2021 Lincoln Navigator Takes On Germany's Best Full-Size Luxury SUVs
For a long stretch of the past decade the Lincoln Navigator was an also-ran. After having helped establish the full-size luxury SUV market at the end of the '90s, Lincoln's most massive truck found itself overtaken by cross-town rival Cadillac and forced to play second fiddle to the Escalade in terms of style, power, and popularity.
Just a few short years ago, however, everything changed for Lincoln. A series of new design initiatives combined with serious investment from corporate parent Ford saw the Navigator transform from an expensive clone of the Expedition to the top of its class. Today, it's no stretch to say that the 2021 Lincoln Navigator deserves a mention in the same breath as three-row family haulers from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and of course, its Cadillac nemesis.
What makes the latest Navigator so appealing? It comes down to detail, drivetrain, and design.
Paying Attention To What Matters
The days when 'luxury' simply meant a plush cabin and a raft of extra features are long over. Automakers regularly stuff even the most affordable of vehicles with high tech gear that ranges from advanced safety systems to whiz-bang infotainment, which means standing out from the pack requires an entirely different approach.
One of the most effective tools to pull money from the deepest of pockets is to present potential buyers with a product that feels as though it was consciously designed to be enjoyed by each of the senses. So it goes with the Navigator, which provides carefully-crafted interior where leather meets wood meets metal. Not only are the visual details well thought out, coming together in a cockpit that calms and coddles at the same time, but each material interacts with driver and passengers with a precision and grace not found in a more pedestrian Ford product. All three of the Lincoln's rows exude character and quality, which will be shocking to anyone who'd sworn off the Navigator based on the slap-dash approach to the previous generation model.
This is of course on top of the gadgets that have become an inescapable part of modern luxury cars and trucks. There's a full complement of lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot warning systems riding shotgun in the Navigator, and there's also an available Revel sound system with a startling 20 speakers on the options list that sounds impeccable even when listening to a compressed audio source.
From the outside, too, the Navigator has done a full turn away from simply throwing chrome and LEDs at the Expedition platform it's based on. Although some might find the illuminated grille logo a little bit much, it's par for the course with a vehicle this visually imposing. Large and impossible to ignore, the Lincoln has transformed its biggest offering into something you'd actually want to be seen driving in.
The 2021 Lincoln Navigator benefits from the same top-spec version of Ford's 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 found in vehicles like the Raptor and F-150 Platinum. This means 450hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission and the option of four-wheel drive.
Despite its massive size and weight the Navigator is respectably quick. Hook up and you'll hit 60-mph in under six seconds, but the real surge is appreciated at highway speeds where the SUV picks up the pace with grace and makes it easy to overtake. With its independent rear suspension system the Lincoln is also relatively composed in a corner, although you'll want to keep speeds modest when changing direction to respect its top-heavy tendencies.
You'll pay for all of the above, of course, when it comes time to refuel: the Navigator turns in 20-mpg in highway driving and 16-mpg around town (for four-wheel drive models). The upshot is a towing capacity of 8,700 lbs, which matches most pickups while adding an extra row of seating over a traditional crew cab.
Stuffed Inside? Not Quite
Will you want to spend any time in the Lincoln's way back? While certainly not as expansive as the second row of captain's chairs, which come with their own enormous center storage console and infotainment controls, it's not quite as bad for the average adult being shuttled on a short trip. Kids will have no issue on extended road trips, either, and even if these accommodations are typically only pressed into duty in a pinch the Navigator's third row is far from a prison sentence.
Getting those extra buckets out of the way is also fairly easy thanks to the power folding feature, which frees up nearly 60 cubic feet of space (or triple what you can stuff back there with a full complement of passengers).
Opt for the L model's extended body work and you get 34 cubes behind the third row and 73 cubes with it folded, followed by a whopping 120 cubic feet of overall storage.
The only real issue is the high load floor (necessary to stuff those seats out of sight), which adds to the lift-over when lugging around groceries and other goods.
With a base price tag of just over $76,000, the Navigator is an intriguing alternative to the similarly priced Escalade. It's also a much more powerful and better-equipped upgrade over the entry-level editions of the BMW X7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (which check in at a similar starting ask).
Of course, to really enjoy the best of what Lincoln has to offer you'll want to step up to at least the Reserve trim (MSRP $82,490), while competing with top tier editions of the X7 and the GLS-Class will require the Black Label's $98k starting ask. That's for the standard-length edition, too—you'll add a few thousand for the biggest, burliest Navigator.
A six-figure Lincoln might have once felt like an anomaly, but given what the Navigator brings to the table it's not quite as off-base as the brand's past performance suggests. Certainly, it's still a discount versus the real world window sticker of the German trucks after the requisite options have been factored in. Driven back-to-back, it's hard to come up with a similarly real-world reason to pay that much more when the Navigator feels very much like an equal.