Huge andlumbering in bustling city traffic, the Navigator feels as if it needs little tugboats to avoid flattening an unseen Mazda Miata. More at home on the open road, the Navigator provides a pleasantly compliant ride well-suited to long journeys. As an Arizonian wrote, "My husband wanted a sport/utility vehicle and I wanted a good ride. In the Navigator, we got both." As you can see from the high mileage, our staff traveled more than a presidential hopeful during our 12-month evaluation.
Key to spending 27,419 miles in the Navigator in a year when we tested over 300 vehicles (not including driving impressions) last year was the sumptuous interior. The voluminous cabin reminds us of a rolling lawyer's office (sans shark tank), with highly polished wood, puffy leather buckets, and elbow room galore.
Although the Jaguar-inspired half-wood/half-leather steering wheel looks romantic, we'd prefer a traditional full leather wrap for prolonged drives. Redundant wheel-mounted audio and climate controls were well appreciated, though the staff was confounded by a couple of head unit functions. Having the CD changer in the center console was well appreciated, as it wouldn't take much to bury the limited rear cargo space when the third-row bench was in place, thereby limiting access to a more traditional changer location.
Accommodations for the front two rows are excellent, with large bucket seats, adequate ventilation, and both audio and climate controls for each row. Unless we were shuttling a Pee Wee football team, the cumbersome rear bench was left out. Like many staff families, the Bartletts employed the Navigator as a vacation vehicle, driving the indulgent RV from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, then on to the Grand Canyon. The week-long adventure revealed the numerous reasons owners are attracted to the Navigator that simply can't be revealed creeping through SoCal traffic.
Loading the vehicle with necessary luggage and survival gear meant leaving the "children and in laws only" rear bench behind, opening up adequate cargo space without travel sundries blocking view. The immense Porta Potti-looking second-row console made a great impromptu cooler, and all the various cupholders and storage nooks proved useful for miscellaneous consumables, past and present.