Numbers have always been a huge part of automobile culture. Read any review or brochure, or simply talk to a proud owner, and you'll be inundated with them. How fast, how quick, how far, how big, how light, how loud, how low, how expensive — stats are everything. The all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator will please numbers aficionados with a spec sheet thoroughly riddled with impressive stuff. From the number of directions in which its seats can adjust to the horsepower output from its relatively small engine to the size of its wheels, the Navigator contains a wealth of outsized specs excessive enough to send the most avid of numbers junkies into a frenzy. None of the Navigator's numbers, however, is more impressive than 20: the number of years it took the Navigator to completely reinvent itself.
When it debuted in 1998, the original Navigator was somewhat of a revelation, beating Cadillac's Escalade to the modern, American-made luxury-SUV front by a year. For all its leather and late-Nineties bling, the big SUV also featured premium performance and an adequately premium price tag. For around $43,000, or about $67,000 in today's money, customers got seven-passenger, V8-powered transportation that could tow like a big truck and impress at the country club. Few vehicles have truly captured their moment in time like the original Navigator did, and now, 20 years later, this latest generation has done it all over again. The new SUV is aggressively progressive in most every way — apropos for a vehicle debuting at the height of the Information Age. At a time trends come and go in what can seem like moments, Lincoln has positioned the Navigator to stay ahead of the curve in ways that will still feel revolutionary years down the road.
The full-size Navigator is still basically a ladder-frame truck with prodigious features, but, eschewing a traditional, macho V8, Lincoln has fitted the new Navigator with Ford's 450-horsepower twin-turbo V6, which cranks 510 lb-ft of torque (it's also found in the Ford F-150 Raptor). A 10-speed transmission keeps that power in check and doles it out seamlessly. Its aluminum-alloy body shaves off a couple hundred pounds compared to a steel equivalent and makes, well, navigating an effortless task; despite weighing a massive 6,000 pounds, the Navigator moves with grace that usually only vehicles half its size can claim.
In terms of its competition though, Lincoln, in general, still has a long way to go in distancing itself from its bloaty, Town Car image of yore. The Navigator truly competes with — and in many cases surpasses — many rivals in the premium space. Most notably, It's poised as a fresher competitor to the aforementioned Escalade, which though relatively outdated, will always be its main contemporary. But in terms of its modern take on style and luxury, the Navigator also handily competes with far more upscale luxury options like the Bentley Bentayga — a vehicle that starts some $60,000 higher than the most expensive, fully optioned Black Label Navigator.
Black Label products sit at the top end of the Lincoln model lineup, and are made available in pre-curated "themes" that convey high-taste combinations of texture and color. Opt for a Black Label long-wheelbase Navigator with four-wheel drive and all the fixin's and witness another extreme number: this SUV can be optioned to over $100,000. Impressively, Lincoln backs up that price tag with a complete experience that's difficult to see as anything but worth the cost of admission. The drab, droopy quarters of the original Navigator are completely gone in favor of an airy, pleasing cabin with truly comfortable seating for up to eight. Beyond that, the vehicle is replete with charging ports, entertainment systems and technology like head-up displays and customizable digital gauge clusters. The wood veneers that cover the main surfaces in each vehicle are largely sourced from a single tree, meaning the grains match perfectly throughout the cabin. Richly colored, sensual textures abound, resulting in a driving experience that is almost eerily relaxing.
On the outside, the new Navigator strikes a well-proportioned balance between outrageously sized components and outright bulk: for every 22-inch wheel or 9-inch-tall grille emblem, there is another inch of overall height or length to compensate visually. And yet the final product is a titanic vehicle that doesn't look ridiculous or comical, but rather stately: a large but smooth figure that avoids being distasteful or aggressively monolithic.
And so Lincoln has uncovered a winning formula. The numbers — 20 years, 6,000 pounds, $100,000, et al. — deliver a strong statement, but where the company has struck gold is in the philosophy behind the new Navigator. There is nothing in this SUV that indicates the brand is being precious or careful; instead, the Navigator is the manifestation of progress inside and out.
- Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic; four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 450
This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Eight, available now at the Gear Patrol Store.