|Positives: Noticeable street presence, excellent seating in all rows, huge amounts of space, powerful twin-turbo V6 engine.
|Negatives: Shift buttons are not intuitive, weird drive mode names, awkward semi-autonomous driving tech, fake wood trim is disappointing for this price.
|Bottom Line: The Navigator is an impressive vehicle that's loaded to the gills. It has a powerful engine, high-end materials, and some of the best seats in the business. The in-car tech is so-so, as is the autonomous driving capability.
You can't really fault Lincoln (and Ford) for dropping its V8 fro their big three-row SUVs because the twin-turbo V6 is plenty powerful. The Navigator is also a very plush and capable cruiser. Just don't look for it to manage turns well because of its sheer size and weight. One issue we had was with the Level 2 semi-autonomous ActiveGlide system that had hiccups and limitation. It's just not as good as Caddy's SuperCruise system.
Ride Quality: The Navigator is a truly cushy ride without totally isolating you from the road (only mostly).
Acceleration: The Navigator is brisk, and the twin-turbo V6 launches it to 60 in 5.6 seconds, which is alarmingly quick for something this big and heavy. It's clear that the V8 really isn't necessary because it can still tow 8,300 pounds.
Braking: The brakes lack feel, but they're pretty good at stopping the big SUV, and pedal progression is decent.
Steering: The steering feedback is largely absent, and it's on the vague side. Ironically, it seems to be fine in the turns despite all of this. We also had no problem keeping it on center at highway speeds.
Handling: The Navigator feels big but it handles decently. There's noticeable body roll, but it's manageable.
Lincoln does a good job of making its top-tier Navigator look luxurious, but the infotainment system has to go up against the vivid and expansive version found in the Cadillac Escalade, which is a tall order. They also try to make the instrument panel and driving mode graphics unique, which it manages to do without really being all that impressive.
Infotainment System: The updated 13.2-inch infotainment screen uses Ford's Sync 4 system but with Lincoln graphics. It's slow to respond to inputs despite its nice appearance. We don't like the weird names for drive modes that show up in the instrument cluster. "Excite" for Sport mode. Really?
Controls: The presence of physical controls for most of the Navigator's operations is appreciated. Climate controls are straightforward but could be larger given their placement lower on the center stack. We're not fans of the piano key gearshift because they just don't seem intuitive like a conventional knob or rotary shifter. That said, they do clean up the center stack nicely.
The overall execution of the interior and exterior is upscale and attractive. It separates itself from the cheaper Expedition, but the fake wood trim in the center console seems like a corner cut.
Front: The headlight shape has more character than the old ellipsoid versions. The grille is now taller and also gets fancy miniature Lincoln logos and an illuminated main center logo, a very nice, albeit completely unnecessary, feature.
Rear: The taillights have been revised to look more wing-like in appearance and the visual height has been reduced, as a result.
Profile: Not much has changed in the side view except for more slender headlights and taillights which clean things up a bit. The modest use of chrome is nice, as well as the slick turbine wheels. The Navigator also does one of the best jobs of executing the non-functioning front quarter panel vents. They add flair without being overdone.
Cabin: Cabin materials look and feel great, and the overall approach is refined and upscale. The use of matte wood is excellent, and the trim pieces on the dash and door panels are all nicely styled. There's still a bit too much piano black for our liking. It just attracts too much dust and far too many fingerprints. The plastic seat adjustment switches look and feel painfully cheap. and don't fit the ethos of the cabin.
The interior of the Navigator doesn't just look good, but it also provides appropriately elevated levels of occupant comfort, especially from the excellent seats and the sheer roominess of the interior. Ergonomically, it's not quite as good as its Expedition sibling.
Front Seats: The leather Multi-contour seats are some of the best in the business. We love the excellent individual thigh bolsters that allow for asymmetric adjustment. The leather is soft and supple, and the level of support and cushioning are spot-on. The massage function is unreal and perfect for long drives and gridlock traffic commutes.
Rear Seats: The Reserve we tested came with optional rear Multi-contour captain's chairs with heat/ventilation and massage. Wow, it's almost better to be driven than to drive. Almost.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The only niggle we had was the noise of the EcoBoost V6 engine at idle. It's not as quiet as GM's V8 engine in the Escalade. The interior is quiet at highway speeds, and the build quality was solid with no squeaks or rattles that we noticed.
Visibility: Visibility is pretty good with the exception of the very thick B-pillar obscuring lane changes. Glass is big all around, and the rear view is very good.
Climate: Heated and cooled seats in front and in row two are fantastic, and the climate system works very well. We had no trouble getting heat quickly.
The Navigator gets great crash test scores, as well as a host of standard safety features that put it a the top of the three-row SUV heap.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: The Navigator earns a full five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The list of standard features is dizzying long and very impressive: Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert and Trailer Coverage, Reverse Brake Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering Assist and Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Keeping System includes Lane Keeping Aid, Lane Keeping Alert, Driver Alert System and Road Edge Detection, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, and Front/Side/Rear Parking Sensors.
Optional Tech: None.
There's plenty to love about the Navigator's ability to take on small gear and luggage. The rear cargo section is plenty big for road trips, and only those with extra space needs should upgrade to the bigger Navigator L that offers up about 20 more cubic feet of cargo space.
Storage Space: Both rowas have capacious center armrest and door pockets. We also like the cubbies in the center console.
Cargo Room: The Navigator has 20.9 cubic feet of space behind row three and a whopping 103.4 cubes with the seats folded flat.
Fuel economy is aided by the presence of the turbocharged V6 engine in place of a V8 mill. The result is very good for a vehicle this large. We found it to be pretty good over the course of a week on both local roads and expressways.
Observed: 17.3 mpg.
Distance Driven: 147 miles.
The Reserve comes standard with a Revel Audio System with HD Radio Technology and 14 Speakers. Whilte it's not as impressive as the optinoal 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D audio system, it's still excellent. It had great clarity, bass, and mid-range.