Underhood, Navigator retains its previous 5.4-liter/300-horsepower DOHC iron-block V-8 with aluminum heads and four valves per cylinder kicking out 355 lb-ft of torque at 2750 rpm, with 90 percent of peak torque available between 1750 and 4700 rpm. Horses make their way to the wheels via electronically controlled four-speed automatic tranny with shift points that adjust depending on throttle and engine load. Models with 4x4 can tow up to 8300 pounds (a 300-pound increase from last year) and 4x2 models can tow up to 8500 pounds. Standard Michelin 255/70R18 Cross Terrain tires wrap 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels, with optional Michelin Pilot LTX 275/65HR18 rubber wrapping 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels. Stopping power comes from 13-inch vented front rotors with twin-piston calipers and 13.5-inch vented rear rotors with single-piston calipers, four-wheel ABS, and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution to adjust front-to-rear brake bias.

We had the chance to experience Navigator's AdvanceTrac four-wheel stability and traction control system on a closed autocross course. AdvanceTrac measures wheel speed, steering angle, and vehicle yaw rate to determine whether the vehicle's path matches the driver's intent, and then adjusts power and braking to assist stability and traction. We found that AdvanceTrac helped correct understeer and oversteer by braking front and rear wheels, and even reduced engine power as required to help the mighty SUV stay on the road through a series of decreasing-radius turns, slalom cones, wet skid, and avoidance maneuver sections. Performance was impressive with a minimal level of body roll, especially compared to other luxury sport/utilities we experienced that day.

The 2003 Navigator will be available in three levels: Luxury, Premium, and Ultimate, each with an assortment of additional features. Base-level Luxury models start at $52,325 and come well equipped with standard features mentioned previously. Premium models begin at $53,575 and add AdvanceTrac, heated/cooled seats, 18-inch chrome wheels, power moonroof, DVD rear seat entertainment system, and navigation system, plus an optional tire-pressure monitoring system that will be available later in the year. Ultimate models start at $54,950 and include the power liftgate, power-folding third-row seats, and HID headlamps. Optional power running boards are only available on the Ultimate model. The Ultimate Model we drove wore a sticker with a suggested retail price of $60,040, which included optional navigation system ($1995), moonroof ($1495), power running boards ($925), wheel and tire upgrade ($675), and destination and delivery ($740). Additionally, all trim levels include a four-year 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with three years of complimentary maintenance and transportation and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Those interested in an SUV in the full-size category but who don't wan't to spend quite so much, might want to consider Ford' platformmate, the Ford Expedition. The 2003 Expedition ranges from $32,000 to $42,000 and also benefits from a hydroformed chassis, new independent suspension, freshened exterior, and numerous refinements, making it an attractive, less costly alternative to the decidedly more luxurious Lincoln.

Due in dealerships this summer, the 2003 Navigator truly delivers more of everything that made its original model such a success: luxury, refinement, and performance to match. On the outside it seems mighty big, but inside, it's mighty manageable.