The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Lincoln Navigator

Car Review: 2015 Lincoln Navigator Big Man Review By Steve Purdy

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Regular readers will know how much I like big vehicles, and this is one.

This big black Navigator spent an appropriate week in our fleet since we had a family funeral to attend and I was able to chauffeur a load of relatives in style and comfort. We looked like we belonged at the front of the procession right behind the hearse, and that’s where we were.

The Navigator, Lincoln’s large 8-passenger SUV, just experienced a makeover with modest exterior updates, a major revision inside and an updated powertrain. Navigator rides on a full-size pickup platform and comes in 4X2 or 4X4 configurations and either regular or this long-wheelbase version.

Perhaps the moniker “SUV” should be replaced with something more descriptive. We would be hard pressed to find anything “sporty” or “utilitarian” (though I guess we could call its towing ability and configurable cargo area utilitarian) about this thing. Let’s call it a “BLV” for Big Luxury Vehicle.

First impressions have us grinning in anticipation of our time with the Navigator. As we pull any door handle a running board magically rolls out from the rocker panel so we can step gracefully into a cabin lined with stitched leather, rich wood and high quality materials. Fit and finish are impeccable. The new interior design features arched shapes on either side of a broad console and a recessed center stack with multi-function touch screen. Many other luxury brands have gone to an interface device rather than a touch screen and Lincoln would be wise to consider that as well, in this reviewer’s opinion. It appears, though, that most of the annoyances in earlier versions of their touch screen controls have been worked out. In fact, we found this one quite intuitive and without quirks.

Access to the third-row seat is not easy, though once in our passengers professed reasonable comfort. Navigator claims the most third-row legroom of any of the big people haulers. The release functions for the folding and tumbling of the second row involve a lever to fold the back and then a strap to release the base. Neither is particularly smooth or easy with the latter being especially difficult. Lincoln could learn something from the Japanese luxury makers and from GM about the ergonomics of seat manipulation.

On the outside we see the familiar shape of the earlier Navigator and Ford Expedition, that is, big and boxy with huge (in this case 22-inch) shiny wheels. While the profile and overall shape is tall and square fresh styling details do a decent job of adding some aesthetic interest. A new grille and front fascia clearly mark this as a new model but the rest of the exterior is mostly unchanged, and less stylish than its main competitor the new Cadillac Escalade.

The big news, in our view, is the new powertrain featuring Ford’s high-tech, powerful, direct-injected, twin-turbo, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 making 380 horsepower and an amazing 460 pound-feet of torque. This 4X4 L (long wheel-base) huge, boxy, heavy, truck-based SUV is rated at 15 mpg in the city, 20 on the highway and 17 mpg combined.

For the 4X2 you need only add one one click to these mileage numbers. We managed close to 17 mpg in our week of mixed driving environments. The 33.5-gallon fuel tank (28-gallons for the regular size Navigator) makes for an excellent cruising range. In fact, we made it all the way to Chicago and back on one tank. That’s just over 500 miles.

That powertrain fits the Navigator well. We have plenty of acceleration and decent fuel economy considering its more than three-ton weight. The four-wheel drive system adds about 320 pounds to the truck’s weight.

On the utility side of the equation we have adequate cargo capacity behind the third seat of 18.1 cubic feet with a handy shelf across the center. That is considerably less than the long wheelbase Escalade but it feels generous enough. Fold the third row seats (power folding is standard) and a good 54.4 cubic feet open up. And with the second and third row folded we have 103.3 cubic feet. That is very close to the bigger Escalade.

And now to the driving dynamics:

The power running board makes the step into the cockpit easy for drivers of any size, and once in we sit up so high we feel like lord of all we survey. The power adjustable pedals, excellent seat travel and better-than-average range of steering-wheel adjustment (power, of course) will accommodate the biggest, the smallest, the slimmest and the most portly. The multi-purpose touch screen is a substantial reach for those with short arms but you can control many functions from the steering wheel. The on-board computer functions were not the most intuitive but were easily learned.

That big torque number referenced above means we have good power right from low rpm and overall acceleration felt strong. The transmission downshifts reasonably quickly when you need to accelerate from a midrange speed.

On the road it is smooth, quiet and easy to maneuver unless you’re in a constricted parking area or congested area. In those conditions you’ll find it cumbersome. The Navigator comes with a three-mode adjustable suspension damping, though scrolling through the Comfort, Normal and Sport modes I found little distinction between them just in normal highway driving. You’ll notice those more on twisty or rough roads. Handling is about what you would expect from such a large vehicle but you won’t be intimidated by its size. With independent rear suspension it has good road-holding ability.

Maximum towing capacity is listed as 9,000 for the 4X2 and 8,600 for the 4X4 “when properly equipped.” We also have a standard trailer sway control function and an optional 4.10 rear axle ratio to help with heavy towing.

Navigator prices begin at just over $61,000. This long wheelbase “L” version starts at $63,645 but with 4X4 option, the Rapid Spec Package and destination charge we’re looking at just over $75,000 on our sticker’s bottom line. Navigator slips in under Escalade when we compare prices matched to comparable equipment.

Lincoln’s new vehicle warranty covers the Navigator for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

Regular readers will know how much I like big vehicles, and this is one. The Navigator is often pressed into service as a limo, regular or funeral limo, and suits that purpose well. I’d really enjoy being that fleet driver.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights reserved