Imagine you're a conservationist, genuinely in love with the outdoors, green issues and the Sierra Club.

Now imagine you're William C. Ford Jr., big cheese at a car company that your family has more or less run for generations. Imagine your company is producing profits by the bushel, peddling big, gas-thirsty sport utility vehicles.

What's a tree-hugger to do?

Maybe issue a report on conservation.

It's nice to know his company has a conscience.

It's also nice that his company still produces vehicles like the Lincoln Navigator, a decadent, luxury-laden leviathan that just oozes irresponsibility. And let's face it, these days too many people like skipping responsibility. That makes this vehicle a perfect buggy for weekend sojourns, where responsibility isn't a prerequisite until Monday morning.

So, for the weekend jaunt to Manheim, three assorted hedonists joined me in a journey to a classic auto auction among the Amish. Since we're all car buffs, we prefer our buggies motorized, although seeing buggies actually motivated by horse power still fascinates.

The reason for the trip was the possibility of obtaining a special Buick up for auction. This is not your father's Buick -- it was his father's, in this case, a 1941 Buick Century with a smidge over 14,000 original miles. Everything about this car was original and intact. The upholstery? Mothless. The trunk liner? Intact. Chrome? Only a little pitting. Paint? Yup. Even original tires. Gulp.

Despite the lumpy, dry-rotted original tires and fuel leaking out of the vehicle's underside, this car was a gangster special, a big handsome four-door with more steel than a parking lot of this year's LeSabres. It was quiet, smooth and powerful. Remarkable for a car that had seen such little use.

It imparted the same sense of luxury that the Lincoln Navigator had. The Navigator is really just a Ford Expedition that's been to one too many Republican fund-raisers. It has everything the Expedition has and then some. Yards of soft, comfy leather, acres of woodgrain trim and an abundance of power accessories.

This full-sized SUV boasts three rows of seats, although only toddlers would be happy spending any amount of time in the third row. The second row seemed sufficiently comfortable with cupholders and separate climate controls. Up front, a mammoth console separates supportive, deep bucket seats. They proved comfortable.

Power windows/locks/mirrors are standard. Amenities abound, such as auto-dimming rearview mirrors, power driver's seat and other such goodies that are expected in this class. This Navigator also boasts new features that make navigating narrow Pennsylvania roads easier.

This year finds a Navigation system available as a $1,995 option. It's housed in the aforementioned center console, down and out of the way where it's less distracting.

But it is easily the most infuriating system yet released. The only way to input a destination for guidan ce is to stop the vehicle. It will not change while the vehicle is in motion. Now, as a driver, you wouldn't want to fiddle with this. Your co-pilot in the passenger seat could fiddle with it safely, though -- but can't. Obviously, Ford's overanxious legal department had some say here. This is understandable. (And don't ask about the female voice that gives directions. When adjusting the volume, the voice cooed, `softer, softer, softer or louder, louder, louder. ` It amused us, but then, we're easily amused.)

Another new feature is power adjustable foot pedals. This is one option worth having. It allows the pedals to be adjusted backward or forward, a boon to shorter drivers.

Also new this year is an optional reverse-sensing system. Four ultrasonic sensors mounted in the rear bumper send out signals. When those signals hit something, the system beeps to tell you it's back there. The beeps increase in frequency as you get closer to the object. Since this ve hicle is half the si eof Rhode Island, it's a good thing to have.

Of course, motivating this big brick of a sport utility vehicle takes moxie. In this case, it comes from Ford's familiar 5.4-liter double overhead cam V-8, pumping out an even 300 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque. That's enough oomph to move this mountain with some authority. It's hitched to a four-speed automatic that shifts just about like most Ford automatics. That is to say, it hesitates before downshifting.

Certainly, it would beat the Buick off the line. But the Buick would get better gas mileage than the Lincoln's 12.6 mpg. The Buick also wouldn't require premium gas either. Actually, you could probably drain last week's split pea soup into the tank and the Buick would do just fine.

The Navigator is available as a 4x2 or 4x4 -- the test vehicle was the latter -- and has a convenient dash-mounted switch to change between two and four-wheel-drive modes. A low range is included.

Handling is pretty similar to the previous test-vehicle Navigator. The suspension is independent in front with torsion bars and air springs out back. It drives rather easily, despite its size. The wood-trimmed steering wheel is a hedonist's delight and even returns some road feel. Body lean is plentiful in corners, so slowing down is a must. Also, you'll always be aware of just how large this vehicle is. But the Navigator does a decent job of smothering bumps, lending it a luxurious Lincoln feel.

While relatively quiet, some road and wind noise creeps into the cabin.

On the outside, minor styling tweaks and larger 17-inch tires allegedly differentiate this Navigator from previous ones. It's hard to tell.

Interior storage with the third row of seats in place isn't very deep. But space becomes bountiful if you remove that third row and fold the second row. The roof rack is a nice concept, but reaching it is another story, literally. You'll need a ladder.

The only real downside to this vehicle was the value equation. For a test vehicle with a price of slightly more than 52 big ones, some of the interior trim seemed too conveniently borrowed from lesser Fords.

But who cares, right? this Navigator did its job dutifully and comfortably, yielding a thumbs-up from fellow hedonists.

As we left the auction, we found ourselves behind an old brown pickup with Connecticut plates. As the miles passed, a snout appeared above the rear tailgate. This Connecticut yankee was transporting a hog (the pork variety, not the wheeled variety.)

So were we. At least according to William Ford Jr. The only difference? Ford will make more money from our hog than that Yankee will from his.

2000 Lincoln Navigator

Vehicle type: Full-sized SUV

Engine: 5.4-liter DOHC InTech V8

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Tires: P275/75R17 OWL A/T

Wheelbase: 119 inches

Length: 204.8 inches

Width: 82.5 inches

Height: 75.4 inches

Curb weight: 5,723 pounds

Test mileage: 12. 6 mpg

Fuel capacity: 30 gallons