Lincoln Tweaks Navigator for ’15, Drops V-8 for EcoBoost V-6

The upcoming SUV’s 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 outperforms the current 5.4L V-8, promising at least 370 hp and 430 lb.-ft. of torque with better fuel economy.

David Zoia Editor, Executive Director-Content

January 23, 2014

5 Min Read
Navigator gets splitwing grille treatment for rsquo15
Navigator gets split-wing grille treatment for ’15.

DETROIT – Lincoln’s fullsize Navigator SUV goes all V-6, as Ford’s luxury arm tweaks the model inside and out and adds an upscale trim line for ’15.

The big move is under the hood, where the automaker swaps the model’s existing 5.4L V-8 for a new version of its 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 that promises to be the most powerful rendition of the turbocharged engine yet.

Shown here to the media, a sneak peek of the new model will be presented in ads during the Grammy Awards telecast this Sunday, and the big SUV will make its official public debut at the Chicago auto show Feb. 6.

Production begins at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, KY, this summer, and the model will hit U.S. showrooms in the early fall. Pricing is expected to be revealed in April.

The V-6 marks a step up from the 300-hp 3.7L that will go into the new Mustang. It is expected to generate at least 370 hp and 430 lb.-ft. (583 Nm) of torque, says Elaine Bannon, chief engineer for the revamped model, declining to reveal specific numbers until closer to the Navigator’s market launch.

That tops the 5.4L V-8’s 310 hp and 365 lb.-ft. (495 Nm) by a wide margin, and Lincoln officials say fuel economy will be improved, to boot. The current Navigator is rated at 14/20 mpg (16.7-11.8 L/100 km) city/highway in 2-wheel-drive form.

The new model also will have a best-in-class towing rating of 9,000 lbs. (4,082 kg), executives say. It carries over a 6-speed automatic transmission as standard but now features Lincoln’s select-shift capability when switched to sport mode.

Lincoln officials are evasive when asked if any other powertrains will join the Navigator lineup, but that doesn’t appear likely near-term. A second option is under consideration for Mideast markets, where about 2,000 are exported annually and there are concerns about the turbocharged engine’s durability, but that won’t come in the ’15 model year, if at all, one insider tells WardsAuto.

Bannon says there are no concerns that Lincoln buyers will blanch at the engine downsizing.

“They just want us to deliver the numbers,” she says. “It’s not about V-8 or V-6.”

New Front End, More Upscale Inside

The Navigator’s exterior design carries over the current model’s boxy theme, with the most significant changes involving the front end, where the SUV now gets Lincoln’s signature split-wing grille, LED accent lighting and fog lamps and some extra wrinkles in the hood.

The rear features a power liftgate (but no Escape-like foot-operation feature) and LED taillamps that run the width of the vehicle.

A clever touch is the “welcome mat” lighting that projects an image of Lincoln’s star logo on the ground near the driver’s side when the doors are unlocked with the key fob.

Inside, where there is seating for up to eight people, the focus is on upgraded materials and retaining best-in-class cargo room and third-row legroom.

The model includes the new Lincoln steering wheel (debuting in the new smaller MKC CUV hitting U.S. showrooms this summer) and the improved version of MyFord Touch with knobs to operate radio volume and tuning.

Lincoln says it also improved the sound-insulation package to further reduce unwanted interior noise.

The big move is the addition of a “Reserve” trim level positioned above the base “Select” model. It adds a special 2-tone interior treatment and exclusive wood trim, among other features, and is expected to account for about 25% of the sales mix.

“Customers were loading up their Navigators and asking us, ‛(The Cadillac) Escalade has a high-end package, why don’t you?’” Carey White, brand manager for the model, says of the decision to offer the step-up trim.

More than 20 upgrades were made to the Navigator for ’15, but the vehicle may face stiff competition in the market from the more heavily redesigned Escalade expected in showrooms this spring.

Lincoln officials contend they improved the vehicle where needed but kept features important to Navigator buyers in the new model: chiefly, interior room and towing capability.

“We know exactly what they don’t want and changed it,” says Andrew Frick, Lincoln marketing manager.

Buyers of the brand’s flagship SUV, which comes in standard and long-wheelbase versions, are a loyal bunch, Frick says, with 75% returning customers. Navigator owners, skewing about 60% male, also are among the brand’s youngest, averaging in the mid-50s, compared with closer to 60 years for Lincoln overall.

“Navigator has been a good contributor to the brand,” Frick says, noting it draws the highest average transaction price for Lincoln.

Lincoln doesn’t believe the fullsize SUV market will go away anytime soon in the U.S., saying forecasts for the segment call for sales of 50,000 units this year. Longer-range outlooks have the sector increasing slightly to the mid-50,000 range.

“There was less volume (during the 2009 recession), but (the segment) quickly rebounded,” Frick notes.

Navigator sales rose 2.9% last year, but its volume of 8,900 units in the U.S. left it well behind the Escalade and Land Rover Range Rover, each topping the 12,000-unit mark. The Lincoln model initially bowed in 1997, and first-year sales topped 40,000 units.

Ford has promised to deliver four all-new Lincolns by 2016, but the Navigator, which carries over its basic architecture, is not considered one of the four. So far the list includes the MKZ sedan already on the market and the new Escape-based MKC that bowed at the North American International Auto Show last week.

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About the Author(s)

David Zoia Editor

Executive Director-Content

Dave writes about autonomous vehicles, electrification and other advanced technology and industry trends.

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