Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor has brains and brawn


Big, brash and as shapely as a brick, the all new Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor ap­pears to be strut­ting even when it’s sta­tion­ary. Ab­sent are curved lines and aero­dy­nam­ics. Pic­ture in­stead a gleam­ing Lin­coln grille on the front and acres of alu­minum be­hind it.

It’s so high you need run­ning boards to get in. It’s so long, there must be a time zone change be­tween the front and third-row seats. It’s so loaded with lux­ury, the driver’s seat ad­justs in 30 ways.

Lin­coln is lay­ing on the perks and glam­our, and peo­ple are lap­ping it up. Sales are lurch­ing up­ward in Canada and the United States. The big price tag, $102,300 for the Re­serve edi­tion I tested, is no bar­rier to Lin­coln lust.

The Nav­i­ga­tor is in some ways an old­school SUV. It has the DNA of a truck, with heavy-duty tow­ing ca­pac­ity (3,810 kilo­grams), and an all-alu­minum body bolted on the frame like a Ford F-150. Drive it and it feels like a truck. It’s not a harsh ride, but cer­tainly has more body mo­tion than a big SUV in the Range Rover lineup or Mercedes-Benz GLS-550.

That’s an ob­ser­va­tion, not a crit­i­cism. If peo­ple didn’t like the way trucks ride, sales of lux­ury pickup trucks wouldn’t be so tor­rid in North Amer­ica.

So in ad­di­tion to all-wheel-drive ca­pa­bil­ity, tow­ing prow­ess and a solid 450 horse­power, Lin­coln pads the mus­cle pro­file with a lux in­te­rior and lay­ers of tech­nol­ogy.

In the cabin, the first thing to be savoured is the si­lence. Even pranc­ing around the city over beaten-up pave­ment, the in­te­rior is like a med­i­ta­tion zone. En­gine noise is barely de­tectable as the 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion keeps revs low, muf­fling me­chan­i­cal noise and sav­ing fuel. Pas­sen­ger com­fort is guar­an­teed in the spa-like heated, cooled and massage-ready leather seats. Per­sonal items can be stowed in the many bins and pock­ets.

The dash de­sign fol­lows the Nav­i­ga­tor theme in be­ing straight-laced and ef­fi­cient. The iPad-sized touch screen hov­er­ing over the cen­tre con­sole does not re­tract into the dash. While some note this as a de­sign flaw, it didn’t bother me.

Be­low the touch screen are push but­tons for trans­mis­sion se­lec­tion. The ab­sence of a tra­di­tional gear shift saves space in the busy cen­tre sec­tion, but I found the but­tons awk­ward dur­ing the week’s test­ing. This would likely change over a longer test pe­riod.

Vis­i­bil­ity from the driver’s seat is good, although I did fold down all the back­seat

head­rests in or­der to have a big­ger view via the rearview mir­ror. A backup cam­era also helps in re­vers­ing the mas­sive Nav­i­ga­tor. I would wish that for $102,000 Lin­coln could find a way to keep the cam­era lens clean. Dur­ing the rainy time I was test driv­ing, the lens was of­ten ob­structed by road spray.

Sec­ond-row seats have gobs of space around them, with flow­ing light from the never-end­ing panoramic sun­roofs and great views in all di­rec­tions. When tired of the scenery, oc­cu­pants can fire up the rear-seat en­ter­tain­ment and get lost in a movie. Three more peo­ple can fit in the third-row seats where life is pretty good too.

In the Re­serve edi­tion of the Nav­i­ga­tor, the fea­ture list is deep. Wood trim, leather sur­faces, tri-zone heat­ing, pro­gram­mable in­te­rior light­ing, foot-ac­ti­vated lift gate, 360-de­gree cam­era, lane de­par­ture, trailer backup as­sist . . . the list goes on.

Among the per­for­mance fea­tures is a mode set­ting where the driver can choose be­tween sporty, nor­mal, eco and var­i­ous slip­pery/snowy set­tings.

Most peo­ple will drive the Nav­i­ga­tor in the sporty mode Lin­coln calls “Ex­cite,” where changes in­clude more steer­ing feel and han­dling re­sponse.

Over­all, the Nav­i­ga­tor is easy and pleas­ant to drive, with plenty of power to move its heft. I did ap­pre­ci­ate the lane-de­par­ture fea­ture with its gen­tle steer­ing cor­rec­tion as I was get­ting used to the ve­hi­cle’s size.

It’s a com­plex, high-tech ve­hi­cle, and that’s where all ve­hi­cles are headed. But some­times tech and glitch go hand in hand.

Near the end of my test week, the trunk lift­gate started to open on its own, mul­ti­ple times. Then one night the key fob wouldn’t un­lock the doors, and the Nav­i­ga­tor wouldn’t start. It had to be towed in for ser­vice. Lin­coln road­side as­sis­tance was ex­cel­lent. The cul­prit, Ford tells me, was a loose wiring har­ness that affected all of the elec­tri­cal func­tions of the ve­hi­cle.

Glitches hap­pen, es­pe­cially with new mod­els. It likely won’t dampen the warm wave of love washing over the brawny, brainy Nav­i­ga­tor.

Kathy Renwald

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