SUV CRAZE OF THE 2000’s

My time with the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator was a week spent – behind the wheel – on a luxury vacation. Sitting on the massaging seats I felt a sense of nostalgia wash over me.

Anyone remember spinner wheels? I do. When I think ‘Lincoln Navigator’ I imagine a black 2004 model sitting on 22’’ chrome spinning rims, sporting a DUB Edition decal. It’s a result, I think, of being an easily impressionable kid. My favorite thing about the first and second-gen Navigators was the square horizontal dashboard, a top hat nod to the 1960’s Continental.

Growing up during the peak of the SUV craze means having an empty feeling when I see a large SUV not making a V8 growl when you hit the gas. Or being surprised at seeing double digits on MPG ratings. It’s a new era for the road dinosaurs that were supposedly doomed to extinction by $4/gallon gasoline and the car-based crossover. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is all-new, smarter, sleeker, and faster!

EXTERIOR

The previous Navigator debuted in 2007 and didn’t get a styling touch-up until 2015. When you don’t change a vehicle’s look for an extended period of time they begin to fade into the background of urban scenery. You had to look for one in order to notice them in parking lots or highways. The all-new design in the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is a modern upgrade within the wheelbase of familiarity.

This particular model was sporting a beautiful Chroma Crystal Blue exterior color (a $1,750 option), and was riding on 22-inch 21-Spoke Ultra-Bright Machined Wheels with Ebony Painted Pockets. The entire package gives the Navigator a European chic with crisp body lines and symmetrical dimensions.

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The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is offered in seven different exterior colors including a dark shade of gold called Chroma Molten Gold.

INTERIOR

The model used for this review was the top-of-line Black Label edition, equipped with a beautiful Coastal Blue leather interior. (I wish more vehicles offered blue interior carpet as an option, as it’s delightful and refreshing to the eyes.) The Navigator Black Label interior is also offered in Alpine White and Mahogany Red; the Mahogany is sort of a red wine color.

Up front, driver and passenger are treated with a set of Perfect Position 30-Way Driver/Passenger Seats with massaging feature (a $1,250 option) captain chairs. Both seats offer 20-minute massages that reach from your neck down to your upper thighs. It’s not a vibrating leather seat like you see at the mall, and it doesn’t feel like knuckles digging into your shoulder blades. It feels, instead, like a real massage done with gentle hands meant to release any built-up road rage. (After the massage I sound more like McConaughey.)

The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is offered in four different trim levels: Premiere, Select, Reserve, and the Black Label, making me think of top shelf whiskey bottles. The interior cabin of the Navigator does a great job of cancelling noise from the outside world. Equipped with a Revel Ultima Audio System, its twenty speakers allow driver and passengers to hear every note of their favorite tunes or podcasts.

I especially like the digital gauge cluster, which reminded me of a lunar eclipse. My favorite piece in the whole interior was the steering wheel. The Electric Power-Assisted Steering (EPAS) made the wheel feel as smooth as the surface on a brand-new Mac computer.

SPECS AND PERFORMANCE 2018 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR

The new Navigator is powered by a 3.5 liter Twin-turbo V6 making 450 horsepower, and connected to the wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission (available with paddle shifters). The Lincoln Navigator weighs in at a little over 5,700lb (not including passengers, car seats or case of Merlot), so all that power does come in handy when merging onto a freeway.

The 3.5 EcoBoost V6 is Tesla quiet, thanks in-part to the Navigator’s noise-cancelling interior cabin. Driving a full-size SUV with a quiet but powerful engine makes for a pretty entertaining experience. You get a sense of effortless speed as the Navigator pulls you along with almost no noise. The soft steering gives the SUV that classic land yacht feel. With that, it’s difficult to know what the front wheels are doing, as the steering wheel can feel numb.

It also means that it is extremely easy for the Navigator to sway out of its lane if the driver gets distracted. No feel in the steering wheel means the driver won’t sense that the vehicle is veering off in one direction. Thankfully, the Navigator comes equipped with Lane Departure Warning, Driver Impairment Monitoring, Lane Keeping Aid, and Adaptive Cruise Control.

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Under extreme maneuvers the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is smart enough to slow itself down. Entering a corner too fast or sudden jerks of the wheel will prompt the Navigator’s stability control and slow the whole thing down before it gets too wild with its weight transfer.

The Navigator offers a wide spectrum of driving modes: Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions, Slow Climb and Deep Sand. Each one offers its own beautiful graphic that lights up the dash cluster.

During mild off-roading the Lincoln Navigator’s 4×4 was sublime. Driving 50 mph over dirt roads and not feeling vibrations on my spine was a real luxury. However, those wheels are just too nice to get dirty and I don’t imagine seeing too many of these with lift kits. I could be wrong – this is Texas, after all.

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Pricing for the 2018 Lincoln Navigator starts at $72k for the Premiere entry level. The Black Label starts at $94k, and the model tested in this review had an MSRP of $97,900.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Lincoln Motor Company pulled out all the stops in redesigning the 2018 Navigator – it’s a full-size highway jet-setter. I wanted to drive it clear across the country non-stop and at full speed. And my passengers inevitably felt like they were riding first class.

Any drawback with the Navigator comes down to ride quality. I wish manufactures would stop fitting large wheels and low-profile tires on luxury vehicles, because it compromises the ride. Having ultra-soft steering matched with a high performance engine and massaging seats is a recipe that might cause speeding without realization; I have a love letter from the Texas Highway Patrol to support my argument. Pay attention to the speedo, or the head-up display, during highway travel.

I love the interior color options. It has the spirit of its chassis sedan ancestors. When compared to the Cadillac Escalade, the big Lincoln gives off a more professional statement. It conveys a sense of etiquette, as the Navigator provides the power and performance without making noise or demanding attention. It inspires confidence for those in the driver seat, while treating passengers to premium means of transportation.

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