Lincoln calls its Navigator, which first debuted as a 1998 model, "America's original full-size luxury SUV." Given a fresh look and new seating setup for 2007, the Navigator continues to attract big-SUV buyers with big pocketbooks.
This year, there's an even bigger version: a new extended-length L edition that provides an extra 25 cubic feet of cargo space (beyond the standard Navigator's relatively modest 18.2 cubic feet). Measuring 14.7 inches longer overall than a regular Navigator, the L model - for better or worse - ranks as the epitome of domestically-built, full-size sport-utilities.
In addition to a new frame and independent suspension, the 2007 Navigator gets an acoustic windshield, thicker glass and "tuned" mirrors, which claim to deliver what Lincoln calls a "whisper-quiet" interior. As before, Lincoln offers a "PowerFold" third-row seat. Power-folding running boards remain available, too. Navigators may also be equipped with a power-operated liftgate.
Lincoln advises that the Navigator grille's horizontal and vertical elements are inspired by the company's "star" emblem. The lower grille contains integrated foglamps. The upper grille works into "chiseled chamfers" that define the Navigator's "powerdome" hood. High-intensity-discharge headlights are standard.
A "Lincoln-signature" chrome strip highlights the SUV's beltline. Chrome bodyside trim pieces extend rearward from the front wheels. Available 20-inch wheels can replace the standard 18-inch machined aluminum wheels.
Inside, a flow-through center console sweeps up into rectangular "eyebrows" on each end of the dashboard panel. Genuine Dark Ebony or Anigre wood trim decorates the console and the upper door panels. Ten-way power driver and passenger seats are standard, and the driver may benefit from power-adjustable pedals. Seating for up to eight occupants is available, with a 40/20/40-split second-row seat and 60/40-split third-row seat. Second-row head restraints fold forward 90 degrees, to ease rearward visibility.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and three-row side-curtain airbags are standard, along with Roll Stability Control. The voice-activated navigation system works with a 6.5-inch touch-screen. A 600-watt THX II Certified premium audio system includes a six-CD changer and 14 speakers.
Under the hood, a 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine produces 300 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 365 pound-feet of torque at 3750 rpm. The six-speed automatic transmission has two overdrive ratios.
Built on a 119-inch wheelbase, the standard Navigator measures 208.4 inches long. The L edition rides a 131-inch span and stretches to 223.3 inches. Both models are 78.8 inches wide. Towing capacity can reach 9,100 pounds, depending on configuration.
Climbing into the Navigator, a single thought comes to mind: It's so American. Big American. Gaudy American, with all the bright trimmings. In the new extended-length L form, it's an even bigger American. Yet, after a period of getting used to it, the Navigator L is not a difficult vehicle to drive.
Running boards are definitely handy for getting in/out, but also annoying when you're trying to get into a pull-in parking place and open the door for guidance - only to find the running board blocks your view. They also make a notable clunk as they travel in and out.
Expect to have a tire hop over a curb now and then while parking, because there's so much vehicle out there. The parking brake also makes an enormous clunk when it's released by going into gear - enough to startle occupants.
Plenty of energy is on tap, even though you're pulling a lot of weight. Maneuverability through corners is better than expected. Naturally, the ride is trucky, but softened enough to be relatively appealing. The Navigator's suspension is more cushiony than a typical truck's. Some rockiness occurs over bumps as a result, but this SUV catches itself quickly. Typical truck sounds emanate, but again softened a bit.
Gas guzzler? Well, of course! What would anyone expect from an SUV with these dimensions? Even in its most frugal two-wheel-drive form, the regular-size Navigator gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of just 13 mpg in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway. Reaching even those figures is sure to demand quite a light foot on the gas pedal and careful selection of routes.
Plenty of front-seat space is available, with a deep center-console covered box for storage. The glovebox isn't so large, though. Gauges are small and not the easiest to read, placing style over substance. Second-row space is ample but not enormous for three. In the center spot, one's head is likely to come close to the roof. Leg space is adequate in the third row. With the third-row seats up, cargo space in the Navigator L is above average but well short of voluminous. The power liftgate is handy, but sometimes you may inadvertently open the glass instead of the actual liftgate.
Don't stroll into a Lincoln dealership unless you're prepared to shell out plenty of dollars. Regular-length Navigators list for $46,575 (Luxury model with two-wheel drive) to $51,474 (Ultimate four-wheel drive). Moving up to an extended-length Navigator L demands an outlay of $49,575 ($52,475 with four-wheel drive) - in addition to any options that prove unduly tempting.
The typical Lincoln Navigator owner is a "check-every-box buyer," according to Raj Nair, executive director for body-on-frame vehicles. "If there's an option, they want it."