2015 Lincoln Navigator First Look
Keeping the Faithful
In 1997, Lincoln put a tuxedo on the Ford Expedition, called it the Navigator, and repopularized the luxury full-size SUV market abandoned by the Jeep Wagoneer in 1991. The brand dominated the market while Cadillac played catch-up, putting less-than-convincing lipstick on the GMT400 Chevy Tahoe. Others rushed to join this high profit-margin party, but volume-wise, nobody ever threatened the Detroiters. Caddy's 2002 redesign of the GMT800 turned the tables, outselling Lincoln by 62 percent, and subsequent Lincoln redesigns never regained the upper hand. Might the tables turn in 2015, when both are redesigned?
Smart money says no. For one thing, when you're GM, holding a firm lock on 75 percent of the full-size SUV market, your tooling for expensive things like doors is amortized and worn out after seven-plus years and 1.6 million units. You can afford new ones. FoMoCo's tools are still in good shape after building just 411,000 copies, so the new Navigator doesn't look or feel as new as the new Escalade does. The doors, rear quarter panels, roof, and windshield all look pretty familiar.
Similarly, the interior -- while updated nicely with soft, sewn materials over the familiar dual-cowl dash design, Eagle Ottawa leather upholstery and a Wollsdorf leather-wrapped steering wheel with Euro stitching, a TFT instrument-panel display, ambient lighting, and the latest MyLincoln Touch infotainment -- looks like a pretty mild refresh compared with the futuristic new Cadillac interior. There is a new Platinum-rivaling Reserve Package that buys Trevino leather on all three rows of seats, the door panels, and glove box, and Ziricote wood trim. (It's typically used to accent yachts!) If you're keeping track, that's three different leather name brands! Another cool feature: A lamp under each side-view mirror projects a Lincoln emblem "welcome mat" in front of each front door. Unfortunately, the new Navigator's electrical architecture apparently can't support some conveniences that are starting to be taken for granted, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
The look is completely fresh from dead ahead or astern, however, with all sheetmetal forward of the A-pillar redesigned to incorporate the new "wing grille" face of Lincoln, plus new LED accent lighting and foglamps, but sadly no new state-of-the-art LED forward lighting like the Escalade offers. From the rear, there's a mildly Durango-esque full-width LED tail-lamp treatment. New 20-inch wheels are standard, but ticking the Reserve Package option brings polished 22s, along with a moonroof and motorized running boards of chrome. Two-tone paint will also be offered.
There is bigger news under the hood, where the tried-and-true 5.4-liter Triton engine is pastured in favor of the increasingly ubiquitous 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 producing "at least 370 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque." That's down from the Caddy 6.2's certified 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. No other engines are currently scheduled for production, but Lincoln claims its mighty V-6 can trump the Escalade's 8000-pound max trailer rating with a claimed best-in-class 9000 pounds of towing (properly equipped with 4.10:1 axle and rear-drive). Both big utes' engines are harnessed to six-speed automatics. Fuel economy is also expected to be much improved -- official EPA numbers for the Lincoln haven't been announced, but the Cadillac is rated at 14-15/20-21 mpg city/highway. For comparison, the outgoing 2014 Navigator gets 13-14/18-20 mpg.
In the suspension department, Lincoln still wins with an independent rear setup (and the benefits that pays to third-row seat legroom and cargo area), but the live-axle Cadillac gets magnetic ride control, which in the past has impressed us more than Lincoln's Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) system. Nevertheless, we are promised this latest ute will navigate turns like no previous Lincoln truck.
Naturally, the Navigator continues to offer two wheelbases and class-leading cargo volumes of 103.3/54.4/18.1 cubic feet behind the front/middle/third-row seats in the standard wheelbase truck, and 128.2/86.3/42.6 for the Navigator L. Cadillac only manages 94.2/51.6/15.3 and 120.5/76.5/38.7 for Escalade and ESV. Buyers will get their first look at the new Navigator at the Chicago show on February 6, with production starting in Kentucky this summer for a fall on-sale launch, at which point Lincoln fully expects to continue enjoying the 75 percent owner loyalty it's had for the past several years. It seems buyers of these barges are nearly as loyal as the pickup-truck segment, so if you already own a Navigator, never mind all those Caddy comparisons, and enjoy this lovely new truck.