Ford Motor Company is tired of seeing Cadillac own the full-size conventional SUV business in the Unites States. Its answer: the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which is obviously intended to take on the Cadillac Escalade where it lives. You want bold styling? You want exclusive features? You want an innovative ownership experience? The Navigator is the answer to all those questions, as Lincoln suddenly has become relevant in the big SUV space for the first time in over a decade.
At its heart the Navigator is a conventional truck-based SUV. Its underpinnings are Ford F-150 pickup truck. A separate body-on-frame vehicle, the Navigator shares that characteristic with the Ford Expedition full-size SUV and General Motors big SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban. Like the F-150 and Expedition, the Navigator uses aluminum bodywork to save it an estimated 200 pounds compared with all-steel destruction.
No V-8 is no worry
If you are looking for a V-8 engine under the hood, look in vain. The single powertrain is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 10-speed automatic transmission. But that engine delivers 450 solid horsepower and a cabin cruiser-load of torque. You won’t miss the V-8 one whit.
The reason for the turbo V-6 is fuel economy, but the fuel economy isn’t all that different from a big GM SUV with active-fuel-management cylinder-deactivation technology. Still the numbers are good. EPA fuel economy rating for the rear-drive Navigator is 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined. If you want four-wheel drive in the larger Navigator L, the rating slips only slightly to 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway/18 mpg combined.
Bling to match the not-subtle Escalade
The Navigator features plenty of exterior bling to compete with the none-too-subtle Escalade. The bold exterior design is accompanied by a lavish interior filled with useful features. The SUV is available in Select, Reserve, Premiere and Black Label trims, each escalating, if you should pardon the expression, to higher levels of hedonism. The top-of-the-line Black Label versions offer you the choice of three design themes — Yacht Club, Destination and Chalet. Each theme has a different color palette and varying trim and graphics that make for good story-telling. Black Label versions are also accompanied by a maintenance plan, annual vehicle detailing, free car washes on demand, remote service pickup and delivery and membership in a dining club.
If you’re looking to be spoiled
Just to spoil you, the driver and front-seat passenger seats offer massage, heating and cooling, and can be adjusted 30 different ways. The robust convenience features include second-row tip-and-slide seating, wireless charging, rear seat entertainment and hands-free foot-activated liftgate.
The infotainment system is Ford’s easy-to-use SYNC 3 accessed via a 10-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen. It offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and the available Wi-Fi hotspot supports as many as 10 devices. In the rear a dual-headrest entertainment system brings live TV to either of two 10-inch video screens as long as you have a Slingbox account.
We live in a connected age. To that end the Navigator has four 12-volt power outlets, a 110-volt plug and six USB ports, including two in the third row that can keep charging devices for up to 75 minutes after the engine have been turned off. You won’t have to leave the vehicle until that downloaded movie is over.
Safety and more safety
The standard safety equipment roster is a lengthy menu. It includes three-point safety belts for all seating positions, electronic stability system, three-row safety canopy airbags, traction control, trailer sway control, post-crash alert system and rear-view camera system with washer. If you opt for the technology package one benefit is active park assist. But it also provides driving aids that include adaptive cruise control, driver alert system, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane keeping aid and lane keeping alert, head-up display, automatic high beams and four-wheel drive.
For Navigators with four-wheel drive, the optional Terrain Management System offers seven drive modes to adapt to varied traction conditions. Pro Trailer Backup Assist makes hooking up to a trailer a breeze.
The 2018 Navigator has a 122.5-inch wheelbase and is 210.0 inches long. The roomier Navigator L rides on a 131.6-inch wheelbase and is 221.9 inches long. When you drive either you’ll know it’s big. But it is also more comfortable and more agile than you might imagine.
Big money well spent
The Lincoln Navigator has a hefty price to match its massive size. The base 2018 Lincoln Navigator starts at $73,850 including a $1,295 destination charge. It’s no “stripper,” but you can add thousands in options to the basic vehicle. Going much farther up the scale the Lincoln Navigator Black Label L version has an MSRP of $103,685 including a $1,295 destination.
Yes, that is a shipload of cash, but we think the value proposition is there. The Lincoln Navigator is very well differentiated from the mechanically similar Ford Expedition on the strength of its bold exterior style, lavish interior appointments and the intangibles of various Lincoln Motor Company perks. The Cadillac Escalade has a true heads-up challenger for the first time in memory. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.