We've loved the new Navigator since a brief drive back-to-back with an Escalade. The design might not be as flashy as the new GM trucks, but initial comparisons leaned heavily in favor of the Lincoln for ride, handling and performance.
After many miles in Yukons, Suburbans and Escalades since that first drive, there is clearly much to love about their utility and V8 power. The new eight-speed automatics for the 6.2-liter V8s in Escalade and Denali are particularly impressive.
But do they beat the anytime surge of turbo torque in the Navigator? Or the easy cabin tech controls? Same scenario with Navigator versus the new Infiniti QX80 Limited and the topline Expedition Platinum.
A few weeks in a 2015 Navigator 4x4 Reserve trim confirms that the Lincoln is a best-in-class balance of value, luxury and ease of use. We uncovered a few quirky parts of the Nav, mind you. But they pale in the face of the plush accommodations and sure-footed handling.
The Navigator design even starts to grow on you -- my awed stare by the end of the loaner was not love-at-first-sight, but more like a deep respect.
Is the smooth and fast Navigator the right seven/eight-seater for you? Let's dive in with an HD drive video, 180 photos and standard section headers: Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary.
The new Navigator is a fresh sight even from 1000-yards. The always-on LEDs lining the bi-xenon projectors ensure a doubletake among other roadies. Triple LED fogs in both bumper corners are functional and handsome.
As the Nav rolls closer and comes into focus, you see the massively sculpted new nose, split grille with horizontal brightwork, and power-domed hood. It might not be not instant love up front. And in truth, the Escalade is the sexier, fresher face.
But it is insanely flashy. The Navigator excels with a nose design that does not make too much of spectacle, but clearly looks new and worth big, big money.
Around the profile view, the 2015 Navigator redesign feels more like a 'refresh.' You have definitely seen this pillar, roof and silhouette before. All is refined deeply, however, despite the familiar look. Flush-mounted power running boards are classy -- as are the slim Tuxedo Black sills and lower bumpers all around.
The Reserve package for the Navigator features a pair of enormous 22-inch alloys that really ace the style mood of the year. These giant silver wheels with 20-spoke design look even bigger than the dimensions on the Pirelli sidewalls. A visual trick, perhaps, thanks to the multispokes?
Whatever the case, the Nav on these wheels is extremely stylish and cool. The giant wheels freshen the overall profile visage much more effectively than the smaller 20-inchers that come standard. Dark 20's are available, however, and are worth a look.
Around back, yet again all LED and all brand new. The Navigator's rump wears more LEDs than the Rockefeller Christmas tree -- forming a huge horizontal red lightbar. The corners wrap down and around in matching LED curl. The outer sections of the lamps also act as the main brake lights. LED blinkers and blackup lights confirm the premium gravitas of the Navigator, as does its crosshair logo globo/puddle light.
The lighting, in general, is GORGEOUS all around the Navigator. The tail from a few carlengths back is stunning at night. A pure and slim lightbar widens the Nav visually, and also confirms it is a brand new model versus previous generations.
Up closer to the brake lights, the individual diode reflector sections are pretty visible. The lightbar look is not as pure as the new Charger, for example, from up close thanks to the segmented look. The Escalade's light pillars are more effective at the uniform, pure red light look of the latest exotics, but are perhaps not as original as the Nav's bright lights/big city tail.
Even so, these are the wildest LEDs to ever grace any Ford or Lincoln.
An EcoBoost badge lives in the right-hand side of the tailgate, with a single large-diameter exhaust pipe discreetly below.
The style is a solid A-minus. In black or white (versus the tester's Java Metallic), the Navigator lines and proportions look extra classy.
The cabin luxury race in full-size SUVs is in hyperdrive. The 2017 Audi Q7 looks to redefine truck tech when it arrives next summer, while the Escalade Platinum and Infiniti QX80 Limited are also full of touchable open-grain leathers and woods. (Albeit for at least $10k over their base spec levels -- and nothing less than $90k for either loaded model.
