The Lincoln Navigator has been named one of The Car Book’s 2015 Best Bets – the only large premium utility to achieve this honor.
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: New turbo V6 with more power, better fuel economy than former V8.
What’s Worst: Still a Jurassic truck-based, big and heavy rig in an age of new unibody crossovers. But not worst for towing fans.
What’s Interesting: New engine, new steering and new suspension modifications modernize this traditional SUV while a new 2017 fourth generation version is on the drawing tables.
Lincoln Navigator 2015 at a glance
BODY STYLE: full-size luxury SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, four-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 3.5-litre GTDI Twin-Turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine (380 hp, 460 lb/ft) with a six-speed SelectShift automatic.
FUEL ECONOMY: 16.2/11.8L/100km (city/hwy).
CARGO CAPACITY: 514 litres behind third row, 1,542 litres behind the second row, 2,926 litres behind the first row.
PRICE: MSRP $75,810. As tested $75,110 (special dealer discount) plus 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($750) and rubber floor mats ($150) for a total of $76,085. Not including destination and delivery ($1,750) and fed. excise tax ($100).
“How about a Lincoln Navigator?”
I have to admit, I hesitated for a moment.
The allure of the test ride hasn’t dimmed, even after a thousand or so reviews.
But, admittedly, some of the sessions are a little like dancing with your sister.
You go through all the usual motions. But there’s just no spark there.
“Okay”, I agreed eventually because I am, after all, an equal opportunity tester and even the Navisauras, steadily plodding along for three generations of grudgingly modest evolutionary changes over the course of its 17-year history, deserves respect for its staying power and longevity.
RELATED: 2015 Lincoln MKC Review
The original Navigator debut wasn’t the first time Lincoln explored the concept of producing a premium version alongside an existing Ford product.
The two divisions have been sharing parts and platforms since the ’70’s and other upscale trial balloons included the short-lived Lincoln Blackwood pickup based on the F-150.
But the Navigator proved a successful effort, birthed alongside the Ford Expedition, following the pickup-derived formula of a steel body on a fully-boxed frame, resulting in one of the first truck-based, domestic luxury SUVS to hit the market.
Eventually, its success would even spawn a smaller offshoot, the Aviator, based on a former-generation Explorer.
And the Navigator has remained as a backstop for the brand, hanging in for a dwindling conservative fan base while new MK models were introduced to capture a next generation.
Although, to be fair, the Navigator somehow carved out a more oddly diverse customer base than expected, serving applications that range from luxury towing sled for the old money country club crowd to pimp machine and primped party platform for hip hop artists and the Hurray-for-Hollywood nouveau-riche. It has carried on for both crowds and even experienced a late resurgence thanks to the recent dip in fuel prices.
But while the Navigator was one of the first of its kind, it is now also the last of the old school vehicles in Lincoln’s revised lineup, setting the stage for a mid-cycle revision that at least makes a nod to the new style and technologies sweeping through the Lincoln brand.
The 2015 Navigator now wears a version of the split-wave grille that has become the new Lincoln familial trademark.
The new grille does not quite make the same impact on the boxy dimensions of the Navigator as it does on the sleeker, sloped front ends of newer Lincolns so, yeah, we might be tempted to crank out the old joke about putting lipstick on a pig.
But Lincoln engineers have bolstered the makeover with a new hood and new jewel-like HID headlights with the requisite modern touch of LED running lamps accenting the front end.
A new power liftgate in back is spanned by a body-wide LED tail lamp display reminiscent of Dodge Durango. And, according to the Lincoln bumpf, the total of 222 LEDs are guaranteed to “give the Navigator a distinct personality”.
The 2015 Navigator also stands more aggressively on new standard 20-inch wheels (instead of previous 18-inch standard wheels) with optional bigger 22-inch wheels available.
But look further, past the cosmetics and under the skin, and you’ll find an astoundingly more important change.
Along with its Ford Expedition sibling, the Navigator now harnesses a new 3.5-litre GTDI twin-scroll turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine that delivers more power, a higher towing rating and better fuel economy than the previous 5.4-litre Triton V8.
The new motor makes 380 hp and 460 lb/ft of torque (compared to 310 hp and 365 lb/ft), which works out to a little more oomph than the Expedition version.
It pulls like a train with satisfying grunt when you stomp the go-pedal, dropping the 0-100 km/h acceleration rate time by about two seconds and offering class-leading towing capability of up to 3,900 kg (8,600 lb) with the 4X4 model (the 4X2 model that tows up to 4,082 kg or 9,000 lb is not available in Canada).
Power is translated through a standard six-speed SelectShift automatic into the Control Trac four-wheel drive system with Hill Descent Control.
Ford recommends premium for best performance with this powertrain combination but the EcoBoost engine will happily chug along on regular 87-octane gasoline.
Fuel economy is rated at 16.2/11.8L/100km (city/hwy). My real world average worked out closer to 17.3L/100km (comb), fairly thirsty but not a big deal for anyone who can afford this big boy. Also not as bad as some of the 25L/100km averages I’ve had in the past with the old-style, V8-powered large barge SUVS.
The new Navigator complements the extra power with a new electric power-assist steering system and available Lincoln Drive Control with continuously controlled damping (CCD), that monitors vehicle sensors every two milliseconds, adjusting the suspension instantaneously for improved ride and handling. Owners can also select their own ride criteria from a three-mode menu with Normal, Sport and Comfort settings.
Lincoln engineers also made more than 100 different changes to reduce cabin noise, incorporating a new headliner, acoustic glass, structural reinforcements and added insulation.
Which sets the tone for a very civilized interior. A new gauge cluster shines behind the new steering wheel. A revised centre stack houses an enhanced MyLincoln Touch connectivity system with SYNC and standard navigation.
And, of course, a big SUV offers big room inside. Owners can choose from a seven- or eight-passenger layout by selecting either a second row bench or individual captain’s chairs with or without a centre console. A power-fold 60/40 third row bench comes standard.
The 2015 Navigator comes in either regular or extended length model choices here in Canada.
The Navigator ($75,810) tested here, offers excellent passenger room and cargo space ratings of 514 litres, 1,542 litres behind the second row and 2,926 litres behind the first row with the second and third row folded flat.
The extended Navigator L ($78,810) adds 377 mm (15 in) in extra body length for a little more third row head room and elbow room along with the increased cargo dimensions of 1,207 litres, 2,444 litres behind the second row and 3,629 litres behind the first row with the second and third row folded flat.
Other new features for 2015, like the push button start, rear view camera and blind spot information system, complement a full suite of high-end equipment standard on this premium luxury hauler.
It’s not unfair to think of the changes for 2015 as a stopgap measure before the rumoured unveiling of new fourth generation 2017 Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator siblings, slated for the summer of 2016 and following the lightweight lead of the new aluminum-based F-150 with a possible 10-speed automatic and a hybrid option.
But, for right here and right now, the new 2015 Lincoln Navigator makes the most of the changes made to maintain its traditional fan base, bolster its styling and technology, and stay competitive in the full size luxury SUV segment.