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road test

Lincoln is big again

Boasting brash excess without apology, the Navigator makes the case for a brand we need to keep around

2018 Lincoln Navigator

In the 1970s, a Lincoln Continental Mark V was arguably the yacht of choice in the personal luxury coupe segment. Lefty Ruggerio, Al Pacino's character in the mob flick Donnie Brasco, would make the case for a Cadillac instead – "It's got more power, more acceleration, more legroom for your legs" – but there was no denying the 5.8-metre-long Mark V was an outrageously opulent boat.

Forty years later, the new Navigator channels this same brash excess without apology. Call it a personal luxury sloop. Further, this time it's Lincoln that's flipping the tables on its Cadillac rival, with more power, better acceleration – and yes, with the long-wheelbase versions especially, more legroom for your legs.

In its standard-length version, the Navigator heaves into view like an ocean liner, some 5.3 metres in length and nearly 2 metres tall. If sheer size wasn't enough of an opening gambit, it further announces its arrival with a brightly lit Lincoln badge big enough to grace the top of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

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Add in two different styles of 22-inch wheels, lashings of chrome, and a full-width rear LED strip, and the boxy Navigator is anything but subtle. In white, it looks like a rapper's refrigerator.

However, don't think of this exuberance as pride going before the fall, but as Lincoln finding its legs again. After years floundering around with questionable products – the regrettable MKT, for instance, resembles a decomposing baleen whale – both the reborn Continental and this new Navigator are genuinely appealing.


With its massive size, brightly lit Lincoln badge, 22-inch wheels, chrome lashings and full-width rear LED strip, the boxy Navigator is anything but subtle.

Cosseted by perfect seats, surrounded by luxurious trimmings, with ample power underfoot and surprising competence behind the heated steering wheel, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Navigator.


Climbing aboard via self-deploying step-rails, front-seat passengers find themselves in some of the best seats currently on the market. Adjustable in twenty four directions, including separate lengths for each leg, the Navigator's plush leather thrones also feature massaging functions, and easy-to-use controls mounted high up on the doors.

The Reserve trim, a might-as-well $3,000 bump over the standard Select model, adds equally comfortable captain's chairs in the second row, along with an LCD-equipped console and an upgrade to the audio system. Third-row seats are easily large enough for adult passengers and have power reclining.

The quality, a metric perhaps lacking in previous Lincoln efforts, is very good. Poking and prodding through the various test models found one slightly misaligned A-pillar trim piece, but all else was up to the standard expected from a truck that will cross into the six-figure mark with options. The matte wood finish was especially good-looking, piano black was used as a trimming rather than a main feature, and the display graphics were crisp, pretty and modern.

Setting out onto the snowy roads that stretch up into the mountains around Whistler, the Navigator feels exactly like what it is: a large and heavy body-on-frame SUV. However, while it's not quite as deft as a Range Rover might be, the Navigator's handling is most accurately described as secure. The straightforward terrain selection system handled snow-covered roads, the air-suspension damped body movements with confidence, and the prodigious torque of the twin-turbo V6 made acceleration effortless.

Road noise is also very low, and the ride over a section of potholed road was near-faultless. You'd expect such huge wheels to be crashy over bumps, but Lincoln appears to have ironed things out. The only real driving issues emerged when navigating Whistler's village, with large B-pillars creating annoying blind spots.

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Cosseted by perfect seats, surrounded by luxurious trimmings, with ample power underfoot and surprising competence behind the heated steering wheel, it's hard not to be impressed by the Navigator, and by what's happening at Lincoln in general. These are vehicles with real names and genuine character – confidence and luxury. Lincoln is big again.


Tech Specs

  • Base price: $87,500
  • Engine: twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6
  • Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic, four-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100kms; city/hwy): TBD
  • Alternatives: Cadillac Escalade, full-size Range Rover


The Navigator feels exactly like what it is: a large and heavy body-on-frame SUV.


Looks

Ignore the very slightly cheaper Select trim and go for the Reserve. Along with a much better-looking treatment for the alloy wheels, it comes with that must-have light-up badge and the power step-rails. There's no point buying a five-metre Lincoln for subtlety, so add the extra glitz.


Interior

Many Navigators will be used not by those who will drive them, but by those who will be driven in them. As such, there's still a little room here for Lincoln to provide another package that provides the second-row seats with the same level of adjustability and functionality (massaging, for instance) as an executive-class trim. Overall, however, passengers will be very comfortable.

Front-seat passengers will find themselves in some of the best seats currently on the market.


Performance

Simply put, the Navigator has the heart of a raptor. The 450hp, 510-lb-ft of torque, twin-turbo V6 provides enough shove to shrug off the roughly 2700-kilogram curb weight as if it didn't exist. Further, the 10-speed automatic shifts more smoothly here than in early F150 applications.


Technology

The Navigator's central 10-inch touchscreen handles all infotainment and navigation duties, and is quick and clear. There are a couple of issues, though: A lack of button controls slows down switching between functions, and with Apple CarPlay activated, there doesn't appear to be a simple way to flip back to the vehicle-based navigation.

The Navigator’s central 10-inch touchscreen handles all infotainment and navigation duties.


Cargo

With the third row of seats folded down, the Navigator's trunk can swallow a colossal 1628 litres. If you need a little more organization, the aptly named cargo package adds a tiered layout with four-way configuration. Towing capacity is a solid 3800 kg, and the Navigator has Ford's trailer backup system prominently featured.

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With the third row of seats folded down, the Navigator’s trunk can swallow a colossal 1628 litres.


The Verdict

8.0

Big, luxurious, roomy and competent, the Navigator joins the Continental in making the case that Lincoln is a brand we need to keep around.


The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.


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