps improve handling on dry roads and enables off-road capability. Most Navigator buyers opt for the standard-wheelbase 4x4 model.

The standard-wheelbase 4x2 Navigator gets an EPA test estimated rating of 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Lincoln says this is best in class. Standard-wheelbase 4x4 Navigator gets EPA test estimated 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, while the extended-wheelbase 4x2 model returns EPA test estimated 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined and the 4x4 configuration gets an EPA test estimated 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.

In our bourbon trail drive in a standard-wheelbase 4x4 we easily hit fuel economy in the 17 mpg range, in spite of us testing out the Navigator’s various capabilities.

Navigator handling has been significantly improved with the addition of standard electric power-assisted steering. The system allows for more consistent and precise control of the vehicle through a range of speeds, while simultaneously making it easier to maneuver at low speeds and to park. Steering effort, weighting and feedback proved very comfortable and gave a confident feel through the leather wrapped steering wheel.

The Lincoln Drive Control option offers continuously controlled damping, a technology applied to the suspension that monitors multiple vehicle sensors and road conditions every two milliseconds and adjusts suspension needs accordingly. Continuously controlled damping provides a smoother ride and allows the driver to customize the vehicle ride by selecting one of three control modes: normal, sport and comfort. We always expect improvement and Lincoln says the ride and handling is much better than before. We tend to agree.

“With the addition of EPAS and CCD to Navigator’s class-leading independent rear suspension, along with EcoBoost power and a strong brake system, the Navigator is surprisingly nimble for such a large vehicle,” said David Cantrell, assistant chief program engineer.

Navigators equipped with four-wheel drive offer Hill Descent Control, along with standard hill start assist. With hill start assist, a vehicle parked on a slope with a grade of five degrees or more remains stationary for up to two seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal, eliminating forward or backward roll before acceleration.

With Hill Descent Control, the driver sets a desired speed and the system applies brake pressure as needed to descend steep grades at a controlled speed. This feature is especially helpful when towing.

Also standard on Select package models is Nivomat, a load-leveling system that raises the rear end of a loaded Navigator to optimum ride height for improved handling. The mechanical leveling system helps reduce uneven wear on the tires and helps maintain better vehicle aerodynamics for improved fuel efficiency.

The 2015 Navigator continues to be available in two wheelbase lengths – standard (119.0 inches) and extended (131.0 inches) versions.

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Designed to seat up to eight, Navigator offers second-row options that include two captain’s chairs with or without a center console, or a fold-flat bench. Due in part to Navigator’s patented independent rear suspension, true fold-flat, PowerFold third-row seats enable standard-wheelbase and extended-wheelbase versions to deliver segment-leading cargo volume behind the third row.

Extended-length models provide 128.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 86.3 cubic feet behind the second row and 42.6 cubic feet behind the third row. Standard-wheelbase models have 103.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 54.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is on sale now with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price starting at $62,475 for the 4x2 standard-wheelbase including destination and delivery charges. The Navigator L 4x4 with Reserve Package tops out at $75,065.

Like a good bourbon, the Lincoln Navigator has improved with age. The Navigator is refined, smooth and tasteful for that no-bling business class experience.

Larry Nutson