2018 Lincoln Navigator
– Premium feel inside and out
– Cabin trim and space
– Good power, fair handling
– Pushes the boundaries of size
– Hard-plastic third-row trim
– Some rivals handle better
It’s hard to believe that the Lincoln Navigator was the top dog among well-to-do rappers back when the first-generation model debuted in 1998. The Cadillac Escalade soon debuted after that and started eating the Lincoln’s lunch. To make matters worse, the Navigator continued to be based on that ancient Ford Expedition-derived chassis all the way up to 2017, surviving mostly on simple facelifts. All that changed once the all-new Ford Expedition debuted in 2018, and with it came an all-new Navigator that’s clearly a better vehicle than the current Cadillac Escalade before you even drive it.
But drive it we did. Like the Expedition, the Navigator is a massive vehicle, larger than any of its current rivals. But it does well to hide its relationship with the Ford, as not a single body panel is shared between the two. The big Lincoln features a “floating roof” design, unique 22-inch wheels as an option, LED exterior lighting that do a “welcome” dance when the car is unlocked, and an imposing mesh grille that can be had with an illuminated brand logo. It looks properly premium.
Stepping inside using the power-folding side steps, we were greeted with an interior trimmed in blue leather that matched the blue exterior of our top-spec Presidential version. The cabin fascia is an amalgam of shapes, with the centre console actually detached from the main dashboard which houses the 10-inch capacitive touchscreen and the discreet gear-selector buttons.
Most surfaces are covered in padded-leather surfaces as well as wood trim (white wood in our case), although if you search hard enough, you’ll find some hard-plastic panels in the lower recesses of the centre-console.
The floating centre-console itself houses the a/c and stereo shortcut buttons as well as covered cup-holders and a storage shelf underneath. One odd feature is that the centre-armrests for the front passengers are both fully attached on top of the storage-cubby lid rather than being separate adjustable pieces.
Front passengers in the Presidential are treated to unique 30-way seats that even include individually-extendable thigh supports for each leg. Second-row seating can be either a split-folding bench or captain’s chairs, with tons of legroom and front-back adjustability. The power-foldable third-row bench can seat adults in reasonable comfort, although they’ll be surrounded by the hard plastics of the boot area, which detracts from the overall ambience.
The boot itself is expectedly massive with the third row folded. Will all seats in use, there is still just enough space left for groceries or prams, while a built-in double-decker shelf can even be set up to hold more bags and such.
There are too many features to list. All the basic luxuries are there, such as cooled front seats, navigation, smart keyless entry and start, remote start, Bluetooth, etc. And there are the extras, such as the massive panoramic glass roof, a very animated 12-inch LCD gauge cluster, heads-up display, voice-operated SYNC 3 multimedia system with Arabic compatibility, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger, very good tri-zone auto a/c, excellent Revel audio with 14 or 20 speakers, 6 USB ports, 4 12V ports, a 230V port, and the power tailgate that opens at the wave of a foot. The rear-seat 10-inch screens can even run content off Android phones, USB/HDMI-plugged devices or SD cards.
Safety features include a full suite of airbags, adaptive cruise control with auto braking, lane departure warning, around-view parking cameras, blind-spot monitoring and more.
Powering the luxury cruiseship is a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, making 450 hp at 5500 rpm and 691 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. With the help of a 10-speed automatic, we could realistically manage a 0-100 kph time of 7 seconds during our July afternoon test. It doesn’t feel like a rocket on take-off or sound particularly good, but once it gets moving, it seems to build up speed rather quickly.
With an as-tested fuel consumption of 16.5 litres/100 km (6.1 km/l), it’s not hugely more economical than its rivals, and in line with expectations.
In terms of handling, the Navigator feels disconnected and a bit on the soft side. However, if you rack up the courage, you will notice that the body lean isn’t as much as you’d expect, and there’s no shortage of grip from the 285/45 tyres, so you can take longer corners in reasonable haste, especially when the “sporty” driving mode is selected. The steering lacks feedback, but overall, the controls offer more car-like responses than more truckish rivals such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Lexus LX 570. But pricier European rivals handle far better.
The ride is fairly comfortable as well, aided by the fully-independent adaptive suspension. It is also one of the quieter choices in this segment. Around town, it is easy to park thanks to a myriad of sensors and cameras, but the problem is whether it will fit in any given parking space in the first place.
The Navigator is technically offroad-capable, although we didn’t try it out on the sand. While it comes equipped with all-wheel-drive, low-range gearing and oodles of power, the fact is its overall size, low-profile tyres and long overhangs limit what all it can do on the dunes without damage, so it’s best to stick to flatter areas when venturing off the beaten path.
All in all, the new Lincoln Navigator is a huge step up for the model as well as the brand. While it may not be as bespoke as its European rivals, the Ford-based Navigator does a much better job at hiding its roots than its American and Japanese counterparts with whom it competes in terms of price. It is guaranteed to be Lincoln’s best-seller in our region, and may actually steal sales in this segment for the first time ever.
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