Corrections to the suspension specs of the Navigator Select trim, as well as the name of the LWB Escalade from EXT to its actual name, the ESV.
It has been hard to take the new Navigator and Expedition seriously in the face of the newer-seeming Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade. The Navigator seemed to be the slightest of light refreshes versus those all-new models from across town.
But after time at the wheel of both the Navigator and the new Escalade ESV — we were strongly leaning toward the Navigator.
This surprised no one more than your humble scribe. After all, isn’t the Navigator just an also-ran in this full-size SUV segment that also includes the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Lexus LX570 and Infiniti QX80?
Nope. No it is not.
The style of the new Navigator focuses on functional improvements to the lighting – with new LED and bi-xenon headlamps up front, paired with LED foglights down below. Our drive was during the day, so we can’t vouch for the new LED fogs efficacy in actual foggy conditions, but previous experience says that they will make a huge forward lighting difference. One great feature of this type of super-bright LED is that they make reflective road signs glow like Las Vegas as you approach.
The sharp and clean white/blue of the LEDs all match and look crisp and fresh from up front.
The new Navigator grille is not quite as lovely, but does look much better in person than the initial photos suggested. It helps the Navigator to look as wide and imposing as a full-size SUV should, and is clearly new even from 100 paces.
To the sides, a re-profiled lower sill is clean and classy, while the new wheels are suitably massive. Pirelli tires join the fun in this huge 22-inch size, providing grip to spare — along with ride quality like a magic carpet. (Skip down to Drive Impressions to hear more about the ride and handling).
Out back, the new Nav brings a huge swath of LED lighting that might be the largest single LED brake light in the history or cars or trucks. A solid band of light slashes across the trunk in the Lincoln signature way — and is flanked by a pinched ring of the same type of LEDs on both sides. It looks clean and unlike anything else on the road.
The trunklid is power-operated and gigantic, but offers a glass-lift function not seen on anything else in this class of truck. Handy for tossing in your gym bag or backpack.
This is where the real surprises started to sink in. The Navigator is much, much quieter than the Escalade ESV we drove right afterward. Where the Cadillac is all wind whistle around the mirrors, the Navigator is peaceful and silent even at full throttle. The Cadillac Escalade has big V8 exhaust drone, and this is fun at first but can be tiring versus total silence.
The Navigator seating feels good and tall, with a pistol-grip shifter calling the shots and making PRDL changes. Overall, the materials of the doors and some lower cabin surfaces is not at Escalade-levels yet, but the upper dash and most touch-points are seriously swanky.
The twin-cowl dash design of the Navigator is still present but is mellower and more functional. A vertical control face for the HVAC and MyLincoln Touch makes it a piece of cake to operate, with very little glare like there is when screens are too slanted forward.
Overall, we loved the front cabin – but were simply floored by the back. The twin captains chairs in the second row get their own controls for HVAC and even audio, while there are power outlets galore. The second row of seats reclines and has central armrests for posh cruising in style.
But most surprising is how much lower the floor feels versus the Escalade ESV and its twin second-row chairs. The standard-length Navigator here is much easier to move around inside than the standard-length Escalade, with roominess that is more like the ESV overall. But even the Escalade ESV has such a high floor that the central row is better-crawled than walked.
This affects seated comfort as well, by letting Navigator passengers sit with their legs down versus splayed forward in the Escalade.
In the wayback, the roominess of the standard-length Expedition and Navigator feels like double the standard Yukon/Tahoe and Escalade. The third row is power-operated from in the trunk, but the second rows cannot be power-flipped forward like the Escalade and its brothers. Still, very easy to create a flat and low load floor.
Floating on air? That is how the Navigator thrums down the road, even on these huge 22-inch wheels. In 2WD mode, the steering is buttery-smooth and very light — an impression that holds when you nail the throttle and make a turn out onto the highway. In 4-high, the steering is much meatier but still very smooth.
The EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 is quick at all times with 380-horsepower and torquier than the 5.3-liter V8 in the Tahoe and Yukon, if not the 6.0-liter V8 in the Denali and Escalade.
