Seat Time: 2015 Lincoln Navigator

September 16th, 2014 at 9:43am

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

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Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company
Make: Lincoln
Model: Navigator
Type: Full-size SUV
Competitors: Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX570
Price: Base: $62,475; Top line: $75,065
Made in: Louisville, KY
Drivetrain: 3.5 L EcoBoost V-6; 6-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 4×2:16 city/22 hwy/18 combined mpg; 4×4: 15 city/20 hwy/17 combined mpg

Final Impression:

2015 Lincoln Navigator InteriorThe “new” Lincoln Navigator is really just a refresh of a vehicle that badly needed it. The last time the Navigator was redesigned was in 2007, a shockingly long time to leave a vehicle unchanged in the marketplace—and a good indicator of why the Lincoln brand has been struggling. Happily, the refresh dramatically improves the driveability of the vehicle. But it also shows why the Navigator falls short of becoming a true luxury vehicle.

First, the good news. Lincoln dumped the 5.4 liter V-8 and replaced it with a tweaked version of its 3.5 liter EcoBoost V-6. Now rated at 380 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, it’s the most powerful version of the 3.5 to hit the streets. BTW, the engine hits peak torque at only 2200 rpm, right smack dab in the middle of where you’re going to use it the most. And that transforms the way this big SUV drives.

Whether pulling away from Stop signs, using a light throttle for in-town driving, or stomping down for full-throttle passing, this thing just gets up and goes. The instant throttle response and all-around driveability are surprisingly good and not at all what you’d expect from such a hulking behemoth. Returning Navigator owners will be astonished at the transformation.

Lincoln also upgraded the suspension with the optional continuously controlled dampers (CCD) that it’s been offering on the MKZ and MKC. The system uses electronic controls to constantly adjust the shock valving to road conditions, and man does it work. You can set the suspension to your personal taste with Comfort, Normal and Sport modes that provide a custom feel for highway cruising, driving through town or tooling around hilly country roads. GM has equipped its full size SUVs with magneto-rheological shocks, but that system doesn’t work well with 20-inch wheels or larger. The Navigator comes standard with twenties, with giant twenty-twos available, so you get a great ride to go along with the great look.

You can easily spot the new Navigator from the old one, though the styling changes are subtle. The front grille is a chunkier and is flanked by HID adjustable projectors outlined by a string of LED running lights. The taillights also feature a long string of LEDs that create a wide, side-to-side graphic reminiscent of the rear graphic on the Z and C. Methinks they must be settling on this look.

Inside, the IP features hand-wrapped leather, while the center console and door panels are trimmed in ziricote wood, an exotic rain forest timber they found in Mexico which Lincoln assures us is “green harvested.” In direct sunlight the wood exhibits a beautiful combination of fine grains. But you better see it in direct sunlight because otherwise the details disappear and it just looks like non-descript dark trim.

And that detail shows where Lincoln is coming up short—in the details. Open the driver’s door, look at the door inner and you’ll see why Lincoln is not in the luxury league. The notch for the latch looks like it was punched out with some crude tool. Worse, the edge of the notch is lined with a greasy lubricant that could easily smear a sleeve. Spot welds show clearly on the window sash and the steel is wrinkled where it curves.

While you’re standing there with the door open, look at the plastic trim panel surrounding the lower seat cushion. It looks cheap, with ragged flashing showing in places. Crikey! This is a vehicle than can easily top $75,000. I could go on but I think I made my point.

Lincoln sells about 8,000 Navigators a year and it will have no problem selling that many again, maybe more. This vehicle just drives too well not to bring its buyers back. But for Lincoln to become a true contender in the luxury segment it needs to dig deeper and push harder to convince the skeptics that it truly knows how to play in this game.


2 Comments to “Seat Time: 2015 Lincoln Navigator”

  1. Bootsandpants Says:

    The article says the Navigator was redesigned in 2007. According to the Automotive News’ definition of what constitutes a redesign – “New Platform, interior, and sheet metal”, the Navigator has never been redesigned, only re-engineered or freshened. I believe the sheet metal has never changed. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Sorry but escalade gets my vote.

    Navigator styling is OLD LOOKING.

    Jmo