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Driven: 2022 Lincoln Navigator Adds Flash but Still Needs to Fine-Tune Some Basics

Driven: 2022 Lincoln Navigator Adds Flash but Still Needs to Fine-Tune Some Basics

Lincoln stuffs its flagship to mask Range Rover pricing

  • Revised 2022 Lincoln Navigator is a brute in fancy clothing.
  • Lincoln ActiveGlide brings hands-free driving to select highways.
  • Bumpy ride and some lackluster materials are letdowns.

It's easy to imagine how owning a 2022 Lincoln Navigator might improve your life. The refreshed three-row luxury SUV has new towing features to help you pull a boat or trailer, road-reading sensors to make the suspension ride more smoothly, and even hands-free driving on some roads. On a recent test drive we sampled the rear seat entertainment system equipped with Amazon Fire movies, shows and games — from the comfort of second-row captain's chairs with seat massagers, no less. But is the price of taking that fantasy and turning it into a reality worth it? That part is complicated.

Meet the new Navigator

The 2022 Navigator is based on the fourth-generation model that debuted in 2018. It uses the same powertrain — a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine (450 horsepower, 510 lb-ft of torque) attached to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels are mostly the same, although Lincoln has added two new motifs to its top-end Black Label line: the Invitation and the Central Park, each with unique interior style.

There are key updates inside. Every model comes with an up-sized 13.2-inch touchscreen that is vibrant and responsive, and the excellent Sync 4 operating system now has over-the-air updating capability. There's also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The star feature (pun intended) is the Constellation theme. Press a command, turn up the volume or adjust the fan speed, and the touchscreen responds with an explosion of stars. On the tachometer and speedometer gauges, the digital needles move to reveal a galaxy's worth of stars as you increase speed. It's a delightful show that makes the Navigator experience feel special.

On the road

There's a lot that feels flashy and new in the Navigator. But the way it drives is decidedly old-school. Power from the turbocharged V6 is plentiful, and it's surprisingly responsive considering its lugging around a massive vehicle approaching 6,000 pounds. This part needs no updating. The steering, however, is another story. You can fully feel the mass of the Navigator through the steering wheel, particularly around bends at highway speed. The wheel feels too thin and the steering resistance too light to be piloting such a behemoth, requiring constant adjustment around Arizona mountain bends during my test. It quickly grew tiring. I found it best to activate the lane-keeping driving aid as a supplement because it provides additional steering assistance and lessens the effort required of the driver.

Another area of give-and-take is the suspension. Every 2022 Navigator comes with an adaptive suspension, which can adjust stiffness to provide a more comfortable or more sporting feel on the road depending on your selected drive mode. New for 2022 is Road Preview, which uses a front-facing camera to "read" the road ahead and adjust the suspension for approaching cracks and potholes. That feature works fine to smooth out bumps in the road and help keep the Navigator settled and balanced.

The issue is with smaller imperfections. These noticeably came through the cabin during my test and didn't seem fitting for a $100,000-plus luxury SUV. This is likely due in part to my top-end Black Label test vehicle. The Black Label comes standard with big 22-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile tires, and these probably worsen the ride quality over rough roads. On top-end Black Label trims purported to provide the ultimate in luxury, it's a disappointment.

Does ActiveGlide hands-free driving work?

ActiveGlide is the name for Lincoln's hands-free driving system, which allows for Level 2 semi-automated driving by taking over the throttle, brakes and steering under certain conditions. It's an offshoot of Ford's system, called BlueCruise, and works largely the same. (The one change is that Lincoln needed to install additional sensors in order to prep a vehicle as large as the Navigator for this capability.) Click here to read our step-by-step guide on how to operate ActiveGlide in a 2022 Navigator.

ActiveGlide is available to use on about 130,000 miles of highway across the country, according to Lincoln. I was able to sample the feature on a roughly 20-mile route outside of Phoenix during my test. As with BlueCruise, the ActiveGlide system is reassuringly confident and smooth. It deftly handled acceleration, braking and transitions — such as sharp turns that require deceleration, or other vehicles moving in and out of the Navigator's lane — to a surprising degree considering the Navigator's size. It can be unnerving to remove your hands from the wheel completely, but ActiveGlide works well enough to ease your concerns within a few minutes. Just be aware: The system sometimes commands you to resume control without explanation and with only a short warning. So stay alert.

Towing

The Navigator is a capable toy hauler, with maximum towing capacity of 8,700 pounds carried over from the 2021 model. While that figure hasn't changed, Lincoln has added several helpful towing features to enhance the experience — many of them borrowed from the Ford F-Series full-size trucks.

The available Lincoln Co-Pilot360 2.0 Towing package includes Pro Trailer Backup Assist. This is the feature popularized in the F-150 that has a rotary knob instead of the steering wheel that you use to turn the Navigator while backing up a trailer. For 2022, you no longer need to apply a checkered sticker to the trailer in order for the system's cameras and sensors to recognize the load. There is also an overhead camera view that will demonstrate the angle the trailer is expected to take at your current steering position.

Finally, there are additional rear-facing camera angles to view the trailer in motion, and you can choose to enlarge one camera on the center touchscreen over the other if you prioritize that view. These are small features, but we've found them extremely useful on F-Series trucks. Click here to watch our towing comparison between the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra for reference.

Overall impressions

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the 2022 Navigator. The two Black Label models I drove came in arresting color choices and included cool laser-etching patterns along the wood dashboard. Along with the Constellation digital theme, bright touchscreen and ActiveGlide tech, the Navigator does an excellent job of dazzling drivers and passengers alike.

But at a certain point it comes off as performative. While the Navigator excites in some ways, it disappoints in others. On top of the chattering ride, there are also visible hard plastics in some interior areas. Leather touchpoints could be softer, and metal dials feel flimsy and inauthentic. Yes, the Navigator starts at $78,405 with destination, but the Black Label jumps to $104,675 before adding four-wheel drive or the longer wheelbase. As for the models we drove, the Central Park cost $109,040  with options and the Invitation ran $115,845. This is well-equipped Mercedes-Benz GLS or Range Rover territory. Lincoln may not have been aiming for refinement that equals those models, but that makes it difficult to swallow pricing that does.

Edmunds says

Lincoln has done well to issue eye-popping updates to the 2022 Navigator. The hands-free driving tech, expansive seating and cargo space, and stout towing capability are all befitting a flagship luxury vehicle. But the pervasive bumpy ride and tawdry cabin materials give us pause.