Competes with: Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX 570
Looks like: The old Navigator with a new grille and headlights
Drivetrain: 370-plus-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6; six-speed automatic transmission; optional four-wheel drive.
Hits dealerships: Fall 2014
There isn't a rabid large-luxury SUV following begging for new products, but with Cadillac unveiling the heavily revised 2015 Escalade late last year, those in the market may have wondered when the next Lincoln Navigator, the Escalade's main rival and the original American luxury truck, would arrive. Lincoln has just revealed its new 2015 Navigator ahead of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, where the SUV will make its public debut, and we have the details.
Far from being a major makeover, the new Navigator has received a mild freshening at best. The only exterior differences are a new grille, bumpers, hood, headlights and taillights, which are all designed to bring the Navigator into line with the rest of the Lincoln aesthetic. Fenders, doors, windows and the roof all apparently carry over from the previous Navigator.
Two lengths are again available, a standard-length model with a 207.4-inch wheelbase and an extended-length model with a 222.3-inch wheelbase. LED running lamps are now present, and a new full-width LED taillight runs across the liftgate. Also in the lighting department is a new Lincoln "welcome mat," a projected Lincoln logo that is beamed down to the ground next to the SUV when approaching and unlocking the vehicle with the remote key fob. Replacing the 18-inch wheels are newly standard 20-inch wheels, with optional 22-inch rims as part of a new Reserve Package.
Even less has changed inside. The dashboard has been mildly revised and is now covered in stitched leather, but the door panels and lower console look no different. The latest MyLincoln Touch multimedia system with Sync graces the upper console along with the ubiquitous 8-inch touch-screen displaying audio, navigation and various apps. New gauges with a 4.2-inch LCD screen are standard and similar to that appearing in other Ford and Lincoln models, and the steering wheel has been carried over from the new MKC small crossover that's slated to appear this year. Real ziricote wood trim is available on the Reserve model, as is Trevino-brand leather, replacing the Eagle Ottawa-branded leather on standard models. Ambient lighting and a new two-tone interior are also available.
Where the Navigator still excels is room, for both people and stuff. It features the largest cargo space in the class, according to Lincoln, with seats up or seats stowed. Extended-length models provide 128.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 86.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row; standard-wheelbase models deliver 103.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 54.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row. Seating for eight is standard; optional second-row captain's chairs reduce seating capacity to seven.
Perhaps the biggest changes happen in the engine compartment. Gone is the long-lived 5.4-liter V-8 engine and in its place is a standard twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, making in excess of 370 horsepower and 430 pounds-feet of torque (final numbers haven't yet been certified). This is the only engine to be offered in the Navigator, but Ford says it makes more power and torque than the outgoing V-8, should have a best-in-class tow rating and will be nearly 15 percent more fuel efficient. Power is routed through a standard six-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or all four, with a 4x4 system optional.
Ride and handling should improve now that the Navigator features standard electric power steering and an optional Lincoln Drive Control system, which is a continuously adjustable active suspension system that uses sensors to monitor road conditions and adjust damping accordingly. It will allow drivers to select one of three modes to operate in — Normal, Sport or Comfort — and adjust suspension firmness to personal preference. A load-leveling system will be standard.
With the update to the Navigator on the mild side, safety features received only a couple advancements, including a new blind spot warning system and a backup camera.
Lincoln executives were clear that the 2015 model is aimed at current Navigator owners. With a 75 percent owner loyalty rating for the Navigator, it would seem that the only people buying the behemoths are folks who already have one. Given the extensive redo and upgrade that the new 2015 Cadillac Escalade will present to shoppers later this year, the 2015 Navigator's underwhelming refresh sends the message that Lincoln has all but given up on the full-size luxury SUV segment — giving loyal buyers one more iteration to enjoy but ultimately conceding segment leadership to Cadillac, at least for now.
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Editor's note: This post was updated on Jan. 29 to reflect where the Navigator will debut.