Full-size SUVs are no longer the most significant models in the crowded SUV and crossover marketplace. The volume leaders in SUVs are two C-segment models, the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. For almost every manufacturer that offers a full lineup of SUV models, the compact models are almost always the best-sellers. So in terms of the sales figure bragging rights, the big boys have been long since surpassed by their pint-size cousins. But the large SUVs still occupy an important symbolic place in luxury brands' product lineups. Among the domestic manufacturers, the two undisputed flagships of the full-size class are the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. After last receiving a full redesign in 2007, the Navigator finally gets a comprehensive refresh for 2015. But unlike the F-150, the "new" Navigator is not as entirely all-new as the pickup.
The Navigator remains a body-on-frame SUV, with both body and frame remaining steel. The most significant change from a functional standpoint is the replacement of the 5.4-liter, 3-valve Triton V-8 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. But lest you steak and potato-loving full-size Americans fear your favorite big SUV is getting soft with a dinky engine, the huffed-up six brings an additional 60 hp and 65 lb-ft to the table, substantial gains in anyone's book. So if you absolutely insist on having a V-8 under the hood, your choices are GM's jumbo triplets, the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon/XL and Cadillac Escalade, or the slightly smaller Dodge Durango with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi.
Now with Wings
The most obvious changes to the exterior are a new grille and front sheetmetal. Gone is last year's quasi-retro chrome smushed octagonal eggcrate design, replaced with a more creased, angular version of Lincoln's new signature "split-wing" grille. As is now the expectation for vehicles with any sort of premium aspirations, LED driving lights are integrated into the new headlamp clusters. Though all the photos we've seen of the 2015 Navigator so far have been without a front plate, it does appear there’s an opening in the middle part of the bumper, presumably for the engine's air-to-air intercooler. EcoBoost-equipped F-150s can be spotted by their offset front license plates, so there's a good chance this could also be a giveaway cue for the new Navi.
The front refresh works well in our eyes, but around back, the look is not quite as cohesive. The revised full-width taillights look very similar to Dodge's signature "racetrack" rear lighting, slightly sullying the Navigator's upscale appearance. The single tailpipe also looks a little lonely, as well.
No More Retro
On the inside, the 2015 model gets subtle refinements to give it a more contemporary look. The twin-cowl dash design carries over, but the hood is more rounded on the passenger side, and gets a richer appearance with stitched leather trim. Lincoln continues the move away from the retro theme by getting rid of the center-mounted analog clock, and ditching the full analog gauge cluster in favor of a central analog speedometer flanked by virtual, reconfigurable ancillary gauges. We can't say we're huge fans of this change, with the watch-sized virtual tachometer it creates, but it's likely indicative of Lincoln interiors for the immediate future.
It's easy to criticize Lincoln for not doing as comprehensive a refresh on the Navigator as Cadillac did with the 2015 Escalade, but with GMC's Yukon sub-brand alone outselling Lincoln's entire product lineup, the 2015 refresh is enough of a change to warrant consideration among current owners, as well as possibly luring first-timers into the showroom. But a far bigger draw will likely be the upcoming Escape-based MKC compact crossover. Once Lincoln is back to full, robust health, expect a more comprehensive makeover of the Navigator, or possibly even a full departure from its Expedition-based roots.