2015 Lincoln Navigator

Posted on 24th January 2014

We can only hope that Lincoln isn’t relying on the Navigator to guide the wayward luxury brand out of its current predicament. Trying to bushwhack its way back from a lost era of uncompetitive vehicles and misguided strategy, Lincoln is in the midst of what its marketing team calls a “product- and service-led transformation.” But the 2015 Lincoln Navigator is a continuation of the same course rather than the about-face the brand desperately needs. It adheres to the tired “follow Ford” approach and is in many ways the same Navigator that has been on dealer lots for years. (While no one’s talking about a refreshed Expedition just yet, we have full faith that Ford Motor Company will deliver an update to it soon.)

Despite sales being a fraction of what they were 10 years ago, large luxury SUVs like the Navigator still find homes with roughly 80,000 buyers every year—buyers with large families, larger toys, and even larger wallets. With seating for up to eight, a towing capacity as high as 9000 pounds, and a starting price of just under $60,000, there are few vehicles like the Navigator. Yet in a segment that includes the Cadillac Escalade, the Infiniti QX80, and the Mercedes-Benz GL-class, Lincoln’s 2013 sales topped only those of the Lexus LX570. This face lift, a half-hearted attempt to counter the 2015 Cadillac Escalade's comprehensive overhaul, is unlikely to change the Navigator’s standing among its peers.

The 2015 Navigator is based on seven-year-old bones with unchanged exterior dimensions and carryover sheetmetal everywhere except the hood and the tailgate. Up front, the family-look split-wing grille has been skillfully applied to accommodate a truck that otherwise looks like no other Lincoln. The butt lift isn’t nearly as successful. The full-width taillight comes off as a poor mimicry of the Dodge Durango's rear end and the single-outlet exhaust dangles awkwardly inches below the bumper.

More-substantial changes lurk behind the grille where the 5.4-liter V-8 has been replaced by the EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 as the sole powertrain. Engineers promise at least 370 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque, gains of 5 horses and 10 lb-ft over what the engine currently makes in the Ford F-150. Power reaches the ground through a carry-over six-speed automatic and either rear- or all-wheel drive. Since the Navigator’s competition is powered exclusively by eight-cylinder engines, Lincoln is confident it will earn the highest EPA fuel-economy ratings in the class.

The body-on-frame architecture is a derivative of current Ford F-150 underpinnings, with an independent suspension at the rear. The new engine has afforded a switch to electrically assisted steering and optional adaptive dampers can be set to Normal, Comfort, or, um, Sport modes.

Inside, the Navigator’s familiar towering dash panel has been dressed up with spiffier materials. It’s all convincingly upscale save for the cheap, unadorned plastic vents on top of the center stack. The controls and instruments have been updated, including a new steering wheel and a central analog speedometer flanked by two digital screens. The MyLincoln Touch infotainment system is standard and the latest iteration includes volume and tuning knobs for the radio, plus rockers for station-seek and fan-speed functions. Fussy touch-sensitive sliders thankfully are nowhere to be found.

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