Friday, March 2, 2018


Thanks in large part to the boost it got from the hip-hop crowd, Cadillac’s Escalade has enjoyed an advantage over Lincoln’s Navigator when it comes to public perception of large luxury SUVs, even though it was the latter that is credited with creating the segment 20 years ago.

Life can be like that sometimes.

Frankly, it seemed like the folks at parent company Ford were willing to accept the situation as it was, but in recent years Lincoln has been unleashed and begun putting out high-quality products that truly are up to “luxury” standards and not just in name.

Among them is the 2018 Lincoln Navigator, a large SUV (no, it’s not a crossover but is body-on-frame construction, like a pickup) that earlier this year was recognized as the North America Truck of the Year by a panel of nearly 60 U.S. and Canadian automotive journalists in conjunction with the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

It’s the first time that the judges have bestowed a Lincoln vehicle with North American Car, Truck, or Utility of the Year honors in the 24-year history of the awards, so it’s an even bigger deal than usual.

In addition, US News & World Report has rated the 2018 Navigator No. 1 in its class in its analysis of automotive reviews, and the public seems to have caught on as well. Navigator sales have jumped from 656 for last October to 1,230 in November, 1,134 in December, and 1,288 in January.

Ford reported that 1,063 Navigators were sold in February, a jump  of 13.3 percent over February 2017, and the sales for the first two months this year are up nearly 48 percent over the same time a year ago.

Have to say engineers must have hit the mark with the 2018 redesign.

And I like it, too.

With its distinctive lattice grille centered by Lincoln’s understated logo and flanked by LED headlights, the Navigator has a sophisticated appearance that is matched by its elegant, roomy interior. Imagine nearly 44 inches of legroom up front, just over 41 in the second row and up to 42.3 inches for the third row (along with just over 37 inches of headroom).

The top-of-the-line Black Label with a “Yacht Club” theme -- one of three upgrades that take the interior to the next level with “Chalet” and “Destination” being the other two -- gives the cabin distinctive woods, leather, and carpets to up the ante in opulence. Front seats can be adjusted 30 ways and include massage, heating, and cooling functions and include adjustable thigh supports.

The blue interior is easy on the eyes, and the panoramic moonroof adds to the feeling of spaciousness.

The dash is arranged neatly and the use of buttons at the bottom to select gears opens up the space between driver and passenger and allows for more space for storage and cupholders.

The standard Sync 3 with voice activated navigation is very user-friendly, though I would prefer for designers to find a better way to accommodate the 10-inch touchscreen into the flow of the dash rather than having it stick up in the middle like a misplaced iPad.

Second-row passengers have their own audio and climate control, and third-row seats may be power-reclined. You can get the Navigator with either captain’s chairs that tip and slide for easy access to the far back or bench seats for the second row, making it capable of seating seven or eight passengers in comfort.

The Navigator is a workhorse as well.

A new 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine -- is rated at 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque and mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It is offered in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the latter standard on the Black Label edition, offering up to 8,300 pounds of towing capacity with AWD, 8,700 with RWD.

Don’t let the “6” concern you. It’s same power source found in the performance-driven F-150 Raptor pickup and actually has more punch than the V8 found in some of its competitors. It moves the Navigator’s nearly three tons with alacrity.

And it isn’t as thirsty as you might expect. EPA figures are 16 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway, 18 combined. With a 23-gallon tank, you’ll be making more pit stops for, um, personal reasons than for refueling.

You’ll find the 2018 Navigator available in four trim levels with the Premiere and Select models carrying starting MSRPs in the $70,000 bracket and the Reserve starting at $81,205.

The Black Label edition, which includes as standard items such as a Technology package that are optional on the other three, starts at $93,705. Our test vehicle checked in at $98,320 when a couple of options and the destination and delivery charge were added.

What I liked about the 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label: It’s a great vehicle for road trips. Whether in seven- or eight-passenger configuration, it offers each occupant much in the way of personal space along with a quiet, smooth ride. We had six for our weekend, and it was perfect.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label: The downside to getting all that room for the passengers is that cargo room behind the third row is limited. It is listed as a generous 19.3 cubic feet, but the way it is configured limits the size of some items that can be packed back there. A more spacious 57.5 cubic feet is available when the third-row seats are folded.

Would I buy the 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label? Yes. You can find full-size SUVs that provide a lot of space and function well, but the Navigator takes plushness to a new level. If it’s in your budget, it should be on your list.

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