CARS.COM — With plenty to catch our eye at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, picking a winner was almost as tough as finding your Uber at LaGuardia. If the award was for most outrageous car, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon would’ve easily grabbed it. Instead, a statelier, more sedate vehicle gets the nod: the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.
We can’t remember the last time we saw a Navigator that wasn’t black and being driven by someone standing around holding a sign with a stranger’s last name on it 15 minutes earlier. The Navigator has been a true afterthought for years. Until now.
The exterior is striking and looks almost exactly like the Navigator Concept that debuted at last year’s show here, right down to the crazy wheels. Though it shares a powertrain and has the same general shape as the redesigned Ford Expedition, the styling is dramatically different inside and out, so there’s no way to confuse the two.
Cars.com editors Brian Wong, Aaron Bragman, Fred Meier and Joe Bruzek explain themselves below:
Wong: I’m going to count on my associates to be more practical and shout out the Navigator’s improvements in technology, family-friendly features and cargo room. But the real star to me is the quantum leap in cabin materials: The Navigator on display was part of Lincoln’s Black Label series, and this particular color and trim scheme is called Yacht Club, one of three Black Label variants all named after things I can’t afford.
Somehow, the light blue works at being visually interesting without broaching overbearing, and materials are fantastic. I want to lower myself into a cocoon made of that leather and drift away. It’s a true contender to the Cadillac Escalade, and if that vaguely confirmed powertrain is as up to snuff as we’ve found it is in the Ford F-150 Raptor, the big Caddy should watch its back closely.
Bragman: This isn’t a contender to the Escalade; this thing blows the Escalade away in terms of luxurious feel. You sit in an Escalade, touch its cheap plastic controls and think, “This costs a hundred grand?” You sit in the Navigator and think, “OK, yep, I get it.”
The details are what set it apart both in design and materials. The shape and feel of the gear selector push-buttons, the leather stitching on the grab handles, the sweep of the dash that recalls Lincolns of the 1960s, the “fully dipped” monochromatic interior that isn’t beige or gray but a lovely sky blue — all of it comes together to finally give Lincoln a style and voice that conveys the premium American luxury brand that it should be.
Meier: In the battle of big American SUVs, the Navigator went from barely warmed over Ford Expedition to Cadillac killer this week. Where the Escalade is all sharp elbows and angles, the new Navigator’s styling is elegant, a supersized Lincoln Continental.
Points to Lincoln for bringing last year’s nautical-theme Navigator Concept to reality without losing the spirit or many of the details (except the silly gullwing doors and the retractable stairway to heaven). If you have a Yacht Club version, you clearly aren’t embarrassed to be thought of as a land yacht, and the Navigator is, but in a good way. It has real luxury style, particularly in the silvery blue color scheme that echoes the concept. The interior detailing, controls and materials serve up visual and tactile pleasure.
But all of this would just be an exercise in conspicuous consumption if the thing were not also so damn useful as a big SUV. If you need real room for seven, you get a sofa for a third row. The twin-turbo V-6 will tow your other boat. And that cool floating console also hovers over useful space for your Hermes Birkin handbag.
Bruzek: Lincoln is struggling to make its sedans feel as luxurious as they cost, but the Navigator will have no such problems, and I’m confident saying that even without knowing the price. The slathering of interior styling and quality inside the Navigator Black Label Yacht Club is a sign Lincoln is ready to ditch its near-luxury automaker status and take that next step up.
This high-end Navigator can be considered a luxury SUV like a Land Rover or Mercedes-Benz. The blue interior with chrome highlights looks like a classic Lincoln despite the notion of a yacht influence, but it’s not the kind of chrome that would decapitate you in a crash like those old cars.