But losing two cylinders versus the GM trucks and the old Navigator has unexpected handling benefits. The nose is about 150 pounds lighter now and makes the Nav feel tossable and as eager as an Explorer Sport.
But is it quick? Yes, yes it is. After a millisecond of fluff while the engine comes on-steam, the Navigator charges ahead on a floored throttle very eagerly. In 2WD, the Navigatar had solid traction where the Escalade ESV was all axle tramp and spinning inside tire. That Escalade had shockingly little grip in 2WD mode versus the Navigator, and rode much springier than the hunkered-down and chill Navigator too.
Adaptive Dampers + IRS Are Big Navigator Competitive Strengths
UPDATE: We stand corrected! Lincoln calls the new adaptive suspension tech Continuous Controlled Damping, and it is adjustable in the Drive Control settings. The Navigator Select also has a ‘Nivomat’ rear suspension height control for towing. See specs below for full details.
Both the Escalade and the Navigator have
magneto-rheological adjustable suspensions, but their tuning is totally different. The Escalade offers Touring and Sport – and both are too firm. The Navigator feels much nimbler while also riding much, *much* smoother and more quietly over bumps. This amazing suspension control lets the 22-inch wheels have only grip benefits and none of the ride harshness consequences that big wheels typically bring.
The Navigator has independent rear suspension versus the Escalade, which helps it to have better grip out of corners that the squealing Cadillac.
The addition of Nivomat load-leveling and CCD continuously updated damping settings to the Navigator is amazing. It makes the machine feel unstoppable and far smaller than its exterior would lead you to think. It can firm up nicely for towing or with a big load in back, too. A win-win.
So is the Navigator an also-ran versus the Denali and Escalade? Far from it!
We shook our head in disbelief at saying so — but strongly preferred the Navigator after driving it back-to-back with the Escalade ESV.
Some might prefer the Cadillac’s exterior style and fancy wood inside — but the Navigator’s interior feels more comfy, is easier to operate, and offers ESV room at standard-length sizes.
Impressive stuff from Lincoln here. A test-drive of both should be mandatory for all Escalade shoppers. You might come away preferring the Lincoln like we did.
The final icing on the Navigator’s victory cupcake? It is a cool $10,000 cheaper at base levels, and up to $20,000 less than the latest Escalade Platinum for 2015. All for a truck that is bigger, smoother and easier? A decisive win for the Navigator.
WINNER? 2015 Lincoln Navigator.
2015 Lincoln Navigator Technical Specifications
Navigator and Navigator L
Construction Steel body on fully boxed frame
Final assembly location Kentucky Truck Plant, Louisville, Kentucky
Type 3.5-liter EcoBoost® V6
Production location Cleveland Engine Plant
Configuration 60-degree V6
Intake manifold Composite
Exhaust manifold High Silicon Moly
Crankshaft Forged steel
Redline 6,100 rpm
Throttle body Electric
Valvetrain Twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), dual overhead camshaft (DOHC)
Valve diameter 37 mm intake/31 mm exhaust
Pistons Hypereutectic aluminum with steel ring carrier and machined dome
Connecting rods Powder metal
Ignition High output coil on plug
Bore x stroke 92.5 x 86.7 mm
Displacement 3,496 cc
Compression ratio 10:1
Horsepower 380 @ 5,250 rpm*
Horsepower per liter 108.5
Torque 460 lb.-ft. @ 2,750 rpm*
Recommended fuel Premium recommended, regular capable, unleaded
Fuel injection Direct injection
Emission control Closed loop with catalyst
Emissions (tailpipe/evaporation) Tier 2, Bin 5/LEV II–ULEV II
Oil capacity 6.5 quarts
Recommended oil SAE 5W30 GF4
Coolant capacity 18.4 quarts
Exhaust Single with chrome exhaust tip
Layout Rear- or four-wheel drive
Transaxle type Six-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission
* Using 93-octane fuel.