Navigator shares a platform with the Ford Expedition, but takes a unique styling approach. Up front, a massive chrome grille announces your arrival, flanked by big rectangular High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights. My test vehicle wore an optional ($50) chrome accent strip on the hood, just in case you missed the acres of standard chrome. Navigator's hood is high and wide, with sharp creases and chiseled features.
In profile, it's impossible to ignore Navigator L's size. A broad strip of chrome trim connects the front and rear wheels above the rocker panels, bearing the vehicle's name in two inch-high letters. The long wheelbase isn't enough to contain the big overhang behind the rear wheels -- it would be very easy to get hung up with the 20.8 degree departure angle that the chassis' geometry dictates. I wouldn't even try driving over a curb if I owned a Navigator L.
My test vehicle wore a set of optional ($1,495) 20" chrome plated aluminum wheels -- the standard size is a mere 18". Optional? Really? Come on, now.
In the Driver's Seat
Once you're up there, it's a 1970's flashback, from type face and graphics to overstuffed seating. Lincoln claims that the instrument panel is "inspired by popular rectangular fashion eyewear," a statement that baffles me even as I reread it. At least there are some strong material choices in the cabin, from real wood trim (very nicely cut and installed) to nice quality plastics. The overall design doesn't read as contemporary to my eye -- it reads as dressed-up Ford.
Examining function over form, the seats are comfortable and relatively supportive, though lacking effective side bolstering. The steering wheel is adjustable for tilt, but not reach. My test vehicle came with a $4,450 Elite Package of options, which included a navigation system with THX Audio and a rear seat entertainment package. Lincoln has this navigation thing down -- the software is great, and the interface is intuitive and simple. Also included is a six month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio, a great match with the sound system.
Second row passengers are treated to cushy luxury, with auxiliary climate control and tons of leg and head room. The third row is decent for a third row, with good hip room and a very livable hip to floor distance -- adults can sit comfortably without feeling like their knees are at their chins. Access to the third row is easy, with a slick tumble and fold second row.
On the Road
Motivating the Navigator L is a 5.4 liter V8 engine that sends 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque through its six-speed automatic transmission. I'm kind of surprised that there isn't a supersized engine option. Navigator L does fine with the 5.4, but could do with a bit more giddyup. The EPA doesn't estimate fuel economy for Navigator L, but I'll tell you what I achieved in mixed driving -- 12 mpg. That's a totally unsubstantiated, unscientific figure -- your results will vary wildly depending on your driving habits and conditions. A standard Navigator with rear-wheel drive is rated to achieve 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway, and it weighs about 350 lbs less than the 4x4 L. Draw your own conclusions.
Navigator is hardly nimble, but it is light on its feet for a big SUV. You'll never forget that you're in a big, heavy vehicle, but there are some benefits to all that girth in certain situations. Navigator L provides a great view of the road ahead, and a rock-solid smooth ride on the highway. Unfortunately, you have to stop sometime, and finding a parking space that can accommodate Navigator L is a challenge. Piloting the land barge into a space can be even trickier -- all that overhang works against your perceptions of length and maneuverability. Be very very careful, or you could squash something (or someone).
There are other large Luxury SUVs to consider, most of which I would choose over Navigator L. There's the Infiniti QX56 and the Lexus LX 470, both vehicles with great capacity, luxury and fine design inside and out. There's the Cadillac Escalade ESV, which rides on GM's new GMT900 platform. There's the Land Rover LR3 and the Mercedes-Benz GL 450. And if you can do with a little less luxury, you can look at the Nissan Armada, the Toyota Sequoia and the GMC Yukon Denali. You'll still get a fine level of comfort and features, while saving a few dollars in the process.
I guess the answer to question number one is the one I've been dancing around -- Navigator L is for the person who just has to have a the biggest Lincoln on the market, regardless of whether or not their money could be more wisely spent elsewhere. On that basis, the answer to question number two is that Lincoln has achieved their goal admirably. As to question number three -- was it a goal worth achieving in the first place -- I'm going to have to say no.