When the current Lincoln Navigator launched back in 2018, it was, shall we say, kind of a big deal. After years of languishing as, well, a mediocre fancy SUV, the all-new version that arrived was a tour de force of design and luxury — one that helped redefine its brand as once again competitive in the upper echelons of the new vehicle market. It even managed to beat out all contenders that year to be named Gear Patrol's choice for the most important car of the year.
It caught fire with customers, too. After the new model came out, sales nearly doubled, jumping from around the 10,000-per-year mark in the U.S. to around the 18,000-a-year level before, y'know, covid happened. But as with sharks, automotive product planners sit still at risk of peril; cars must constantly be changing, or else risk being left behind. So for 2022, the Navigator received a freshening up meant to keep it at the top of the pops.
From the outside, you'd be hard-pressed to tell this Navigator was any different from the previous model year version. The headlights are a bit smaller, the grille is (remarkably) a bit larger, the orientation of the taillamp-and-chrome strip has been flipped upside-down, and a few other touch-ups have been made. Yet it's still very clearly a Navigator, to those who care about such things — and even for those who don't care about what kind of cars they're looking at, its size, style and sheer presence mean they won't be able to notice that it's something.
My test car was a top-shelf Black Label version — specifically, the Central Park one, which pairs a Manhattan Green exterior with an interior replete in Urban Green leather and open-pore walnut trim – the latter complete with a laser-etched pattern that maps the street grid out much like the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 first did for the island at the center of the world.
Green leather may sound a tad gauche, but in actuality, the Central Park interior was splendid — in part because the colors turned out to be surprisingly restrained, but also because the Navigator still has one of the comfiest cabins in the modern automotive world. The ridiculously adjustable front seats are about as comfy as any you can find in a car (the excellent ventilation and solid massage features also help), and the second row is nearly as nice as the first — appropriate, since the Navigator is now effectively the Town Car's replacement as The Lincoln for Fancy People Who Ride in the Back. The third row isn't nearly as nice, but it's certainly better than a school bus — and for many buyers, that seat will probably spend much of its time folded down anyway, the better to make the most of the cavernous cargo hold.
There's also a new infotainment system, dubbed Sync 4, which looks far more worthy of inclusion in a luxury vehicle than the outdated-looking setup found in the pre-facelift version (which looked and behaved much the same as the setup found on a base Ford Maverick, even if the screen was larger and used different fonts). The new widescreen system boasts its own look, as well as cleaner, sharper, and pleasantly animated graphics; it's still no match for, say, a Mercedes Hyperscreen or the latest BMW iDrive in terms of style, but it certainly gets the job done. And the arsenal of hard buttons for climate and stereo below it mean you won't even need to use the touchscreen that often.
You don't buy a giant luxury SUV for sporty driving. Sure, vehicles like the Escalade-V and AMG GLS63 and Alpina XB7 that have pumped-up engines and sportier suspensions and so forth exist — but nobody is choosing them first and foremost for how quickly they corner.
No, people like these sorts of rides because they ride well (and, well, have a ton of space). And riding well is something the 2022 Navigator excels at; it pours down the road like hot honey, gliding over bumps and road ruffles. Part of that is due to the new-for-2022 road preview feature for the active suspension, which monitors the road ahead using a dozen sensors (including a camera) and adjusts the suspension as much as 100 times a second to prep for whatever impacts may come. Buyers won't care much about the how, though; they'll just appreciate the smoothness as they zip across America in their rolling leather-lined condo.
And surprisingly, the gas mileage was — well, not great, certainly but not atrocious, either. Over 330 miles of highway driving, much over hills and at varied speeds, the Navigator averaged 20.7 miles per gallon — a decent result for a three-ton, 440-hp beast with the frontal area of a barn.
The 2022 Navigator also marks the debut of Lincoln's version of the Ford Motor Company's Level 2+ semi-autonomous driving aid. (Think GM's SuperCruise, or Tesla's Autopilot.) In Fords, it's called BlueCruise, a name so close to its crosstown foe's it's not surprising that General Motors complained. Lincoln's version goes by the name ActiveGlide (which, perhaps regrettably, sounds more like a water-based lubricant than a driving aid), but it works the same way: so long as you're on a pre-mapped highway, and you're staring at the road, the Navigator should be able to maintain course, heading and speed no matter what curves may come or traffic may manifest.
At least, that's the idea. In practice, it's not as capable as GM's SuperCruise. ActiveGlide proved more likely to deactivate itself with little rhyme or reason; it happened four or five times over the course of several hours of ActiveGliding, and while it became available again in under a minute each time, it was still annoying — especially since SuperCruise almost never does such things. SuperCruise also can perform its own passing maneuvers, a handy feature that ActiveGlide can't (at least, not yet).
Still, it's a welcome respite on long road trips, such as the pair of six-hour drives I put it through going to and from Vermont. Using ActiveGlide, I was able to forego my usual unhealthy road trip meal of a fast food hamburger in favor of a Wendy's southwest chicken salad without incident. Think of it less as Full Self-Driving and more as Occasional Snack Break.
A lot has changed in the full-size luxury SUV market since this Navigator first went on sale almost five years ago. BMW debuted the X7; Mercedes-Benz hauled out an all-new GLS-Class; Lexus rolled out a brand-new LX; and, of course, Cadillac dropped a brand-new, better-than-ever Escalade. Lincoln's mid-life refresh for the Navigator brings it very much into contention with the rest of them.
While many will curse them as monuments of conspicuous consumption that damn the planet to a hothouse future with every turn of their crankshafts, they're also very much impressive examples of the capabilities of modern carmakers. Like its rivals, the Navigator is a classic luxury car in many ways, equipped with a decadent interior, smooth ride and ample power –but it's also capable of gallumping over moderately rough terrain with its four-wheel-drive, towing four tons, and carrying seven people or a platoon's worth of gear. Think of it as a replacement for a Continental and an F-150 wrapped into one. And while it may no longer be the must-buy slam-dunk of the category it was when it launched, it's still worthy of consideration when it comes time to write a hefty check.
Base Price / Price as Tested: $79,330 / $112,395
Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6; 10-speed automatic; rear- or four-wheel-drive
Torque: 510 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 16 city, 22 highway
If you need to log long miles, it's hard to beat Cadillac's luxury mammoth.