It’s been more than a decade since the Lincoln Motor Company Navigator’s last redesign, and some long-overdue changes for 2018 modernize it inside and out, including an opulent exterior styling makeover, a new twin-turbo engine and a slick new multimedia system. (Use our tools to compare the new model with the old version.) There’s also an extended version, which we haven’t driven, called the Navigator L; its extra length increases cargo capacity (see them compared).
The Navigator competes with full-size luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti QX80 (compare them).
A Rolling Palace
The Lincoln Navigator announces its arrival — and yours — with an enormous jeweled grille anchored by an illuminated Lincoln emblem, yet its opulence only hints at the luxuries inside.
To check it out, though, you’ll first have to actually make it inside. The step-in height is high, but I got to skip my usual large-SUV running leap thanks to my favorite standard feature: proximity-activated power running boards. While your key is still in your purse or pocket, the running boards deploy as you approach the vehicle, making climbing into this beast a much more graceful process. Bonus: They also saved me from having to hurl my kids into their car seats. Unlike fixed steps, which err on the higher side to maximize ground clearance, powered running boards extend lower, allowing even little ones to step up into the vehicle.
While driving around with a friend, she commented that riding in the Navigator is like riding around in a couch — and she’s close to right. I’d say it’s more like a giant, plush, cushy leather recliner perched in the lobby of a five-diamond hotel. The Lincoln Navigator’s interior is among the most impressive I’ve seen in terms of both features and comfort.
First, the seats are nap-worthy. Sink into them and you can almost hear a sigh of relaxation (or maybe that’s the leather breathing). They’re enormous, cushy yet supportive, and they offer seemingly infinite adjustments for maximum comfort. They’re available with 30 power adjustments, they’re heated and they can also be ventilated — and they can be equipped with a massage function.
Second, materials quality is top-notch, and the design is simple but sophisticated. Everything is padded and looks and feels classy, from the low-gloss wood trim to the supple leather seats. Driving around during my low-key, errand-filled weekend, I felt underdressed.
There are a couple of bells and whistles that stand out in the rear seats, too. Both the second and third rows have adult-friendly headroom and legroom, and it’s a breeze to get back to the third row — unlike in the QX80. The Lincoln Navigator’s power sliding seats move out of the way to create a huge opening to the third row. In our Car Seat Check, the second row was also roomy enough to accommodate three car seats; two car seats fit in the third row.
Another highlight of the second row is the Navigator’s illuminated seat belt buckles. Yes, that sounds gimmicky, but they were quite helpful when my second-grader was fumbling around for her buckle in the dark.
Both rows of seats go down in a sort of power-folding seat ballet controlled by cargo-area buttons. By the numbers, the Navigator has more cargo room than the competition, with 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row, 54.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 103.3 cubic feet with all seats folded. The Escalade offers 15.2/51.6/94.2 cubic feet, and the QX80 has 16.6/49.6/95.1 cubic feet. Note that with both backseat rows folded, the Navigator offers almost 10 cubic feet more than either competitor. If you need more room still, the Navigator L provides 34.3/73.3/120.2 cubic feet.
The other side of the coin is that piloting the Navigator is a lot like driving a couch, too — a massive, whisper-quiet couch; there’s no disguising its enormity on the road. It feels bulky and truck-based in terms of maneuverability, and I relied heavily on the standard multiview camera with distance alert to park it.
I felt comfortable with the Lincoln Navigator’s firm, natural steering, but its handling often felt clumsy. It careened around corners with all the grace of a labradoodle puppy. Ride quality is an issue, too; it’s overly soft and lacks control over big bumps, but it also shimmies over smaller bumps and patches of broken pavement.