Lincoln's largest vehicle, the Navigator receives a mild freshening that includes a more efficient twin-turbo V6 that easily out-muscles the previous model year's V8. The Navigator's interior has been redesigned to look and feel more upscale. Combined with a new adaptive suspension option and electrically assisted steering, it delivers a more pampered driving experience.
What Is It?
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is a full-size luxury SUV based on the Ford F-150's truck chassis and is available with a short (119-inch) or a longer (L) 131-inch wheelbase. Both models can seat up to eight people and come with a smooth-riding independent rear suspension system.
The Lincoln Navigator might be luxurious, but like its more pedestrian brother the Ford Expedition, this truck doesn't mind hard work. That's the advantage of driving a vehicle that has a pickup truck frame at its core. The Navigator can tow up to 9,000 pounds and handle a maximum payload of 1,560 pounds. So assuming for example you'd like to carry five 200-pound adults, the Navigator can still handle another 560 pounds in the cargo hold.
Speaking of hauling, the shorter Navigator can swallow 18.1 cubic feet of luggage or gear with all the seats in place and the L model can take on 42.6 cubic feet. You'd have to fold down the backseats of many crossovers to get that level of cargo hauling ability. So that makes these rigs outstanding road trip vehicles for a large family.
Gone is the old 5.4-liter V8, replaced with a more gas-pump-friendly 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6. The Navigator gets the most powerful version of this engine (Ford calls it EcoBoost) with 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the old V8, this V6 not only makes 70 more horses and 95 more lb-ft of torque, but that torque is available at lower engine speeds, too. The EcoBoost is the only engine choice and it comes paired to a six-speed automatic.
Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive; the latter includes a new adjustable shock absorber system that allows the driver to toggle among "Normal," "Comfort" and "Sport" settings. Opting for 4WD also brings a hill-descent control system. Should you ever choose to point the tires of this $60,000-plus vehicle down a steep, muddy trail, the brake-based system will help slow the vehicle down without the driver needing to touch the brake pedal.
Capability aside, Lincoln has made enhancements to the SUV both inside and out to make it quieter — new acoustic glass and additional noise-reducing foams, seals and padding beneath the carpets, dash and plastics around the cabin.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is available with three rows of seating standard and comes in two lengths (Navigator and Navigator L). Buyers can select from two option packages: Select and Reserve. But this is a Lincoln, so even the standard Select trim offers a full lineup of luxury features including 20-inch wheels, leather interior with front and rear heated and cooled seats, HID headlamps and a power-folding third row of seats.
Lighting in modern luxury vehicles has become much more upscale and distinct, and this Lincoln is no exception. The truck uses 222 LED lights surrounding the front and rear lighting clusters. And as the driver approaches the Navigator at night, a "welcome mat" of light in the shape of the Lincoln logo is projected on the ground.
The upscale Reserve trim package adds exactly $7,500 to the $62,475 window sticker of a two-wheel-drive Navigator and $6,850 to a 4WD model. For the added investment, buyers are treated to upgraded leathers, new (and fancier) Ziricote wood, the adjustable shock absorber system, 22-inch wheels and power-extending and -retracting running boards. And perhaps most importantly for family buyers, there's a headrest DVD system to keep second-row passengers entertained.
How Does It Drive?
Slide into the soft leather thrones of a 2015 Lincoln Navigator and the view through the windshield is expansive. It's an addicting experience to ride so high above traffic with such great visibility, completely isolated from...everything. And that's a big part of the draw behind full-size luxury SUVs like the Navigator.
Then again, a high-riding truck-based luxury SUV will never be mistaken for a light and nimble crossover. This is a big machine that weighs nearly 3 tons. The new electric-assist power steering requires less effort to turn at parking lot speeds and feels more fluid out on the road. After several hours behind the wheel of a 4WD Reserve model, it was also clear that the new adaptive damper system does a good job of offering noticeably different driving modes.
The Sport setting makes the truck feel more athletic. It's soft enough to dampen out even the largest potholes and yet helps the Navigator corner more flatly. The Comfort setting is perhaps best suited to straight rough roads because when the road bends, the setting allows the suspension to gently roll — like Lincolns did decades ago. The frustrating part about this system is that you've got to go fairly deep into menus to switch between settings. So if you were using the trip menu and wanted to change shock settings, the safest option would be to pull to the side of the road to make the switch. A simple rotary knob on the console would make more sense.
