EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is the first major update to the model since 2007!
The biggest change is dumping the 5.4-liter V8 in favor of a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. A more Lincoln-esque front end is here as well. I like the ginormous interior, especially the big knobs for things like volume and climate. It beats the touchsense stuff required in some other luxury utes.
It drives mostly like the 6,300 pounder it is. There must be a ton of sound deadeners because this baby is quiet on the road. Steering is decent and the ride is smooth. Having a V6 in a truck this heavy might seem like not enough, but no worries: Plenty of power here; feels nice and torquey. The in-dash mpg meter said I averaged 11 mpg home and back to work, so wondering where the “eco” is…
Nevertheless, early indications are the changes seem to be working: Lincoln sold 916 in January compared to only 375 in January 2014. Mercedes-Benz moved 2,121 GL-classes, Cadillac 1,100 Escalades, and Infiniti 1,248 QX80s in case you wondered.
Word in Dearborn is the next big Navigator changes come in 2017 when it rides on the new F-150 chassis and gets aluminum body panels.
ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This Navigator isn’t as bad as I was expecting. Is that a compliment? I’m not a fan of the size and the new look. I could take it or leave it. When the wife and I left the house in a mini blizzard a few nights ago, she said, “it’s a good thing we have a frickin’ snow plow to drive.”
The Navigator is impervious to the snow. I did have it in 2WD for my first ride home, but threw it into 4WD Auto after that. This SUV will drive up snow banks if it needs to. It does carry a ton of weight. Meaning, if you haven’t sufficiently scrubbed your speed by the time you get to a stop sign, you will be sliding through. As soon as it hits dry pavement it’ll grind to a halt.
It’s a beast of vehicle. I had to park way in the back of the restaurant parking lot because it was too narrow to turn this aircraft carrier around.
I will agree with Wes that power from the EcoBoost V6 is more than enough. It’s good to pull ahead out of red lights and I could pass on the expressway without a problem. Steering and handling are surprisingly crisp for this type of vehicle, too.
The interior is nice, fit and finish look pretty good. The materials on the dash look upscale. The old Ford radio is a bummer, though. The new version isn’t that good either, but compared to this it’s fantastic. There’s obviously a ton of room in the back and it heats up surprisingly quick. The seats are comfortable, though there’s no dead pedal to rest your left foot on, which is annoying. And no heated steering wheel? C’mon guys, we’re not animals.
The front parking sensor was acting up. Every time I turned on the vehicle it activated. Something must have been covering it. It must not be protected enough or recessed enough, or something. I turned it off.
I think this class of vehicle is on its way out. You got five kids? Get a minivan.
Navigator comes standard with the new Lincoln steering wheel. The Wollsdorf leather-wrapped, wood-trimmed wheel features a thick grip and soft touch for a dynamic driving experience.PHOTO BY LINCOLN
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Hopped down and out of this 2015 Lincoln Navigator L after a long weekend with the complete opposite view as Jake. Despite finding this truck to be as bad, superficially, as I was expecting it to be, I actually found a lot to like here.
I’ll be brutally honest: I was sort of embarrassed to be handed the keys to this Navigator, at first. It’s a monster, as big as the gigantic pickups we sometimes test but without even the pretense of workaday functionality. Driving it around Detroit, as I did, it was hard not to feel a little bit like deposed mayor (and notorious Navigator driver) Kwame Kilpatrick.
Quickly, though, you realize that few are judging you for your ride and those who are aren’t worth your time anyway. You own it. You start to enjoy the Navigator for what it is.
Certainly, the luxury SUV fundamentals are all there. It’s cushy and quiet, equipped with every feature one could possibly need (except, oddly, a heated steering wheel) and well-isolated from road imperfections. The EcoBoost is lag-free and very smooth; it’s arguably the best thing about this truck, and the only thing that seems to have really, truly changed. What the motor lacks in V8 roar it makes up in a sort of mechanical purr that seems totally out of place, but not unwelcome, on an American SUV.
As a bonus, it’s surprisingly easy to tuck into a parking spot. I didn’t parallel park it, but steering is well-configured to allow you to maneuver into and out of some narrow spaces. You’d never call it nimble, but it doesn’t wallow around as I expected.
And that’s kind of where it starts to fall apart for me. The exterior styling? It is what it is -- standard-issue front and rearLincoln fascias tacked on to a decidedly old-school two-box body. The interior has higher-quality touchpoint materials than the Ford Expedition, but none of it is really all that impressive. Radio and climate control knobs seem to wiggle a bit in place. Didn’t the Kia Sorento I just drove feel better put-together?
The nicest bit of trim I could find was the brushed pewter-ish Sync badge located near the gear selector, which advertised the presence of the much-hated infotainment system (I actually don’t mind it). It looked like real metal and felt like real metal because it was -- get this -- apparently real metal. What a concept! Lincoln should explore it further.
With all this in mind, I still think Jake’s conclusion is somewhat off-base. If we take “this class of vehicle” to mean giant body-on-frame SUV, then yes -- “this class of vehicle” has been on its way out for a few years now as the easy, obvious choice for kid-toting suburbanites. The crossover that came into being the Ford Explorer used to be body-on-frame, too, but tastes and preferences shifted and now very few will find themselves in something like the Navigator accidentally.
But if you need a truck, you need a truck; a minivan won’t haul your boat or trailer and this EcoBoost excels at towing. Further, the passenger experience in a vehicle like the Navigator L is totally different than the one in a minivan. Boxiness outside means airiness inside. I think stepping up interior quality here would go a long way toward making these more appealing as executive transportation vehicles, for what that’s worth.
And there’s more. Driving this Navigator so soon after finally experiencing the new Ford F-150 may have given me some insight into just what the heck is going on in Dearborn, at least when it comes to big, truck-based vehicles. Interior- and exterior-wise, Ford/Lincoln’s offerings are lagging behind the likes of the Silverado and Suburban (though they’re actually not any worse than Toyota’s big SUVs).
Powertrain-wise, though, Ford seems to be ahead of the game -- at least on paper. Its smaller-displacement turbos seem lightyears ahead of the overhead-valve relics pushed by Ram and Chevy.
Again, on paper. One potential fly in the ointment: Fuel economy. In testing these EcoBoost-powered pickups and SUVs, our figures haven’t compared favorably to automaker claims. They feel great. I’d venture you could tuck the 2.7-liter in here, or in the non-L Navigator at least, and many non-boat-haulers wouldn’t notice. But they suck gasoline more eagerly than the relatively primitive GM V8s we get in our fleet.
Now, we haven’t really tested them in non-winter conditions, and though I’m a little bit skeptical that we’ll hit the target even in ideal weather, I’ll reserve judgment ‘til we give them a fair evaluation…
Whether all this investment in light weighting, engine downsizing and EcoBoosting ultimately leaves Ford/Lincoln better positioned for the future remains to be seen, but working on the underpinnings first seems logical given the limited resources available to any automaker.
Especially if, as Wes points out, this half-baked exterior refresh hasn’t hurt sales.
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