You might expect Lincoln to really suffer versus those ultra-lux flagships, and it does to some extent. Subtle things like the wood steering wheel and overly glossy door/console woods are a bit off the latest luxury mood. A possible Black Label upgrade might be offered in the future.
Until then, the Reserve trimline is already the most posh of any Lincoln, ever. Upgraded leathers and carpets are as thick and plush as a Range Rover, while the completely leather-wrapped dashboard is a work of art in itself. Very, very high quality stitching and execution for the leather touchpoints throughout, actually.
This double-cowl design runs all-new technology for the gauges, center MyLincoln Touch, and myriad other controls. But its core architecture is an upgrade of an older look. You sense this a little bit -- the most-modern car cabins are moving toward lower and slimmer dashtops. Slight disconnects do exist between the leather luxury of the cowls versus the central vents: these vents are extremely cheap and brittle under your fingers, while a mini Lincoln script sits between them. The look of this cockpit focal point should be nicer than a glorified plastic button-blank.
The Nav quickly recovers its lux feel thanks to its outstanding heated/cooled seats and drive position. Power tilt/telescope for the wheel and power pedals join forces with the power thrones in front to make any driver comfortable and in-control at the wheel.
Regarding the technology and control suite, the Nav is exceptionally easy to operate. The latest Sync nav system is quick and easy, but still buries some HVAC controls in menus versus buttons.
The rest of the Nav feels delightfully analog with simple labels and simple buttons along the lower stack. 4x4, 4x2 or hill-descent-control are all just one button push away. The power pedal control lives right in the same toggle cluster on the column as the tilt/telescope controls -- a place where the Escalade suffers. It took four days of driving to find the Caddy's power pedal buttons, for example, while the CUE system was not mastered in my week with the truck.
The flipside of the test Lincoln's easy tech is that it lacks the latest active safety features as standard. Adaptive cruise, lane-keep and city emergency braking are offered as options.
A super useful trunk with power-folding third row will make many friends. With the third row folded, the Nav is a simply enormous luxury shuttle. Power tailgate is handy, as is the glass top that opens individually. (But has tacky wires visible from inside as a result).
As-tested at $74k, the Nav also lacks the optional rear screens and the available captains chairs. Seating eight versus seven, the Nav we tested is a bit less special than the second row of the QX80. This is partially because the eight-seater does not have a second-row armrest to fold down. The entire middle seat slides and folds, but never makes a true limo statement with a full bench seat.
The top of that huge center console also serves fresh drinkies to backseaters via two jumbo cupholders behind the front armrest.
Controls for the audio, climate and chargers are all located in a fabulous control center at the back of the front console. No USB chargers visible for back-seaters, but the 110-volt three-prong outlet or 12-volt power port are useful and charged my iPhone 10X faster than normal USB ports.
On the roads, the first impressive observations are a creamy ride and silent cabin. This Lincoln might be the quietest American car ever made. Yet also a 4x4 that can two four tons?!
Tis true. You see how in the Lincoln's door seals. Quadruple packed and Rolls-Royce like in their seal, the Nav is significantly quieter and more refined than its Expedition Platinum cousin. It is also much more mellow than the GM trucks or even the QX80 Limited on startup and town drives. Those trucks are also super-insulated from wind noise, but much more engine/exhaust rumble comes through. While very quiet, the Escalade and Denali in particular have an always-audible exhaust note and aggro startup rumble from the 6.2-liter V8s in front.
By contrast, the Navigator's beefed-up 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6TT is seriously silent around town and at cruising speeds. Drive mode controls of Comfort, Normal or Sport make notable differences in steering, throttle and suspension settings. Of course, we liked Sport best. The Nivomat load-leveling rear (plus all-new adaptive dampers all around) goes obscenely soft in Comfort mode. The steering becomes ultra light in Comfort too. While Comfort takes the edge off any road ridges nicely, the loss of body control means slow/steady chauffeurs -- and their VIPs in back -- will love this mode best.