The new EcoBoost V6 is a great addition, as it really moves the 3-ton SUV along briskly. In other words, the Navigator's plentiful low-end torque means you won't need to dig very deeply into the throttle very often. The six-speed transmission operates smoothly, but it doesn't shift responsively when the Navigator is pushed hard. Oftentimes it felt like it was in a gear too high for the situation, the calibration likely focused more on fuel economy than fun. Although there are manual shift controls the driver can use on the side of the shift lever, a sportier calibration for the transmission would keep it in the right gear and make it more pleasant to drive this big beast on a curvy road.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The Navigator's interior is substantially improved over last year's model. Much of the down-market and dated plastics and design are gone. In their place are soft leathers, better-quality woods and modern instrumentation. The improvements in sound insulation have, with the exception of some sideview mirror noise, made the cabin nearly silent at freeway speeds.
But this is certainly not a clean sheet redesign. That gauge cluster looks to have come directly from other current Ford products, and the MyLincoln Touch infotainment center is largely the same as the ones found in other Fords. There's nothing in the cabin that pushes interior design forward, but some might find it refreshingly retro. Unlike the capacitive touch buttons that control functions on other Ford products, here Lincoln has wisely included two big chrome knobs to handle the most commonly used volume and tuning functions.
Seat comfort is very good in all three rows. There's abundant space for every passenger, no matter his or her size. And that's particularly true in the third row, where a 6-footer will find just enough knee and headroom to ride for moderate length trips. The third row seat conveniently folds electrically, but Lincoln doesn't provide the same electric folding system for the second row that some competitors do.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
Lincoln has improved the fuel economy of the Navigator thanks to the new V6 engine, but not by much. The 2014 Navigator 2WD delivered 16 mpg in combined driving (14 city/20 highway). For 2015, Navigators with 2WD are rated to deliver 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway). However, adding 4WD drops that number to 17 mpg combined. The 2WD Navigator L is also rated to deliver 17 mpg in combined driving, while the 4WD Navigator L earns a rating of 16 mpg combined.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Lincoln Navigator's class of large, expensive luxury SUVs is a small one. But here are some of its main foes.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is the Navigator's main rival and it benefits from an extensive redesign that includes not only a new V8 engine but also an eight-speed transmission as well as a new chassis and bodywork. Interestingly, the Cadillac with its robust 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 delivers 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway — very close to the Navigator's numbers. However, the Cadillac starts at just under $72,000 and with every option added can reach past $90,000. That's considerably more expensive than the Lincoln.
The next closest competitor would be the GMC Yukon Denali. It offers the same powertrain as the Cadillac, including the eight-speed automatic and the same level of power, but it comes priced more like the Lincoln, starting in the mid-$60,000 range. The GMC might not feel quite as exclusive and luxurious as the Lincoln, but if power and performance are more important to you than status, it's a good deal.
The Lexus LX 570 is another large luxury SUV that packs a strong V8 and trucklike hauling capabilities on a slightly lower level. Thanks to its 383-hp V8 and six-speed automatic, the LX can tow 7,000 pounds, which is less than the Cadillac, GMC or Lincoln. But because the LX 570 is based on Toyota's robust Land Cruiser, it has inherent 4WD capability that makes it far better suited for rough road travel than any of the others.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Have a large family, a large trailer in the driveway or both? The Navigator is an excellent choice because there are few vehicles that can handle a trailer and coddle as many passengers as comfortably as this Lincoln can. Though it might be less extensively redesigned and less powerful than some of its chief competitors for 2015, it's also less expensive, too.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If the Navigator doesn't get used to the fullest of its capabilities, then it's probably not the most efficient choice. A truck like the Navigator is difficult to park in an urban environment, and if all the Navigator's interior space isn't needed, a smaller luxury crossover like Lincoln's own MKC would be quicker, handle better and deliver better fuel economy. And of course it would fit in those compact parking spaces, too.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.