2015 Lincoln Navigator: Navigating new luxury waters

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The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is large and lavish in its base version and, if desired, it can be even longer in the ‘L’ model and kitted out with a higher level of amenities and even more opulence for sumptuous motoring on and off the road. This full-size luxury SUV was Lincoln’s first entry into the sport utility market in 1998 and the first 4WD-capable vehicle in Ford’s luxury stable. It shares its platform, mechanical features and other attributes with the Ford Expedition, but has distinctive traits, an authentic premium character, and unique highlights. Updated for 2015, the Navigator has close to two dozen upgrades, including new looks outside, an upgraded interior, a more powerful engine that gets better fuel economy, and additional technologies that bring added comfort, convenience, and communication features.

With seating for up to eight, the 2015 Navigator comes in rear-drive and all-wheel-drive versions; it starts at $61,920 for RWD and $64,495 for the 4WD, while the rear-drive 2015 Navigator L starts at $64,285, and $67,860 for the 4WD (plus $995 destination on all). It competes in a crowded sea of lux-laden models such as the Cadillac Escalade, GNC Yukon Denali, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes-Benz GL 550, and Land Rover Range Rover. Lincoln said it has best in class towing of up to 9,000 lbs. and segment-leading cargo volume.

2015 Lincoln Navigator Navigating new luxury waters

On the outside, you’ll notice that designers sculpted a sleeker front end, crafted a new hood style, and redesigned the back, where you’ll find a hands-free power up/down tailgate. Notable is the return of Lincoln’s iconic split-wing grille that makes an attractive statement from the front. Jewel-like LED lights and high-intensity discharge adaptive headlamps with LED accents punctuate both ends of the vehicle, while “puddle lamps” add a touch of elegance to illuminate both front doors along with first-in-class standard, power-deployable running boards. Also standard are 20-inch, machined aluminum wheels; a Reserve Package brings 22-inch, polished aluminum wheels shod with 285/45 all-season tires and Tuxedo Black and chrome-accented retractable running boards. Regular-length Navigators have a 207.4-inch wheelbase; extended-length versions stretch to 222.3 inches.

Inside, you’ll find more luxurious leather and added customer-focused technologies, like the standard passive entry system, keyless ignition, and added comfort with standard heated and cooled front seats. A new version of standard Sync with MyLincoln Touch connectivity system lets you use voice-activated or touch screen controls to make phone calls, play music, use the navigation system or set cabin temperature controls; it is Bluetooth compatible and is accessed through a 4.2-inch LCD with displays in the instrument cluster, an 8-inch touch screen in the center stack and traditional knob controls for easy-to-use operation.

Also standard is a THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Audio System, along with high-quality HD Radio, with 14 speakers (including a subwoofer) and 600 watts of power. Available is a dual-headrest Invision DVD entertainment system that adds two seven-inch color LCD wide-screen monitors built into back of the front-row head restraints, with top-slot-loading players, two dual-channel infrared headphones and a remote control, allowing for passengers to watch a different movie on each screen or the same movie on both screens.

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Standard is a power-fold, second row, 60/40 split bench seat. Two captain’s chairs are a second-row option- with or without a center console or a fold-flat bench. Extended-length models provide 128.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 86.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, and 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row; standard wheelbase models deliver 103.3/54.4/18.1, accordingly.

The Reserve Package trims the interior with ultra-luxurious leather to all three rows, as well as to the armrests, center console and transmission shifter, and brings a hand-wrapped, leather instrument panel with contrast stitching and a leather glove box door with new, natural-grain Ziricote wood trim that is borrowed from yachts.

Navigator’s safety is five-star with a host of features such as standard ABS; stability control with roll stability control; front seat side airbags and a Safety Canopy system with three-row side curtain airbags; and tire pressure monitoring; also available are ultrasonic parking assist, rain-sensing wipers; and a blind spot information system.

Under the Navigator’s hood is a new 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine that produces 380 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque that is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, with Lincoln’s SelectShift, technology that allows manually shifting and gear-control, if desired. The EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for 2WD configuration are 16 city/22 highway/18 combined mpg and 15/20/17 for 4WDs.

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We drove the new Navigator over a course of 200 miles in New England on a variety of roads, including dirt tracks. Notable is the quiet cabin, great ergonomics, the upgraded drive with more power, speed-sensitive electronic steering, and a smoother ride that comes from the optional Lincoln Drive Control with Continuously Controlled Damping suspension that is customized with Normal, Sport and Comfort settings. Normal is soft and somewhat mushy while sport makes the SUV tauter.

For those who tow or motor steep ascents and descents, we liked the driver-friendly Hill Start/Descent Assist and Nivomat, a load-leveling system that automatically raises a loaded rear end to optimum ride height for better ride and handling. Also of note is close to 8 and ½ inches of ground clearance, standard trailer/sway control; a 4:10 rear axle is available for buyers who pull heavy loads.

By Sue Mead Courtesy Chron