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First Drive: 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Aged To Perfection

Satish Kondapavulur
Jan 12, 2016
Photographers: Satish Kondapavulur, Courtesy of Lincoln
Having grown up around Suburbans, Yukons, Expeditions, and Sequoias, we would often question what their drivers saw in them. They were so unwieldy to drive, lucky to achieve 12 mpg, and sitting in their third rows for over 30 minutes was painful. The seats had to be physically removed from the truck if you wanted a flat load space, and they couldn’t hold as much cargo as a minivan could with the third seat up. Plus, they were thousands of dollars more expensive than a minivan or crossover.
After all, in this author’s personal view, for the same price, one could have bought a BMW 540i wagon, which was much more fun to drive while offering a cargo room similar to an Explorer. Or for a lesser price, a minivan would be more practical in terms of comfortably seating seven people, hauling the contents of a dorm room with space for four people, getting better gas mileage, and being more maneuverable in urban areas.
Photo 2/18   |   2015 Lincoln Navigator 006
As a result, we didn’t think we would like the Lincoln Navigator, the posterchild of the big, expensive, gas-guzzling, difficult-to-park vehicle. As the Navigator was among the first of the truck-based luxury SUVs, debuting a year before the Cadillac Escalade but after the Lexus LX450, we thought we would be driving a relic that would have the same problems that big SUV owners faced in the ’90s and early 2000s. We turned out to be entirely wrong. In fact, after living with it for a week, we think it’s an awesome vehicle and wonder why more people don’t put it on their car-shopping list.
Photo 3/18   |   2015 Lincoln Navigator 008
Driving the Navigator we had an excellent view of the road in front of me and could see directly above the cars next to me. Passenger comfort was exceptional. No matter where someone was sitting in the Navigator, they were comfortable, thanks to the rather large and well-bolstered passenger seats. Thanks to the space-saving independent rear suspension, there were no complaints about legroom, even in the third row, something that I’ve yet to experience in some modern family crossovers. The cupholders were large enough for everyone. Additionally, the power running boards were a hit with everyone who rode in the Navigator. There was an 110V power outlet for people in the second row that wanted to power their laptops or charge their smartphones.
Photo 4/18   |   2015 Lincoln Navigator 010
When it comes to cargo room, with the third row up, there is only enough space for a large suitcase and one of those carry-on airplane bags that can fit in an overhead bin. Fold the third row down, though, and you could easily fit a pair of fullsize bicycles and gear while comfortably seating four adults. And if you need more cargo room, Lincoln offers the longer Navigator L, which provides more than double the space behind the third row than the regular-wheelbase model.
Photo 5/18   |   2015 Lincoln Navigator 016
As for the powertrain—another high point—the Navigator comes with a 3.5L twin-turbo direct-injection V-6 that makes 380 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Considering the ’14 Navigator had the 5.4L Triton V-8 that dated from the late ’90s, making only 310 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, the new engine is big improvement. Overall, I managed 17.3 mpg, which fits right in line with the EPA combined estimate of 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. The old V-8 could only achieve an EPA-rated 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway with 15 mpg combined, so the fact that Lincoln managed to make the Navigator both more powerful and more efficient should be lauded.
A common complaint about truck-based SUVs compared to crossovers is their handling on tight and winding roads. Since we were taking the Navigator into the hills of Berkeley and Oakland in California, we could see whether those arguments could hold any water. They didn’t. In fact, the Navigator drove like any large crossover would. It didn’t feel like a ’70s land barge, where sharp turns would have to be planned well ahead of time. Rather, it handled like a large luxury sedan. Much of this can be attributed to the 22-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli Scorpions and Lincoln Drive Control. The system is intended to make the ride of the Navigator tailored to the preferences of the driver, with “Normal,” “Comfort,” and “Sport” modes adjusting the suspension dampening and the electric power steering.
As much as we liked the Navigator, there were a few aspects that really showed its age. For a start, to release the parking brake, you have to use your left hand to pull a lever on the bottom left part of the dashboard, much like you would in an older Ford pickup, and to engage the parking brake you have to push in a pedal. Most competitors have an electronic parking brake, which are much easier to engage and release. Another problem was the fact we couldn’t enter the truck by leaving the key in our pocket. It is possible to enter the Navigator by punching a code on the keypad located on the driver’s door, but in this day and age, you can enter a high-end vehicle in less than three seconds with the key in a briefcase or purse.
Photo 6/18   |   2015 Lincoln Navigator 011
When it comes to how much all this goodness costs, the Navigator is very well-priced relative to its competitors, with the base price at $65,055 for the four-wheel-drive model. The power deploying running boards, navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, THX-certified audio system, power folding third row, and blind-spot warning system are all standard. Moreover, in keeping with the Navigator’s competitors, Lincoln includes complimentary maintenance for 2 years and 24,000 miles. Our test vehicle came with the $6,850 Reserve Equipment Group that provides upgraded leather and wood trim, as well as extended leather upholstery on the dashboard and doors, 22-inch wheels, and Lincoln Drive Control. With the $495 charge for the Ruby Red Metallic paint and $995 destination and delivery charge, our test vehicle’s MSRP reached $73,395.
In the end, even in the 21st century, the Navigator is not a 20th century relic. It’s a great buy if you’re looking at a high-end SUV and can compete directly with the luxury crossovers no matter how much some luxury SUV owners insist otherwise. Buying a Navigator will differentiate you from the rest of the latte-sipping, Hermes-toting, Nordstrom-shopping crowd. You’ll enjoy the fact you won’t struggle climbing into and out of the truck. You’ll like the fact that you’re driving something with a name rather than reciting some alphanumeric mumbo-jumbo when people ask what you drive. You’ll love that you can get into the driver’s seat and immediately get going to your destination. Ultimately, in a world of luxury SUVs picked up on three-year leases, the Navigator is a truck you will want to keep.
2015 Lincoln Navigator
Vehicle type: Fullsize SUV
Base price: $65,055
Price as tested: $73,395
Engine: 3.5L EcoBoost V-6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 380 @ 5,250 rpm
Torque: 460 @ 2,750 rpm
Curb weight: 6,069 lbs
Towing capacity: 8,600 lbs
EPA mileage rating: 15/20/17

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