The rum-runners called them Whiskey Sixes – big, fast machines that defied Prohibition and ran moonshine across the mountains. Back in the twenties, Alberta was a dry province, so a few enterprising B.C. backwoods distillers loaded up their powerful McLaughlins and headed east, hoping to dodge police and return with pockets bulging with illicitly earned cash.
Pulling out to overtake a slow-moving tractor-trailer, I put my right foot down and consider what a “quick six” means today. The Ford heritage might be wrong. McLaughlins were powered by Buick and the company was eventually absorbed by GM. However, the cylinder count in the big Lincoln is right, and the way it picks up its skirts and hauls for the hills is as high-proof as it gets.
Fernie is one of the jewels of the Kootenays, a clean-aired mountain town enjoying the fruits of year-round appeal to tourists. In the winter, it’s the skiing. In the summer, the streets are filled with downhill mountain bikes strapped to the backs of crossovers, as well as trucks hauling boats.
The Navigator is exactly the machine you’d expect here, the sort that has towed a ski boat from Vancouver or Calgary. It’s a full-size, body-on-frame SUV built for life in the country.
Yet it’s as prettily outfitted for upscale city living as a luxury apartment building. Which it happens to be the size of. This is one big rig, well polished though it may be. Like moonshine runners, surely the time for huge, fancy SUVs has passed?
The rate at which the Navigator passes gas stations will have you thinking otherwise. Fitted with a twin-turbo V-6, which it shares with the outrageous Raptor variant of the Ford F-150, the Navigator nevertheless returns highway fuel economy to nearly match a three-row crossover like the Honda Pilot.
In the city and around town, the Navigator is a sight less wieldy and also distinctly thirsty. It is, however, extremely powerful, shrugging off its tremendous curb weight with ease. It’s about as quick up to highway speeds as a Volkswagen Golf GTI despite casting a shadow as big as a Lufthansa Boeing 747.
Furthermore, the Navigator is distinctly American in the way it delivers luxury. It doesn’t defy cornering physics like a Porsche Cayenne, but instead isolates driver and passengers from the road. The seats are incredible, offering near-unlimited adjustability and even a massage function. The light-up front badge is unapologetically ostentatious.
In many ways, the Navigator shares traits with the Continental coupes and sedans that built the Lincoln brand in its heyday. It’s large, ultra-capable and a little wallowy. Cadillac has painted itself into a corner by trying to offer performance and luxury at the same time. With vehicles like the Navigator and the upcoming Aviator, Lincoln promises comfort and quality foremost.
It’s a pleasurable blend of ample power to pass the semi-trailers blocking the view, and a refined luxury that encourages a relaxed pace. There are no stopwatches in the mountain passes, only a stunning landscape that’s worth lingering over.
But the constables are still out there, even if they’re not looking for wooden crates filled with bathtub gin anymore. In the Navigator, we simply roll past with a smile and a wave, coddled and confident, slickly urban but laid-back, country-style.
- Price: $84,045 (base); $102,200 (as tested)
- Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V-6
- Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic rear-wheel-drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.0 (city); 11.4 (highway)
- Alternatives: Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Range Rover
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.