First there were SUVs. Then there were big SUV’s. Then came the Lincoln Navigator. In 1998 it ported as a yacht amongst the mere boats of suburbia, declaring itself the first ever full-sized Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle.
Some laughed. Some coveted. But we all took notice. After all, Americans hadn’t seen this much chrome and steel since the late 50’s. Lincoln’s first Navigator was little more than a well-dressed Ford Expedition, built on a truck chassis, worthy of two parking spaces and outfitted with a herd’s worth of leather hide.
To auto aficionados, the first Navigator was irony incarnate -- a luxury vehicle built on a truck’s frame. But the Navigator was a hit with country clubbers and families ushering their youngsters to and from lacrosse practice.
Soon Cadillac followed suit with the Escalade -- built on the frame of GM’s pickup. In the decade since, Infiniti and Mercedes have joined the fray of elephant-sized yachts with La-Z-Boy seating for eight.
Thirteen years after it created the genre of full-size luxury SUV’s, Lincoln’s Navigator is better than ever. It now leads a competitive pack of opulent family haulers, and it’s one of the best-priced vessels in the fleet.
This Lincoln is indeed dressed for the Oscars, as is its newest Cadillac competitor, which sports an equally gaudy array of chrome (so does Infiniti’s QX56). Some drivers may find the Navigator’s new duds a bit over the top, but they will find the competition equally blinged out.
Inside, the new Navigator is quieter and more refined than ever. In other good news, Consumer Reports named the Navigator one of the most reliable luxury SUV’s on the market. Lincoln’s luxury 4x4 faired better than most sedans in CR’s long-term reliability tests. Not bad for a luxury vehicle.
In 2009 Lincoln added the Navigator L, with an additional15 inches of room for ballast behind the third-row passengers. Let it be known also that the rearmost passengers in the Navigator will find themselves just as comfortable as second-row passengers – with nary a need for more elbow-room, leg-room or headroom in the aft of this vessel.
Ford’s 300-horsepower V-8 pulls the Navigator through town and onto the highway with some effort. It’s a smooth ride. In fact, she glides. With about 6,000 pounds of dry weight, cruising the Navigator is more of a yachting expedition than a day of waterskiing.
The Navigator proves about as safe as a yacht too, with side curtain airbags for all three rows of lucky passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration totals a few of these suckers each year. As would be expected of a land-borne craft this size, the 2011 Navigator earned five out of five stars in head-on collisions. It also took top marks in other demolitions that would leave the occupants of lesser vehicles calling for the Jaws of Life.
All in all, the new Navigator does exactly what the first one did 13 years ago. It combines luxury, comfort and size unlike any of its competitors.
More than a few cows gave their lives to outfit this media and entertainment room, er, Lincoln Navigator.
I found the Navigator’s third row seats more comfortable than some competitors second row benches.
© 2010 John Dickerson