2015 Lincoln Navigator: Whale-Sized SUV

By Frank A. Aukofer, October 25th, 2014

Over at Ford, bigger keeps getting smaller, as is amply demonstrated by the 2015 Lincoln Navigator. We're not talking about the overall weights and measurements, because the new Navigator is as it has been: one whale-sized sport utility vehicle.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator offers a fresh interpretation of the classic vehicle that created the full-size luxury SUV segment
Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator offers a fresh interpretation of the classic vehicle that created the full-size luxury SUV segment

As a pod, these big SUVs are actually small in the motor vehicle universe. Only General Motors and Ford build these giant body-on-frame SUVs: Navigator, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Denali, and Cadillac Escalade. There are others but none as big.

So the reference here is not to overall dimensions but to motivating forces. Ford has been making a relentless push to downsize its engines in the interest of improving fuel economy without compromising power. They go under the rubric of EcoBoost, Ford's name for turbocharging.

Thus the new Lincoln Navigator arrives with a V-6 engine of 3.5 liters while its competitors forge on with their traditional V-8s. With twin turbochargers, the six delivers 380 horsepower with 460 lb.-ft. of torque, the low rpm twisting force that enables the 3-ton tested Navigator to tow up to 8,600 pounds. That's with the all-wheel drive; with standard rear drive it can tow a bit more.

The turbo V-6 is marginally less smooth than V-8 engines in the class but delivers similar performance with solid low rpm torque.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator offers a fresh interpretation of the classic vehicle that created the full-size luxury SUV segment

Compare that to the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, the Navigator's main competitor, which also weighs around 3 tons. Its 6.2-liter V-8 delivers 420 horsepower and the same 460 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Navigator is rated at 15/20/17 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycles, using premium fuel. The Caddy is rated at 14/20/16 mpg, also on premium, and can tow up to 8,100 pounds. Both use six-speed automatic transmissions.

The Cadillac, however, is more expensive, with a starting price of $72,390. Options can drive that into the $80,000 range. The Navigator tested here started at $66,050 and, with the Reserve equipment group and other options, had a bottom line sticker of $73,595.

At first blush, the 2015 Navigator is visually arresting, with a version of Lincoln's new signature winged grilles and, on the tested Navigator, polished 22-inch aluminum wheels. The hood, formerly steel, now is made of a composite material and the interior features panels made of Ziricote, a wood from Mexico and Central America that also is used to make guitar backs.

strong>The Navigator comes in two lengths: standard at 17 feet 3 inches long and extended, which is 18 feet 6 inches long. Either seats seven or eight people. The power folding third row seats actually can accommodate three adults as long as they're not too portly, thanks to extra space because of the Navigator's independent rear suspension. The middle row comes with a three person bench seat or two captain's chairs, with or without a center console. Cargo space behind the third, second and front row seats works out to 18/54/103 cubic feet.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator offers a fresh interpretation of the classic vehicle that created the full-size luxury SUV segment

As expected in a luxury SUV, the new Navigator comes equipped with full safety equipment, including blind spot warning and hill descent control, along with a host of comfort and convenience features. Among them: motorized running boards that slide out when you open doors, pushbutton starting, rearview camera and MyLincoln Touch with the Ford SYNC system. The last is a connection apparatus that allows the driver to use voice-activated or touchscreen controls to play music, make telephone calls, operate the automatic climate control system and manage the navigation system.

Given its bulk, the Navigator is composed and confident on the road. Pushbutton settings allow the driver to select different shock absorber settings: normal, comfort and sport. The comfort setting delivers an undulating but cushy ride. Normal tightens things up a bit but you'd want the stiffer sport setting on a curving two lane road. Unfortunately, you must toggle through a menu to find the settings, and you must toggle again to locate the trip odometer. It's distracting while underway. A trip odometer should have its own display and button.

There's only a small selection of luxurious big SUVs with minivan space. All are capable but we give the edge to the Navigator for its price and interior room.

Specifications

Base price $66,050 (as tested: $73,595)
Curb weight 6,069 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type DOHC V-6 EcoBoost w/DI
Epa mileage rating 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 28 gal.
Horsepower (net) 380 at 5250 rpm
Overall length 207.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 460 at 2750 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7/8-passenger 4x4 full-size SUV
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