2015-16 Lincoln Navigator 4x4 Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Classic SUV with spacious luxury and comfort
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Lincoln Research and Buyers Guide
Yes "Back To The Future Day" was a recent bit of pop-culture humor, but isn't this week's Lincoln Navigator taking it a bit too far? Nothing says "late `90s luxury SUV boom" quite like the original, introduced for model year 1998 partway through 1997. It may have been the first domestic super-size luxury SUV, but it certainly wasn't the last. Never the flashiest or best-known in the class, it has been a steady seller. And, perhaps surprisingly, it has changed with the times.
I was expecting an American "classic luxury" experience, overly-soft suspension and plenty of body roll when attempting to change direction. Something nautical… um, no. Not at all. Credit the (optional) Lincoln Drive Control, with its continuously controlled damping semi-active suspension for that. If you want a replica of your late grandfather's old Lincoln, "Comfort" mode will do that. "Normal" is close to contemporary European luxury spec -- firm but supple, and well-controlled with a notable absence of roll, yaw, and pitch. There is also a "Sport" setting, firm and a bit thumpy -- and a powertrain that is happy to oblige. If you were expecting a V8, no. Parent Ford's "EcoBoost" 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 is all you get. With 380 horsepower and 460 (!) lb-ft of torque, no one will miss a V8. 380 hp and a curb weight in the 6,000-pound class are not the recipe for miserly fuel economy, but the EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 20 highway is reasonable, mass and power considered. The 1997 Ford Expedition, an ancestral cousin, in my records was good for 13 mpg, with 230 hp and 325 lb-ft from a 5.4-liter V8 and a stated 5300-pound curb weight.
Today's Navigator is still a body-on-frame vehicle, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell that from inside. It's solid and creak and rattle-free. Suspension is fully-independent, with a multilink setup in the rear.
As has been since the current, third, generation debuted for 2007, the Navigator is offered in regular and long-wheelbase "L" forms. If the basic specification -- pretty much everything expected in a contemporary luxury vehicle -- is not luxurious enough, there is the Reserve option package. That is an interior upgrade that gives you premium leather for all seats plus the door panels, instrument panel, and console. Regular wood trim is upgraded to ziricote. Wheels are upgraded to 22-inch, and the Lincoln Drive Control is included in the package.
And that was the spec for my test Navigator. Even in "regular" length it's a behemoth, but thanks to the Lincoln Drive Control it seems much lighter and smaller than it really is. At least until it came time to park - yes it's wide and high and care is necessary, especially in low-clearance multi-storey highrises. Automatically-deploying running boards ease access, as does a power tailgate. Inside, it's a fine example of spacious luxury and comfort, especially for the first two rows. The third holds medium-sized adults in comfort. And there is still plenty of luggage space behind that. Power is never ever a problem thanks to the turbo V6. Fuel economy in this class is not a primary concern, but 15 mpg with mostly city and short highway driving is not bad at all for the size and power.
APPEARANCE: The Navigator doesn't try to hide what it is. It's a luxury SUV, and very much a classic two-box SUV in shape. Corners and edges are rounded, but not all that much, and the windshield is almost vertical by today's standards. The most noticeable change for 2015 is the latest "twin wing" Lincoln grille. In chrome, of course, and there is plenty of chrome trim on the exterior. The 4x4 version sits high, but automatic running boards, retracted unless needed, take care of that. Don't look for skid plates, but yes that is a rubber air dam under the front, for air management to improve both quiet and fuel economy.
COMFORT: That boxy exterior means more interior. My tester had the 2+2+3 configuration, without a center console in the second row. That made for easy access to the third row. A second-row console and second-row bench are also available. Seven NFL or NBA first-round draft picks aren't going to fit, but largish people in the front rows and adults to 5-8 or so in the third can be comfortable. And there's still 18 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third row. Fold it down -- at the touch of a button of course -- and there is 54 cubic feet behind the second row. Second row seats fold and tumble for cargo use. Here, with the Reserve package, everything is covered in opulent leather. Back up front, the driver has a commanding view of the road and surroundings. Front seats are both heated and cooled in all versions, and all seating positions offer the expected comfort and support. Everything that can be power-operated is. A sunroof is offered but was not fitted here. Instrumentation is a configurable electronic display, with the My Lincoln Touch screen in the center of the dash controlling phone, navigation, climate, and entertainment systems. Controls for information, cruise, audio, and phone systems are also found on the steering wheel. AM, FM, and SiriusXM radio, CD, and external USB and jack inputs are the audio choices, plus Bluetooth streaming. Usefully, there are simple audio controls on the center stack, and seek plus climate temperature and fan speed are by rocker switches, not sometimes-flaky touchpads. Dual sunvisors are a useful touch, as is a convex mirror in the overhead console, good for seeing rear passengers.
SAFETY: The 2014 Navigator received a four-star overall rating from NHTSA and the 2015 should be the same there. A full suite of airbags, the AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ stability control system, and good handling and braking performance add further safety.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Technically, the Navigator is a body-on-frame truck. You'd never know from inside. Especially with the Lincoln Drive Control system's variable shock damping in default or Sport positions, it feels like a European luxury-sport sedan in size XXL, with good ride comfort and minimal body motion in normal driving. Good frame rigidity and a rigid body structure also help. The electrically-assisted power steering is not overly light, for good control. Suspension is fully-independent, short-and-long arm in front and a compact multilink system in the rear. Brakes are strong four-wheel discs.
PERFORMANCE: No V8? No worries. Parent Ford's 3.5-liter "Eco Boost" twin-turbo direct-injection V6 here is tuned for 380 horsepower (at 5250 rpm) and 460 lb-ft of torque (at 2750 rpm). The previously-used 5.4-liter naturally-aspirated V8 was good for 310 hp and 365 lb-ft. Even with three tons of Navigator to move, it can get from a standstill to 60 mph in under 6.5 seconds so short highway onramps and quick merges will present no difficulties. EPA mileage estimates for the 4x4 version are 15mpg city, 20 highway. With mostly city, secondary road, and short highway trip driving I got 15.
CONCLUSIONS: It may not look all that different outside, but the Lincoln Navigator has changed with the times.
2015 Lincoln Navigator 4x4
Base Price $ 65,055
Price As Tested $ 73,395
Engine Type twin-turbocharged and intercooled 24-valve DOHC V6 with direct fuel injection
Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower 380 @ 5250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 460 @ 2750 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 119 in. / 207.4 in.
Curb Weight 6069 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.0
Fuel Capacity 28 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended, 87 octane regular permissible with decreased performance
Tires 285/45 R22 114H m+s Pirelli Scorpion
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, ABS and stability control standard
Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm / independent multilink
Ground Clearance 8.4 inches
Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 20 / 15
0 to 60 mph 6.2 sec
Towing Capacity 8600 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Equipment Group 101A -- includes: Reserve Equipment Group P285/45 all-season tires on 22" polished aluminum wheels Lincoln Drive Control $ 6,850
Ruby Red Metallic paint with tinted clearcoat $ 495
Destination Charge $ 995