Test Drive: 2018 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Black Label
Once upon a time, mighty dinosaurs roamed America. They were long and wide and towered over those around them.
They were called Cadillacs and Lincolns, and experts still argue over which was the most impressive. But they shrank in size and stature when their food supply — gasoline — became harder and more expensive to come by.
Although both Cadillac and Lincoln lost ground to foreign luxury vehicles following the shortages of the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970s and the repeated price surges over the past decades, they have rebounded in recent years. Cadillac started first by building genuine performance into their stylish coupes and sedans. Lincoln has followed by dramatically improving the quality of their vehicles, although they were still too obviously based on lower-priced models by Ford, Lincoln's parent company.
Nowhere was this more apparent than with Lincoln's largest vehicle, the full-sized Navigator SUV. For many years, it has looked too much like an upgraded version of the Ford Expedition SUV. The Cadillac Escalade is also based on full-size SUVs from its parent company, General Motors. But, largely because of its much sharper exterior styling, the Escalade has a more distinctive — and hipper — identify.
But all that is set to change with the completely redesigned 2018 Navigator, which is now ready to steal the show — not only from Cadillac, but from every company that still makes such a large, traditional, truck-based SUV. It has finally graduated to the big leagues, and I do mean big.
How big is the 2018 Linoln Navigator? Popular author Michael Connelly has written a series of thriller about Mickey Haller, called the Lincoln Lawyer because he practices out of a chauffeur-driven Town Car. The Navigator can hold the an entire Lincoln Law Firm in its three rows of seats with room to spare.
But the Navigator is no slouch, thanks to the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 lifted from Ford's over-the-top Raptor pickup truck. Pumping out an impressive 450 horsepower and awesome 510 foot-pounds of torque, the engine makes the Navigator incredibly quick off the line, despite weighing more than three tons. Some credit goes to the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which always seems to be in the right gear to take advantage of all that power.
Nor is the Navigator just a brute, however. Like the Raptor, it is surprisingly easy to drive slowly in heavy traffic, with the responsive steering making it surprisingly easy to change lanes when a (big) space opens up.
The 2018 Navigator is also loaded with tech, including multiple drive modes that increase economy or performance and everything in between. Our test model was equipped with all-wheel-drive, which also had a range of drive modes to respond to virtually every condition.
Lincoln is ultimately about luxury, however, and the Navigator has it in spades. An entire herd of cows must have given their lives to outfit our test version with its deep red leather interior. The 20-speaker audio system rivals anything offered in any other luxury vehicle. The front seats were not only fully adjustable but offered massages. The third row reclined. And the safety systems were as complete as those offered by most competitors. And it can tow up to 8,700 pounds, when properly equipped.
Of course, all that size, power and luxury comes at a price — in our case, a $96,570 MSRP and EPA fuel economy rating of just 18 miles per gallon, but neither figure is out of line for this kind of vehicle.
The 2018 Linoln Navigator is the company's second recent serious effort to reassert itself, following the release of its much larger flagship sedan, the 2018 Continental. Both mark a welcome return to the company's roots, and should be taken seriously by anyone who appreciates the newest versions of traditional luxury vehicles.
2018 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Black Label
Base price: $72,555
Price as tested: $96,570
Type: Full-size luxury SUV
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 (450 hp, 510 ft-lbs)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode
EPA estimated mileage: 16/21
Overall length: 221.9 inches
Curb weight: 6,330 pounds
Final assembly: Louisville, Kentucky