What's New for 2009
The Sync multimedia integration system is newly standard on the 2009 Lincoln Navigator L, as are a back-up camera and heated second-row seats. Also, the optional navigation system is now hard-drive-based and voice-activated, and the engine gains 10 horses and flex-fuel capability.
Is there still a market for 3-ton luxury SUVs riding on full-size-pickup platforms? Ford certainly hopes so, because the fate of the 2009 Lincoln Navigator L hangs in the balance. A few short years ago, the Navigator was the automotive darling of hip-hop stars and professional athletes, blinging its way through an endless procession of MTV videos and red-carpet events. Today it's under siege, as the spike in gas prices and subsequent economic downturn have conspired to threaten its very existence.
The problem with the Navigator L -- the "L" signifies that it's the long-wheelbase version of the regular Navigator -- is that few people genuinely need one. It's a shiny status symbol, no doubt, but how many would-be owners plan to employ its roomy third-row seat or 8,800-pound towing capacity on a regular basis, and how many are willing to live with its gargantuan exterior dimensions and prodigious thirst for fuel? Full-size trucks are actually valued for their abilities, yet even these beasts of burden are having a hard time attracting buyers nowadays. The Navigator L's prospects are even shakier, because its primary appeal lies in its ostentatious image -- and in tough economic times, that's an especially hard sell.
Nonetheless, full-size-SUV devotees and automotive iconoclasts may be intrigued by the Navigator L's chrome-tastic exterior, opulent cabin and formidable curb presence. And they'll be pleased to discover that the Navigator L is really an impressive vehicle in most respects. The ride is plush and quiet, the dash layout is retro-stylish, and compared with the competition, the price is right. Furthermore, Ford's exclusive Sync voice-activated multimedia integration system is standard this year. About the only thing glaringly wrong with the Navigator L is its overburdened 5.4-liter V8, which feels anemic relative to the Escalade ESV's brawny 6.2-liter engine.
Now's an excellent time to buy domestic luxury SUVs on the cheap, and the Navigator L is a fine choice as such vehicles go. As for other options, the Caddy would be our preferred pick considering its more authoritative acceleration, although it does cost more. The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, another favorite of ours, handles better, but it's pricier as well. Overall, if your heart's set on a lumbering truck-based luxury liner, the Navigator L is certainly worth a test drive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Lincoln Navigator L is an extended-wheelbase full-size luxury SUV that comes in one loaded trim level. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels; parking sensors; a power liftgate; a rearview-mirror-mounted back-up camera; leather upholstery; adjustable pedals; a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; power front seats with heating, cooling and memory; heated second-row seats; a second-row center console with auxiliary climate controls; power-folding third-row seats; Sync and a THX-certified 14-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary input jack.
Newly optional this year is a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice recognition and 10 gigabytes of music storage. Note that the navigation system replaces the six-CD changer with a single-CD unit, and it shifts the back-up camera display from the rearview mirror to the information screen in the center stack. The navigation system is also only available as part of the elite package, which includes a sunroof, power-folding running boards and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The monochrome appearance package cuts down on some of the exterior chrome trim and adds side-mirror-mounted puddle lights and special leather seats. The heavy-duty trailer tow package tacks on an automatic load-leveling rear suspension, an integrated tow hitch and a heavy-duty radiator and transmission cooler. À la carte options include 20-inch chrome wheels, a sunroof and upgraded leather seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Lincoln Navigator L is powered by a 5.4-liter V8 that cranks out 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and rear-wheel- or four-wheel-drive Navigator Ls are offered. Properly equipped, a rear-wheel-drive Navigator L can tow up to 8,800 pounds. Because the Navigator L weighs more than 6,000 pounds, it's exempt from EPA fuel economy testing; the regular-length rear-wheel-drive Navigator is rated at a respectable 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined on gasoline.
Standard safety features for Lincoln's flagship SUV include stability control with a rollover sensor and antilock disc brakes with brake assist. Airbag coverage includes front-seat side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the Navigator received a perfect five stars for frontal- and side-impact occupant protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Lincoln Navigator L's retro-fabulous interior features a throwback dual-cowl dash design, square gauges that evoke a '77 Continental Mark V and an impressive array of standard luxury features. Passenger room is excellent, even in the third row. If the standard seven-passenger layout isn't sufficient, the optional 40/20/40-split second-row seats boost capacity to eight. In any event, the power fold-flat third-row seat makes hauling cargo easy. With both the second- and third-row seats folded completely flat, the Navigator L can carry 128.2 cubic feet of cargo, second only to the Escalade ESV among luxury SUVs.
For an 18-foot-long SUV, the 2009 Lincoln Navigator L is reasonably agile, although no sane driver will want to probe its limits on twisty roads. The Navigator L's bread and butter is its smooth and quiet ride, which is impressive for a body-on-frame SUV. The mandatory 5.4-liter V8 is noticeably down on power compared to the Escalade ESV's larger V8. The six-speed automatic shifts unobtrusively, but it's not as responsive as we'd prefer in passing situations.