Full 2012 Lincoln Navigator Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator now has integrated blind-spot mirrors as standard. AppLink for Sync is also new; it provides voice control of certain mobile phone apps (such as Pandora).
Prior to the recession and volatile gas prices, the Lincoln Navigator was a seductive poster child for conspicuous consumption. While large, flashy SUVs have lost most of their hip-hop allure in these more modest days, vehicles like the 2012 Lincoln Navigator still have their place.
As status symbols go, the Navigator -- and its long-wheelbase sibling known as the Navigator L -- can still turn heads with its brawny silhouette, spacious leather- and wood-lined passenger cabin, plush ride and glitzy chrome. Since the Navigator features a traditional body-on-frame construction, it's suited for towing trailers heavier than even the largest crossover can handle. But the Navigator's platform is also one of the oldest in the market, and its aging 5.4-liter V8 is underwhelming in the power department.
The Navigator's main competition includes the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which offers better handling and a more prestigious image. The Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti QX56 boast much more powerful V8 engines and more up-to-date technology. The Lexus LX 570 is another worthy competitor that can boast superior off-road skills. All have interiors of higher quality, tighter construction and more modern design.
Shoppers may also consider a high-line trim of the related Ford Expedition if they want to save some money, or perhaps a Ford Flex (http://www.edmunds.com/ford/flex/2012/) for a similarly equipped vehicle with more carlike handling and fuel economy. Given this wealth of choice, the 2012 Lincoln Navigator is clearly not our top pick. However, if you need to tow something and welcome the versatility of its fold-flat third row of seats (especially in Navigator L guise), this mighty Lincoln is definitely worthy of consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator is a full-size luxury SUV offered in two sizes: regular and extended-wheelbase Navigator L. Both models have three-row, seven-passenger seating. The second-row bucket seats can be replaced with a three-person 40/20/40-split bench that increases seating capacity to eight.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, a power liftgate, power-folding running boards, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear auxiliary controls, heated and ventilated power front seats, driver memory settings, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated second-row seats and a power-folding third-row bench. Also standard are the Sync voice command system, Bluetooth, a navigation system, a touchscreen electronics interface and a 14-speaker surround-sound audio system with HD radio, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
If the glut of exterior chrome is too overwhelming for buttoned-down owners, Lincoln offers a Monochrome Appearance package that softens the Navigator's attitude with body-colored elements. A similar Monochrome Limited Edition package includes unique leather upholstery and Olive Ash wood trim. Other options include 20-inch chromed wheels, a sunroof, a heavy-duty tow package and a rear-seat entertainment system with twin headrest-mounted screens.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator comes standard with a 5.4-liter V8 that's rated at 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between rear- and all-wheel-drive models, the latter featuring an electronically controlled single-speed transfer case.
The last Navigator L tested by Edmunds accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, well off the pace for this segment. Properly equipped, a rear-wheel-drive Navigator is capable of towing up to 9,000 pounds.
EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for the 2WD model. The 4WD Navigator is rated at 13/18/15.
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator comes standard with stability control (with a rollover sensor), traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags and a post-crash alert system. Also standard is Trailer Sway Control, which uses the stability control sensors to detect and minimize a trailer's tendency to weave in some situations. The programmable MyKey system is another nifty standard offering that allows parents to specify speed limits and stereo volumes for their teenage drivers.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Navigator comes with virtually every high-end feature imaginable, from heated and ventilated front seats to power-retractable running boards. You'll definitely feel pampered, but its retro design lost its luster long ago and the materials used are subpar for the class. The silver-painted buttons in particular look quite cheap.
On the upside, the 2012 Lincoln Navigator offers one of the most accommodating interiors in the segment. Seating comfort is excellent, and the seats make way for cargo with ease. The second row folds down manually, but the power-folding third-row seat is easily stowed, opening up a flat load floor. (You must physically remove an Escalade's third row.) The base Navigator holds a respectable 104 cubic feet of cargo. The longer Navigator L, thanks to its additional space behind the rear seats, offers a generous 128 cubic feet of cargo storage, and the extra length helps with access to the third-row seat when powered back to the up position.
The voice-operated Sync system is particularly useful; among other functions, it allows you to control your cell phone and iPod (or other MP3 player) without removing your hands from the steering wheel. And now the AppLink adds voice-command capability to select smartphone applications, and you can use apps like Pandora for your favorite music. Unfortunately, the Navigator's small touchscreen isn't as useful or user-friendly as the electronics interfaces found in competitor vehicles.
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator delivers what's expected from a luxury vehicle: a supple ride quality and a hushed cabin that largely insulates its passengers from the outside world. Alas, it also exhibits the flaws of such a big SUV, with noticeable trucklike body roll in sharp turns. And since the Navigator L measures almost 19 feet long, it can be a handful in tight parking situations with its 44-foot turning circle. The regular-wheelbase model isn't much better.
Acceleration seems satisfactory until you compare it to its significantly gutsier competition or fill it to the brim with people and gear. Ford's 5.4-liter V8 never was the most spirited truck engine on the market, and towing a full load just reinforces the Navigator's most glaring shortcoming.