The pinnacle of American luxury SUVs.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
When Lincoln set out to rewrite the rules for the American luxury SUV category, they must have set their sights pretty. For the longest time, it’s been Cadillac’s Escalade perched at the top, while the Lincoln for the most part felt like an also-ran. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. It just wasn’t as Escalade-ish as the Escalade. The tide has turned, and in a big way.
The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is nothing short of astounding, and has trounced its rival soundly.
The Navigator is an absolutely monstrosity. It’s based on Ford’s Expedition of course, and it’s huge. And I had the standard size. You can also get all this in a long-wheel-base model, which adds all the extra size to the cargo area.
Lincoln has done a fantastic job with the styling. They’ve modernized and streamlined a massive SUV into a package that appeals to the eye. It looks luxurious, refined, powerful and fresh.
I like that the lines were kept clean and relatively simply. The wrap-around glass looks great, particularly because it comes appropriately tinted. And those massive wheels are stunning and really finish things off nicely.
Lincoln’s team didn’t just raise the bar on the exterior. Where do I start?! I loved the clean, modern take on an SUV interior. Rather than a traditional centre stack, you find a very wide dash with a large touchscreen jutting up in the centre. And then there’s a gap between the dash and the centre console.
Lincoln’s materials are world-class. From the sumptuous stitched leather covering most of the surfaces you can see and touch to the beautiful wood accents, everything looks and feels luxurious. The heated, ventilated and massaging seats are insanely comfortable. The huge touchscreen juts out of the dash, and controls basically anything related to music, phone, navigation and settings. The Revel Ultima sound system is incredible – its sound is clean and crisp, with tight authoritative bass.
Second and Third Row Seats
Getting into the second row through the wide door opening is a breeze obviously, and passengers are treated to tons of head and leg room. The heated seats recline and slide fore and aft.
It doesn’t end there. Second row passengers can adjust the automatic climate control using a panel on the back of the front centre console. Below that, they will also find a couple of cupholders and plenty of device charging options – a 12V, two USB and one 110V household plug. The centre console between the second row passengers offers a ton of storage under the armrests, as well as a cool control panel for the audio system and the overhead sunshade. There’s even a little screen that shows you what you’re doing.
Each rear passenger also gets an adjustable independent touchscreen that accesses a number of apps, has USB and HDMI inputs and can have video streamed to it in a number of ways (like Slingplayer and Mirrorcast) and comes with wireless headphones as well as headphone plugs. I found the technology to be quite useful and robust and as far as rear-seat entertainment systems go, these are the best I’ve seen to date. Still not sure I’d recommend them – a pair of iPads costs a fraction as much and can still do way more, particularly when the Navigator’s internet hotspot is available to passengers.
The third row’s three seats are easily big enough to be comfortable for adult passengers. It splits 60/40, and each side has power recline buttons – awesome! Each side has a storage tray, cupholder and USB plug.
When it comes to places for your stuff around the cabin, there is no shortage of nooks, crannies and bins – I was very happy with the options. The front console features a massive open storage area with rubberized trays underneath. In the left side of the console, there’s a wireless charging mat for your smart phone, as well as USB and 12V charging ports.
You can pop the power trunk lid or just the upper glass portion if you’re just dropping something in quickly.
The trunk is reasonably useful even with the third row in use, and it grows significantly if you fold even one side of the third row down. Fold the whole third row down, and you get a massive cargo space to work with. As noted earlier, if you spring for the long wheel base model, all the extra room is in the back – so if you need maximum trunk space, the “L” models are the ones you want.
Both the second and third row seats can be folded down with a button in the trunk. To maximize flexibility, you can even choose to fold the whole row or pick the left or right side only. The third row can be folded back up for use that way as well – the second row seats have to be folded up manually.
Under the Hood
The Navigator gets a 3.5L EcoBoost V6, rated at 450 HP and a crazy 510 lb.ft of torque. Nobody is buying Navigators to conserve fuel, and we averaged 14.1 L/100 km (includes over 600 km of highway travel, cruising at 120 km/h). Yikes. Needless to mention, the average fuel economy after just city driving plummets to much worse than that 14.1 reading.
This thing is all kinds of smooth. The ride is extremely comfortable and almost eerily quiet under most circumstances, including cruising at highway speeds. The power comes on smooth too. There’s plenty of jam off the line, almost surprising the driver occasionally when you step on it. Once you’re on the move, the powertrain needs to work a tad harder if you want to pick up steam quickly and it’s definitely not the fastest SUV out there. But it has plenty of power, enough to match any driving situation – it’s never slow. The 10-speed automatic transmission is buttery too – you’ll be hard-pressed to feel a shift, even under heavy acceleration.
Lincoln’s new take on drive modes touches on emotions but just reflects how the vehicle will behave and either swing toward economy or more “sporty” responsiveness – there’s Normal, Conserve and Excite. There are also terrain-based modes for Slippery, Deep (for snow or mud) and Slow Climb for all those times people will be taking their Navigators off-roading.
Handling isn’t the Navigator’s forte. Even in Excite mode and with its adaptive suspension, it is still ponderous around corners and that is perfectly fine. Comfort is where this vehicle excels, and it gets that right every time.
The Park Assist function is very handy when trying to plunk a leviathan like this into a tight parallel spot in front of a busy cafe or perpendicular spot in the middle of a cramped underground parkade.
Oh and speaking of power, the Navigator can tow up to 8,400 pounds. That makes it a very capable utility vehicle.
While the Navigator is for a special kind of customer (it’s huge, thirsty and expensive), it certainly still has a big customer base. Here in Alberta, people love big vehicles and big SUVs are everywhere.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. Although she didn’t enjoy parking it, and it barely fit into our oversize garage, she loved the looks, the luxury and how it drove. That actually surprised me, and although she wouldn’t want to live with one, she did like it a lot.
I think Lincoln got virtually everything right here. The styling is clean and conveys all the right messages. The luxury is genuine, and the interior bridges old-school and modern schools of styling and materials. And there’s no shortage of power, so you can easily get into traffic, pass on the highway and tow a lot of big things.
If I was shopping in this category, there’s no question the Navigator would be on my shopping list. And there’s no question the Escalade needs to be looking over its shoulder in a big hurry. Because it’s about to be passed by the Navigator.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lincoln Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2018 Lincoln Navigator
Base price (Reserve trim): $90,500
Options: $700 Iced Mocha paint; $150 all-weather floor liners; $2,000 heavy-duty trailer tow package; $3,000 Technology package; $1,000 Perfect Position seats; $2,350 Lincoln Play rear seat entertainment; $500 tiered cargo management
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $102,300