Test Drive: 2016 Lincoln Navigator

Lincoln NavigatorLincoln Navigator was the original luxury SUV, introduced for the 1998 model year, when gas prices were low, bling was the thing, and bigger meant better. Fuel economy was the last thing on buyers’ minds when a $20 bill could fill the entire tank, and competitors like Cadillac soon capitalized on the success of Lincoln’s first-ever four-wheel drive model.

Ah, but the mighty they do fall hard. As gas prices rose an astronomical 243 percent over the course of the next decade-plus, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs plummeted, and hybrids became the new aspirational vehicles of choice. That downturn severely damaged SUV sales, and crossovers became king, combining the utility of the SUV with the gas-sipping qualities of a smaller car.

As the economy normalized, SUVs have come back into favor, and the Lincoln Navigator offers a fresh interpretation of the classic vehicle that created the segment. Much has changed, but what made it popular in the first place — off-road capability, towing capacity, comfortable seating for up to eight passengers, wrapped in an elegant package — remains. Navigator is luxurious in the modern sense: sophisticated, technologically advanced, adorned inside with premium materials and accents, with thoughtfully placed controls and amenities. The signature chrome split-wing grille is the most audacious part of the exterior styling, which is clean and contemporary.

Lincoln Navigator interiorMany crossovers and sport utilities boast three-rows of seating, but Navigator can actually seat adult humans, not just toddlers and pets, comfortably in all rows. There’s no denying that it is one big vehicle. Those suffering a Napoleon Complex will no doubt be satiated by the commanding view from the driver’s seat, awash with power as the Navigator quickly reaches freeway speeds, hauling up to 9000 pounds behind. Yet, while it exudes power and luxury, Navigator somehow feels manageable, with easy steering response and, dare we say, nimble maneuverability. The only time you’ll really “feel” its size is in the parking lot, and even then, rearview cameras and blind spot warning systems eliminate the guesswork.

The only available engine is a 380-horsepower EcoBoost V-6; Navigator is available in two- or four-wheel driver with extended wheelbase models and an optional Reserve package.

Lincoln released plans for its new Navigator Concept earlier this year, giving us a glimpse at what’s to come. But the current version is a standout vehicle itself.

Lincoln NavigatorYou don’t have to be a ’90s-era rap star or sports hero to appreciate the utility and luxury of the current Lincoln Navigator. Although, having their paycheck and garage space would make owning one a lot easier.

Pricing starts at $63,515; the Reserve model tested here was $73,395. Best of Our Valley winner Sanderson Lincoln can put you behind the wheel of the Navigator, or any other of Lincoln’s excellent offerings, including the MKC or MKX.


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