On approach to the all-new Navigator, white LED front lamps wink alive to welcome your presence while a Lincoln-logo puddle lamp illuminates the ground outside the door. A power-actuated running board deploys to assist your boarding process as door-handle lighting directs your grip.
Once inside, instruments and screens spring to life and illumination guides you to the slot to insert your seatbelt buckle.
If this all sounds a bit over the top, bear in mind complaints about the previous model centered on its lack of luxury and uniqueness. Consider that resolved in the ’18 Navigator, a righteous contender for the title of North American Truck of the Year.
Though it shares its all-aluminum sheet metal and body-on-frame chassis with the new Expedition, this is a wholly different vehicle from its Ford sibling – and bears no resemblance to those underwhelming Navigators from the past.
The interior in our $89,925 4x4 Reserve trim is nothing short of fabulous, featuring a floating center console that is both a work of art and a gorgeous and functional piece of furniture. Chrome surrounds the center screen, which is bracketed below by vents and unique, piano-key PRND shift buttons. Farther back on the leather-, chrome- and wood-trimmed console are controls for drive modes and other key interfaces, while the console itself provides a huge storage cavern. That massive space is only outdone by the wide-open stowage below and ahead of the console that usually is taken up by powertrain controls, the shift lever and related linkages.
Settling into the cockpit for the first time requires some time and attention: The front seats feature 30-way power adjustments all designed to help the driver and passenger achieve a Goldilocks state of comfort. The 12-in. (30.5-cm) instrument cluster features digitally mastered analog gauges with soft white needles tipped by star-like points to indicate speed and rpm.
A multi-color HUD provides clear and always visible cues and a wide range of information, including speed, speed-limit recognition, operation of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, time, temperature and miles to empty, to name a few. Lincoln notes the HUD is visible even while wearing polarized sunglasses, which we’ve found to be a major impediment in other vehicles.
While some of the controls, such as steering-wheel heat, are inexplicably buried in the center touchscreen, most systems are readily accessible and quickly adjusted. The Revel audio system is worth the price of admission.
Second- and third-row passengers are only slightly less coddled, but they have myriad options for comfort and entertainment via built-in screens in the second row or by connecting their own devices to the built-in Wi-Fi system and charging via USB ports in each row.
Third-row seats are power reclining and all the seats fold flat to provide wide flexibility for cargo hauling.
We put the Navigator to work as Santa’s sleigh during the holidays, filling it to capacity with toys, bicycles, TVs, clothing and other items for a local charity program.
Aside from the easy loading and unloading, we were surprised by the ease of parking the big rig in busy and crowded shopping center lots. Although the 40.8-ft. (12.4-m) curb-to-curb turning circle is on par with the previous model, the steering is especially crisp. It feels as though there’s an extra quarter-turn of the wheel before hitting lock, an attribute that proves especially helpful in tight parking maneuvers.
The Navigator’s powertrain is perfectly matched for the vehicle as well. The high-output 3.5L twin-turbocharged V-6 produces 450 hp and a whopping 510 lb.-ft. (691 Nm) of torque, with every bit of it accessible via the quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is not a strong suit – we observed 14.7 mpg (16.0 L/100 km) in around-town driving fully loaded with holiday gifts, below the EPA estimates of 16/21/18 mpg (14.7/11.2/13.0 L/100 km) city/highway/combined for the standard length 4x4.
That said, this engine is nearly as responsive as its tire-shredding sibling in the Ford F-150 Raptor, with just enough wide-open-throttle exhaust note to resonate into the cabin, yet toned down in this application in keeping with Lincoln’s quiet luxury mantra. The engine’s stop/start system is imperceptible.
“Overall the Navigator stands out as a uniquely American luxury vehicle that even the best European and Asian designers still can’t match,” says WardsAuto colleague Drew Winter, a NACTOY juror who cast his points in favor of Lincoln’s truck entry.
“And now all we can do is wait for the response from Cadillac,” Winter says.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'18 Lincoln Navigator 4x4 Reserve Specifications
|Vehicle type||8-passenger, 5-door SUV|
|Engine||3.5L twin-turbocharged all-aluminum port- and direct-injected V-6|
|Power (SAE net)||450 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque||510 lb.-ft. (691 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||92.5 x 86.6|
|Wheelbase||122.5 ins. (3,112 mm)|
|Overall length||210 ins. (5,334 mm)|
|Overall width||93.8 ins. (2,383 mm)|
|Overall height||76.3 ins. (1,938 mm)|
|Curb weight||5,855 lbs. (2,656 kg)|
|Base price||$81,205 (not including $1,195 destination and handling charge)|
|Fuel economy||16/21/18 mpg (14.7/11.2/13.0 L/100 km) city/highway/combined|
|Competition||Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX, Mercedes-Benz GLS|
|200 lbs. lighter||Still a behemoth|
|Power to burn||Drinks premium fuel|
|Over-the-top luxury||Some buried controls|