The new Lincoln Navigator is, without question, one of the most significantly improved vehicles that’ll launch this year. The 2018 model year overhaul takes the Navigator from worst to first, cementing its place as not only the flagship for the Lincoln brand, but maybe even the best three-row luxury SUV money can buy, full stop.
It starts with incredible presence, a design statement that’s both imposing and alluring in its execution. Bold features like the big headlamps, bright grille, 22-inch wheels, and full-width taillights make a strong impression. The Navigator concept that stunned us in 2016 has transitioned to road-going form with only minor changes (you didn’t really think those gullwing doors would make it to production, did you?), and while I won’t go so far as to say it’s immediately recognizable as a Lincoln – what is, if I’m honest? – there’s no arguing this thing turns heads wherever it goes.
There’s a pause of admiration when you get inside the Navigator for the first time. You push the engine start button and the 12-inch digital instrument cluster comes to life, with only simple graphics, showing gauges and information depending on your selected drive mode (more on that later). Your hands grip the leather-wrapped steering wheel and make their way over to the leather on the door, the wood on the center console, the soft-touch graining on every surface.
The new aluminum-intensive body structure means the Navigator is about 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. With less mass to carry around, plus an independent rear end, the Navigator is easier and more pleasant to drive than you might imagine. But it’s not perfect.
That said, the rest of the driving experience is a treat, Ford’s EcoBoost V6 doing great work under the hood of the luxy Lincoln. This is the F-150 Raptor’s 3.5-liter biturbo V6, and it makes the same 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque here in the Navigator, with the same 10-speed automatic transmission, and your choice of two- or four-wheel drive. There’s ample power for both city and highway driving.
Pricing runs the gamut of the fullsize luxury SUV set, the Navigator starting as low as $72,055 for a short-wheelbase Premiere, or as high as $93,705 for the high-zoot Black Label, before options. The way I see it, the most obvious competition is the $73,395 Escalade (though it gets a lower MSRP to better compete with the Navigator) and the $87,350 Range Rover, which only seats five. Compelling arguments, both, and without spending extended time in all three back to back, I honestly can’t say which one I’d have.
Before you write that off as a wishy-washy conclusion, know that, to me, the previous-generation Navigator wasn’t even worth considering. This 2018 model transforms the Navigator from an also-ran blah-mobile to a best-in-class contender.