Lincoln Navigator: Supersized SUV segment

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Supersized sport utility vehicles like the Lincoln Navigator are specialty players. Drivers who carry a lot of people, haul cargo, or tow a trailer — sometimes all at once — are the core customers in this segment.

The Lincoln Navigator had its last, full redesign in 2007. Though the architecture is aging, Lincoln’s changes for 2015 push past the level of the typical, annual facelift.

Navigator is offered in regular and long-wheelbase versions; both available with two- or four-wheel drive. Prices start at $62,475 (delivered) for a standard “Select” trim 4×2, and range to $75,065, for a top-of-the-line “Reserve” level 4×4. My test driver was a regular-wheelbase, Reserve trim 4×4.

The 2015 model carries a refreshed version of the company’s split-wing grille, along with a newly contoured hood. A liberal portion of LED lights (222 in all) have been added all around, though especially in the full-length light bar/taillights in back. Reserve-level Lincolns carry some visible clues to their top-rung status, including power running boards, black lower bodyside molding, and 22-inch polished aluminum rims.

Inside, Reserve status is conferred by a two-tone color scheme, leather-wrapped/stitched instrument panel, and upgraded leather trim for the seats, door panels, and console. Wood trim and plush mats round out the model-specific cosmetic changes. Once inside the Navigator, the driver finds a logical layout of gauges and switches. Some HVAC and sound system functions are absorbed into the 8-inch touchscreen, while others are (happily) found in traditional knobs and buttons below.

Each time Ford Motor Company updates its SYNC and Touch connectivity system, it gets a little more straightforward. However, mastery still requires study time. Certain interior features date the Navigator’s platform: door pockets are literally map pockets, with no provision for water bottles. And, while standard equipment is generous and options abound, some new technology (like adaptive cruise control) isn’t available. Lincoln promises many of these features will appear in the next-generation model.

All Navigators have standard seating for seven. An available, split, second-row bench seat can be substituted, to up the passenger ante to eight. With front seats at full pushback, row two will — just — accommodate 6 footers behind.

Flexibility is always an asset when clambering into third-row seats, but this Lincoln fares better than most. The last row is roomy enough to hold adults in reasonable comfort — at least for shorter stints. Headroom is plentiful throughout, due to the high ceiling. Third-row seats power-fold easily when not in use. So, too, do the headrests (manually) on rows two and three, and doing so benefits rear visibility greatly.

Cargo capacity is 18.1 / 54.4 / 103.3 cubic-feet, depending on how you configure the rear two rows of seats. Long wheelbase versions add appreciably to those totals (42.6 / 86.3 / 128.2 cu-ft.). Either way, a newly standard, power lift gate eases access to your gear.

Ford has been rolling out its EcoBoost engine technology across the lineup in recent years, and the latest recipient is Navigator. All 2015 versions get Ford’s 3.5-liter, twin turbo, EcoBoost V-6 in place of the outgoing, 5.4L V-8.

The promise of EcoBoost (Ford’s name for its direct injection, turbocharging technology) is increased power and fuel economy from smaller, more efficient engines. In the case of the Navigator, the 3.5L V-6 delivers 380 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 460 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,750 rpm. That’s an additional 70 hp and 95 lb.-ft. torque, respectively, compared to the outgoing V-8.

In terms of fuel economy, the EPA estimates that a 2015 Navigator 4×4 with EcoBoost V-6 will get 15 miles per gallon city, 20 mpg highway. That compares to 13/18 mpg on the former V-8. My week behind the wheel netted combined 14 mpg in mixed, cold-weather driving.

Despite its smaller displacement, the 3.5L proves to be noticeably quicker. Zero-to-60-mph times for Navigator have been reported in the mid-6-second range, which is about 2 seconds faster than the former V-8. Maximum towing capacity is 9,000 pounds (4×2) or 8,600 pounds (4×4).

Lincoln’s AWD system is an on-demand setup, which benefits traction on wet or dry pavement. While Navigator’s girth and price suggest that few will venture seriously off-road, 4×4 models are equipped with Hill Start Assist (which eliminates forward/backward roll after brake release on a steep slope) and Hill Descent Control (to help the driver maintain a constant speed on slow, downhill sections). Navigator is too large to be nimble, but it feels nonetheless stable and sure-footed during all normal driving maneuvers. Ride quality is comfortably smooth.

Navigator’s latest edition offers a smooth and versatile alternative, in the small class of large scale SUV’s.