Lincoln says that by 2030, its entire lineup will be electric, starting with its first fully-electric vehicle debuting next year. In the meantime, Lincoln is reinventing its current lineup, including its halo vehicle, the full-size three-row Navigator. On the road since 1997, it’s Lincoln’s flagship SUV and the backbone of the brand. And despite challenges with the pandemic and the global semiconductor chip shortage, Lincoln is on a roll, experiencing an upsurge in sales in North America.
In Canada, Lincoln sales were up more than 17 per cent year-over-year, with Navigator up almost 34 per cent. It’s the best year-to-date since 2017, according to Michael Sprague, Lincoln’s North America director.
The company says connectivity and technology are at the heart of the all-new 2022 Navigator, though there’s some question about whether buyers will like, appreciate or even use the tech gadgets and features onboard. While Navigator attracts the youngest customers to the Lincoln brand, the average age of a buyer is still high at 52.
First up on the tech features slate is ActiveGlide, Lincoln’s new hands-free driver-assist technology. Navigator is the first SUV in the family to get it. ActiveGlide uses semi-autonomous driving features, such as intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capabilities and lane-centering systems, to allow drivers to operate the SUV hands-free on sections of pre-mapped, divided highways. Lincoln says that more than 200,000 km across the U.S and Canada are currently mapped. Graphics on the instrument cluster and the heads-up display light up blue when the cameras and radar system are activated and it’s safe to take your hands off the wheel. An infrared driver-facing camera also tracks the driver’s eye position, gaze and head position to make sure they’re focused on the road and not distracted while the system is activated.
Other new safety features include intersection assist, which uses a forward-facing camera and radar to alert a driver of oncoming traffic when attempting to turn left. The system can also apply the brakes if the driver fails to stop. Active Park Assist 2.0 is upgraded, too. The system helps parallel and perpendicular park this big SUV; it now includes side-sensing capability so drivers can navigate out of a spot when someone is parked too close to their vehicle.
Connected convenience features are also plentiful. Navigator gets the latest SYNC 4 system, Lincoln’s in-vehicle information and communications technology; it uses cloud-based connectivity, features over-the-air software updates and has twice the computing power as the last version. It can connect wirelessly to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SYNC apps like Waze navigation and live traffic, weather and Amazon Alexa. Like Alexa at Home, Alexa is a built-in digital personal assistant in the car that allows drivers to ask questions, in natural language. Phone As A Key is another cool feature that lets you lock or unlock doors, start or stop the Navigator remotely and raise the tailgate with your smartphone via the Lincoln Way app – no traditional key is required; the key fob doesn’t even need to be on you.
Technology surrounds the driver – inside, there’s a 12-inch instrument cluster, a new head-up display on the windshield and a big horizontal 13.2-inch centre touch screen. Underneath the centre screen is the piano key gear shifter with buttons slightly smaller than the last version. Thankfully, there are conventional dials and buttons so it’s easier to find and adjust the volume, climate controls and heated and ventilated front seats.
Comfort is key, especially for first- and second-row passengers. The driver and front passenger get 30-way seat settings with more massage functions and patterns than ever before. Second-row passengers also get upgraded to a first-class feeling. Now, they can control their seat, climate and audio settings via a new 5.8-inch digital control module. Second-row riders also get heated and ventilated seats and for the first time, massage seats, too. Lincoln has added eight extra speakers to push the number to 28 throughout the cabin, and six signature chimes, created by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, that are more pleasant to the ears compared to annoying electronic beeps that warn drivers of an unbuckled seatbelt.
From the exterior, the Navigator remains big, bold and brawny with menacing good looks and a commanding presence. It retains Lincoln’s traditional DNA, but adds an updated upright signature grille, revised LED front headlights and funky, new tail lamps with sequential lighting that fades from the centre outwards, complementing that horizontal lines inside.
The new Navigator will be built in the U.S. at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant. It arrives in dealerships early next year. And it may have enough technology to drive younger buyers to the brand – maybe 40-somethings, this time around.
2022 Lincoln Navigator
Base price: TBC
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V-6, 440 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque
Transmission/Drive: 10-speed automatic, 4WD
Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway): TBC
Alternatives: Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Volvo XC90, BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade