Motor Trend - - Contents - An­gus Macken­zie

The re­birth of Amer­i­can lux­ury.

The Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel 4x4 is Amer­ica’s Mercedes S-class.

Whoa. Stay with me. Al­low me to ex­plain. The lav­ishly equipped Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel is top dog in the cur­rent Lin­coln lineup—the big­gest, most ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cle from Ford's lux­ury divi­sion. It's also the first lux­ury ve­hi­cle from an Amer­i­can au­tomaker in decades that isn't a self-con­scious New World riff on a Mercedes-benz, BMW, or Audi. Or a sad, plas­tic-chrome and fake-wood par­ody of for­mer glo­ries.

Proper lux­ury cars have al­ways been big, pow­er­ful, and ex­pen­sive. And Amer­ica once built some of the world's best—from the ex­trav­a­gant V-12 Packards and straight-eight Due­sen­bergs of the Roar­ing ’20s to the glitzy Cadil­lacs and Im­pe­ri­als of the rocket-age ’50s. But for more than 40 years, au­to­mo­tive lux­ury has been de­fined and dom­i­nated by Ger­man au­tomak­ers.

When Toy­ota and Nissan launched Lexus and In­finiti in 1989, the cars they cre­ated for their newly minted lux­ury brands unashamedly chan­neled the Mercedes-benz S-class and BMW 7 Se­ries. Cadil­lac’s Cat­era and the Lin­coln LS at­tempted— much less cred­i­bly—to con­vince con­sumers they were E-class and 5 Se­ries ri­vals.

Today’s Rolls-royce and Bent­ley mod­els are more sub­tly wrought ex­pres­sions of the Ger­man lux­ury ve­hi­cle hege­mon: art­ful con­fec­tions of Bri­tish lux­ury iconog­ra­phy wrapped around en­gi­neer­ing DNA straight out of Mu­nich and Wolfs­burg.

The 2019 Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel 4x4 is dif­fer­ent.

The Black La­bel’s in­te­rior is stun­ning, es­pe­cially in the pale blue and white pal­ette Lin­coln calls its “Yacht Club” theme. It’s quintessen­tially Amer­i­can, with echoes of Eames and Loewy and Neu­tra in its ex­u­ber­ant el­e­gance, lav­ish scale, and mid­cen­tury-retro touches. And the Nav­i­ga­tor is the per­fect can­vas for it, a uniquely Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle for­mat with a com­mand­ing road pres­ence.

Yes, the Nav­i­ga­tor is ba­si­cally a truck, but in an era when Rolls-royce has an SUV of sim­i­lar di­men­sions, se­man­tics are moot. There’s a quad-cam, twin-turbo V-6 un­der the hood, in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion at the rear, and— un­like Cadil­lac’s Es­calade—no pickup truck col­umn shifter thrust­ing out from be­hind the steer­ing wheel, as in­con­gru­ous as muddy work boots with a tuxedo.

More im­por­tant, the Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel is just a few tweaks away from gen­uine lux­ury ve­hi­cle great­ness. The 450-hp V-6 copes im­pres­sively with the 6,100-plus pounds of mass, but it does get a lit­tle grainy at higher rpm un­der load. The pri­mary ride is plush, but the damp­ing needs to bet­ter con­trol sec­ondary body mo­tions, par­tic­u­larly at the rear axle. And those gi­ant 22-inch wheels and low-pro­file tires pat­ter on in­dif­fer­ent road surfaces, send­ing dis­tant shud­ders through the frame. None of this is dif­fi­cult to fix.

With a drive-mode menu that runs the gamut from sporty hus­tle to low-range all-wheel drive, the Nav­i­ga­tor is a sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble all-weather, all-road all-arounder. Let’s be clear, how­ever: Like a Rolls-royce, this big Lin­coln prefers be­ing driven gen­tly. It’s not about a Wag­ne­r­ian blast down the au­to­bahn at 155 mph or thrust­ing through the Alps en route to the south of France. No, the Black La­bel 4x4 is about tak­ing you across Amer­ica in quiet com­fort, through a snow­storm in Chicago, a heat wave in Hous­ton, at 11,000 feet on I-70 west of Den­ver, be­low sea level on a gravel road in Death Val­ley.

Lin­coln has been cru­elly abused and de­based by Ford Mo­tor Co. over the years. Once the pre­ferred trans­port of plu­to­crats and pres­i­dents, an au­tomaker whose stately V-12 lim­ou­sines ri­valed Rolls-royce in the 1930s, Lin­coln had by 2006 be­come lit­tle more than a round­ing er­ror in the Blue Oval’s books. I've lost count of the num­ber of times Ford has her­alded a Lin­coln come­back since, promis­ing, “This time, it's dif­fer­ent.” But this time, it re­ally feels ... dif­fer­ent.

The Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel 4x4 is Lin­coln’s new lodestar, with an ap­peal­ing vis­ual, tac­tile, and tech­ni­cal DNA that’s clearly un­der­stood and eas­ily trans­fer­able. Yes, it’s ex­pen­sive, but with good rea­son: There’s no cheap­skat­ing on me­chan­i­cals and ma­te­ri­als that turned mod­ern Lin­colns into Wal­mart lux­ury. And un­der­pin­ning it all is one sim­ple idea: Lin­coln is not try­ing to be Ger­man. It’s un­apolo­get­i­cally Amer­i­can. It’s Amer­i­can lux­ury, res­ur­rected. n

The Nav­i­ga­tor Black La­bel is just a few tweaks away from gen­uine lux­ury ve­hi­cle great­ness.

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