In Sport or Normal, the steering firms up and feels quicker, the throttle is more eager and the suspension gets playful. It still rides great over big bumps, and hangs on admirably around fast bends. Up front, the ride is fine in Sport.
Overall, the range of suspension modes is far broader than the Escalade -- which always felt too firm. All-independent suspension in the Lincoln is an advantage over the GM trucks, but not the Lexus LX570 or QX80. Regardless, the Navigator in Sport is a dream on smooth tarmac and just slightly choppy in Sport over freeze/thaw expansion joints on the highway.
The Navigator comes in rear-drive or 4x4, with a full auto 4x4 mode the sweet spot for fast driving. In 4x4 High or Low (vs 4x4 Auto), the Navigator loses some of its steering purity and turn-in crispness. Engaging that axle in a 50/50 torque split adds grit and heft not really present in the Escalade AWD or QX80 Limited AWD.
Shades of grey in terms of the comparison. All are vastly more comfy and parkable than any big SUV has been before.
The power of the new Navigator is exceptional. The Lincoln feels genuinely rapid on hard throttle. Its six-speed auto does a great job of keeping the boost up, while reprogramming software delivers big numbers from the word Go.
380HP peaks at 5200 RPM, while 460 pound-feet of torque arrives at just 2750 RPM --- both deeply impressive stats that feel even stronger on the road. This beast really charges off the line with all the grunt of its V8 competition... but is the only one to have a 22-mpg rating on the highway. 22-mpg is from the 4x2 standard-length model... and drops down to 15/20 on the test Nav 4x4. And a click lower still for the Navigator L (LWB) 4x4 model.
We drove the Navigator hard and soft to sense its fuel thirst. At hard throttle, the Nav was beating a similarly-driven Escalade by nearly 8-mpg. (Both numbers too low to print here, however.) Similar levels of real-world economy advantage in ultra-light and gentle driving. The Navigator's real-time MPG display even hits the 30's periodically -- a feat hard to repeat with any V8.
One caveat for the EcoBoost standard engine in the Nav is the fuel. It runs happily on regular gas, but really starts to haul a** with 93-octane premium gas.
A second slight ding in the Nav turbo? While silent inside, it is very busy-sounding outside. A bit more deep-throated rumble might be nice.
The Navigator's value is deeply impressive. A base price from $62k climbed to $74k with the Reserve pack. This is only about $4k more than the loaded Expedition, yet includes scores of extra luxury amenities over the Ford. Similarly, only a $67k Tahoe LTZ was priced less than the Navigator. Most loaded Suburbans and Denali's are pricier than the Lincoln. Escalade and QX80 test trucks this year each topped $90k, with Escalade Platinum over 100 G's.
So. There are some places where the Navigator is questionable, like certain cabin trims and its traditional exterior design. But those gripes are totally forgiven once you take the truck's overall excellence into account. Supremely easy to drive at all times, with pure and confident handling, the Navigator is an unlikely 'sport' model in the full-size SUV market.
This makes sense of course. It is not an insular world anymore -- and the upcoming Mercedes GLS550 and BMW X7 both will grow to meet buyer demands. In addition, the full-size trucks are not the only way to get seven seats + AWD these days, thanks to the dozens of car-based crossovers.
As the world changes, the Navigator's charm and capability is evolving right along with it.
The 2015 Navigator is all things to almost all people. Flashy people will be drawn to Escalade's trendier looks. But the Escalade also attracts some unwelcome attention from johnny law and jackie car-theft. A real sense of danger accompanies driving an Escalade in scary cities.
Thought of like that, the Nav's looks make sense. Staying chill and calm under pressure is a core Navigator trait -- and one that will never go out of style.
Super plush -- now with adaptive shocks and a big turbo rush?
2015 Lincoln NAVIGATOR 4x4 Review