It may be dressed in tonnes of chrome and with copious interior space, but the 2017 Navigator is not just big and beautiful – it’s aggressively quick as well with a new engine. Nostalgia kicks in as Alvin Thomas gets behind the wheel of the Burj Khalifa of cars
The Lincoln Navigator is a car that goes by the motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In short, it’s an SUV that has been venturing on the roads for decades without deviating too far from its core purpose: To transport eight people in absolute comfort and carry all their luggage from A to B without any fuss.
This meant the SUV broke many boundaries; mostly in size. Looking at it, there’s no way you can hold yourself from calling it the Empire State Building or Burj Khalifa of cars – it’s indeed that enormous.
And it worked!
In fact, it worked so well that it soon became Lincoln’s most sold car throughout the Middle East. Beat that, Lincoln Town Car. The people love it, and so do we, the motoring journosaurs.
This is probably why most of the updates to the Navigator have always been cosmetic; a nip there and a tuck elsewhere.
To be completely honest, the only real changes that the third-generation SUV saw were a slight redesign of the front headlamps and rear tail lights. For arguments sake, I’ll concede that Lincoln chucked in new alloys and a host of other interior paraphernalia, too.
Yet, looking at the Navigator – an SUV that I have tested several times before – I couldn’t help but feel overpowered; like I was driving it for the first time. Don’t judge me: the SUV tips the scales at 2,800kg, and has one of the largest third-row seats in
A few seconds later, however, my head was flooded by the fact that this would be the last time I was driving this particular model-year of the SUV. The replacement Navigator is due for GCC release early next year, and is already on sale in the US.
So, it was with a bout of nostalgia that I took the keys over from the folks at Lincoln.
At first glance, I couldn’thelp but notice that the vehicle came with even more chrome (who would’ve thought that possible), larger alloys, retractable sidesteps, and redesigned tail lamps.
The fascia adorns Lincoln’s large and chunky split-wing grille, and brings about some other design changes on the radiator inlets on the bumper. In short, it looks swankier than before.
My tester also came with a thin chrome strip running through the length of the front bumper. Apart from that, the headlamps now have graceful daytime LED running lights and sharp high intensity discharge (HID) projectors, as opposed to the dreadful halogens from that of yesteryear.
Not much has been changed on the sides. But, you can now opt for the nifty retractable sidestep and solid 56cm chrome alloy wheels. Oh, and yes, you guessed it: there are thick strips of chrome running across the window sills (duh!).
The rear sees a radical change, though, and I like it. Lincoln has gone for a complete reform of the tail lamps. It’s not revolutionary, but it looks its part, especially at night. The light bar that runs across the tailgate also adds to the overall width of the Navigator.
Contrary to what people may say, it’s easy to get in and out of the SUV. The side steps retract when the doors are opened, following which you can effortlessly haul your body into the cabin.
The cabin by itself is extremely roomy, and you will find yourself – more often than not – having to shout out to the passengers in the third-row. It’s like sitting in different time zones, I tell you.
With the driver seat set all the way back to accommodate me, I learnt that there was still enough real estate for three six-foot tall (or even more!) adults. This is also the case in the third row; there’s more than adequate head and leg room for three full-size adults. The windows in the rear are ginormous, thereby alleviating any form of claustrophobia for rear-seat passengers.
The seats are all wrapped in genuine high-grade leather, and are soft – which is typical of Lincoln. The bolstering on all the seats are to a minimum, which means things can get a bit frisky when taking sharp corners at speed.
The Lincoln Navigator may have remained (virtually) unchanged for a whole decade, but the differences on the tech front are evident from the very second you step into the cabin. For starters, you get two small but functional LCD screens on the instrument cluster, which you can use to display several vehicle functions or infotainment readouts.
Then there’s the party piece – the SYNC3 system. The 21cm wide touchscreen is extremely responsive to the touch and is quick to respond to the users’ commands. Even the music player and navigation interface is slick and easy to use. Apple fans can hook up their iPhones and use Apple CarPlay. Of course, Android Auto is also available on SYNC3, but the Android-based smartphones here in the Middle East block the services.
Inside the Navigator you get a 14-speaker THX II-certified audio system. It booms with sound bass and sharp trebles for all your tunes. You will have to snoop through the tone settings if you’re looking to play some soft orchestra music.
Meanwhile, the dashboard and the door are completely wrapped in leather, and only the bottom panels (perhaps as low as your shin) are finished in plastic.
Now let’s move over to the powertrain.
So, what do you think lies underneath the large hood? A 5.7-litre V8? A 6.3-litre V8?
Oh, hell no! It packs a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged ‘Ecoboost’ V6 motor. Don’t at any point judge Lincoln for chucking in a smaller motor because you would be astonished by how much more potent the Navigator has become courtesy the lighter engine.
The engine now pumps out 380hp and 634Nm (!) of blue-blooded torque. The torque is available from as little as 2750rpm and carries onto 5000-odd rpm, after which the motor hits the power crescent. What this means is that the engine will peak at about 6000rpm before the limiter kicks in to save the turbochargers.
Nevertheless, at no point will you feel like questioning the number of cylinders that are at work. As a matter of fact, the engine, coupled with the six-speed automatic gearbox (with manual override), hits the 100kph mark from a standstill in 6.5 seconds, which is exactly the time taken, and in some cases, faster, when compared to its other V8-powered American and Asian rivals.
Surprisingly, the gearbox is quick to respond to kick-downs, and holds gears when in need of quick overtaking manoeuvres. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take control of the shifts manually using the (pointless) button-operated shifters on the gear knob.
When left alone, however, the gearbox assumes you’re looking for maximum fuel-economy, and short-shifts, meaning you get superlative levels of fuel economy. Of course, take what I say with a pinch of salt; it weighs nearly three-tonnes after all.
The ride in the Navigator is silky smooth thanks to the soft shocks. You can cruise over speed bumps without really having to slow down, although that’s not something I recommend.
What you gain in ride comfort, you lose in cornering. As is characteristic of vehicles with a body-on-frame construction, there’s a fair share of body roll. But, it does handle itself with grace and will only take you by surprise if you’re asking the tyres to put in some extraordinary lateral ‘G’s (gravity).
Stick within the 60kph range, though, and you’ll be fine. This seems to be the threshold of the new rear-independent suspension system. Still, there’s a Roll Stability Control System that should take care of you if you make a hash of things.
The electric-assisted power-steering is undeniably light making the Navigator a breeze to drive within the city. Even the turning circle puts its competitors to shame. The only concern I had was the lack of predictive lines in the backup camera of the SYNC3 system (although I cannot be sure if it was an option that was turned off).
The brakes on the Navigator are a bit spongy at first but were definitely better than what I found on one of its direct competitor from Detroit. Tip the pedal further and the brakes are applied steadily and to full effect.
The Lincoln Navigator – with this new engine – is the most sensible luxury full-size SUV to have come from the stables of Michigan. There’s no getting around the sheer size of the vehicle but if you’re looking for a vehicle to haul eight people around in opulence, then it’s best you write out a check right away.
Begs you to ask yourself this question, really: are you buying a large SUV or a tiny house?
Specifications: Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged ‘Ecoboost’ six-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Top speed: 163kph (limited)
LED daytime running lights
Interior ambient lighting
513 litres cargo capacity
Ventilated front seats
14-speaker THX audio system
Sync3® infotainment system
21cms touch-operated screen
LED tail lights with light bar
Sunroof Genuine leather upholstery
Blind-spot information system
3900kgs towing capacity