Luxury, maximized. Back in the 1990s, Lincoln dropped a bomb when it showed off the first Navigator. It was a big, brash, exaggerated thing, essentially a Ford Expedition that got outfitted on Rodeo Drive. At the time, there was nothing like it. It took Cadillac two years before it responded with the Escalade.
After that first generation, the Navigator fell into a slump and the Cadillac Escalade took charge of the segment. But since the latest generation debuted in 2018, things have been looking up for the big Lincoln.
It's got its mojo back – even if the 2020 Lincoln Navigator costs more than ever.
Decadent trappings. If there's any segment where interiors are heavily scrutinized by shoppers, it's the full-size luxury scene. Buyers of these cars and SUVs are a discerning bunch and demand the best. The Lincoln Navigator, however, won't leave this group disappointed. This Nav boasts the best interior Ford has built in years, if not decades.
Start at a base model and you'll find quality switchgear and soft-touch surfaces nearly everywhere. A generous amount of trim is decorative eye candy that also keeps things from looking monotonous.
The general vibe is distinctly American, with plenty of brash touches and a bold look. It is modern in its look and retro in its feel; by that we mean there are whiffs of the glory days of American motoring. The original Lincoln Continental is here in spirit, but has happily been distilled in fresh shapes and designs.
Neatly packaged within these confines are luxury features aplenty. New for 2020 are standard heated and cooled seats and wireless charging; those new seats are multi-way adjustable and offer all-day comfort. If you'd like, there are 30-way power seats on the options sheet. Thankfully, those come standard with two-way memory for both driver and passenger.
The standard infotainment setup is a 10-inch touchscreen running the latest Ford Sync software, and we found it a breeze to use. It has standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and tunes are belted out of a standard 14-speaker Revel audio system. A 20-speaker system is available.
Big power, small displacement. Take a look at the great bulk of the Navigator and you're likely to start wondering about what kind of massive engine is likely shoehorned under the hood. A V8 big enough to have its own gravity? A monster diesel out of some dump truck or tractor? Maybe even a V10? No, no, and no.
Motivating the Navigator is a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Yes, that's right, a V6 moves all that mass. Lincoln has done a heck of a job tuning it, though, and it makes a stout 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.
You won't be racing Ford Mustangs or Dodge Challenger Hellcats with it, but its torque curve is steady and progressive. It pulls without hesitation and never needs to take a breather.
Trailering is no difficulty either. You can pull up to 8,700 pounds with the optional upgraded hitch, and 8,100 pounds without it. These numbers outgun the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Escalade by a few hundred pounds. This is despite them having V8 power and a solid-axle rear suspension that's typically suited for heavy-duty towing.
This is a double win for the Navigator because when unladen, its independent rear suspension also provides a smoother, more composed ride for passengers in all three rows. It's unlike the GM triplets, whose outdated rear suspension design results in a choppier ride and less leg room for the third row.
Where the Navigator falters is fuel economy. Those turbos are working hard to move all this tonnage, and you won't see anything better than 19 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA. However, if you're in the market for a Navigator, you're probably not particularly concerned about fuel efficiency.
Black Label: a black-tie affair. For the last few years, Lincoln has been reaching for a strata of luxury that has long been the domain of the foreign competition. That attempt is the Black Label series, which is positioned not only as the top trim in most of their cars, but as a comprehensive package that extends to servicing and customer care. Black Label is nothing less than white-glove service.
The main appeal begins with the vehicle itself, and the Navigator is the flagship of this flagship program. The Navigator Black Label trim is subdivided into one of three specialized themes that hark back to Lincoln's Designer Series era. They aren't called Givenci or Bill Blass anymore, though. Now its Chalet, Yacht Club, and Destination. Each of these themes – that's Lincoln's term for them – conveys a certain aesthetic via its well-chosen colors and textures.
It doesn't matter which is your favorite because there's only one phrase to describe any of them: over the top. They positively overflow with soft leathers, wood trims, quilted upholstery, and chrome detailing. Everything is appropriately color-coordinated, including carpets, seat belts, and door trim.
It seems that no expense was spared to craft a Black Label Navigator. It could even run with the best six-figure SUVs from Britain. We're looking at you, Bentley Bentayga.
Buying a Black Label is also a unique experience that distances itself from the more plebeian models. It begins with connecting with a concierge, then scheduling a special appointment where the car can be brought to you if you so desire.
If you decide to buy, Black Label includes four years of complimentary maintenance with free pickup and delivery service and a complimentary loaner. You also get anytime washes and details. You'll even get to skip lines at select airport and sports stadiums.
The Black Label is Lincoln's finest effort yet at clawing its way back into the collective conscious. It not only sells you a luxury product, but includes the sort of reserved-for-royalty perks that can endear a buyer to the brand.
Final thoughts. Ford has had a hit on its hands ever since these latest Navigators arrived. And why should anyone be surprised? This flagship Lincoln looks the part, feels the part, and drives the part.
There's nothing that pegs these big sleds as poseurs or wannabes, which is as it should be, considering that prices start above $77,000 and shoot up to just under six figures for the Black Label.
The Navigator has not only breathed new life into Lincoln, it's reinvigorated the Star-Destroyer SUV segment. An all-new Escalade should arrive for the 2021 model year, and there's no doubt it'll need to pull out all the stops to topple its crosstown nemesis. The Lincoln-Cadillac rivalry hasn't been this interesting since the last new Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham arrived to do battle against the Lincoln Town Car.
But we're sure the threat of a new Escalade isn't worrying Ford executives too much. This Lincoln, after all, has all the right stuff to appeal to buyers of these rigs; size, grandeur, and panache are all here in spades. For those who can afford it, the 2020 Lincoln Navigator is big luxury done right.
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