Lincoln redesigned its full-size sport utility vehicle for 2003, moving the Navigator away from its pickup-truck origins. Changes to the chassis promised less of the trucklike ride that the previous model exhibited. Lincoln claimed several industry firsts as options, including a power-folding third-row seat and power-extendable running boards, which ease entry and exit.
Although the Navigator is essentially a dressed-up Ford Expedition, the 2005 model gets a six-speed-automatic transmission � versus the Expedition's four-speed automatic � that promises improved shift smoothness. A new 5.4-liter V-8 with three valves per cylinder delivers the same 300 horsepower as before, but torque output has increased. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control is now standard on all Navigators.
Rear- and four-wheel-drive Navigators are offered in Luxury and Ultimate trim levels. The current model features a four-wheel-independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.
For 2005, Lincoln's signature grille gets a new chrome finish on the upper portion, and the front fascia is new. Bodyside cladding has been revised, and high-intensity-discharge headlights are optional. Aluminum wheels hold 18-inch tires, but new chrome wheels are available. The Navigator lowers itself by an inch when the ignition is turned off to allow easier entry and exit.
A powered liftgate and moonroof are installed on the Ultimate model. The available powered running boards extend outward by 4 inches when a door is opened and retract when it closes.
Depending on the second-row seating configuration, the Navigator carries either seven or eight people and includes a standard 60/40-split third-row seat. Lincoln offers either a bench seat or twin buckets for the second row. A power-operated third-row seat that folds into the floor is standard in the Ultimate model, which also features heated and cooled front seats.
Burl walnut and leather trim grace the Navigator's interior. A navigation system and a DVD entertainment system for the rear seats are available. Standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces (excluding the third-row seat), a six-CD changer and power-adjustable pedals.
Under the Hood
Lincoln's latest 5.4-liter V-8 develops 300 hp and 365 pounds-feet of torque; it teams with a new six-speed-automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive models can tow as much as 8,300 pounds when properly equipped.
AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control is standard. A Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system enhances occupant protection in side impacts and rollovers for occupants in the first and second rows. All-disc antilock brakes, rear parking assist and a tire-pressure monitor are standard.
Lincoln's largest SUV is stylish inside and appealing in many ways, but it doesn't feel quite as secure and surefooted at highway speeds or on twisty two-lane roads as it should.
Despite the Navigator's new six-speed automatic, acceleration seems weaker compared with Expeditions featuring the four-speed automatic. The ride is pleasantly satisfying overall, and the suspension responds quickly to bumps without overreacting. Braking is linear and effective.