2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label quick spin review


For years, the Lincoln Navigator played second fiddle to the Cadillac Escalade. Even with a refresh a few years back, the big ute couldn’t quite match what Cadillac (or anyone else in the class) offered. The design looked dated, and the interior felt a full generation behind. Things sure have changed, as the new Navigator might just be the first Lincoln in years that gets near-universal praise from the Autoblog staff. This class of SUV may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but deserves credit for doing more than just phoning it in.

Our tester this week is a Chroma Crystal Blue short-wheelbase Navigator . That’s the top-trim model, so features like heated and ventilated leather seating, full-LED lighting, a panoramic moonroof, a 20-speaker audio system and adaptive suspension are all standard. The only options on our model were the $1,750 paint and the $1,250 perfect-position seats. At $98,320, it isn’t cheap, but it’s right on the mark for the segment.

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The Lincoln is a demonstrative improvement in luxury, power and design. It’s more sophisticated and elegant than ever before, but it remains true to itself. The interior is gorgeous — the best-looking cabin I’ve ever seen in a — and it’s the best in the segment. The Cadillac Escalade, which is still great but is due for a freshening, feels dated and less user-friendly inside, by comparison. Our , outfitted in the Black Label trim, looks like something out of a 1960s Camelot photo spread. The powder blue materials remind me of old pictures of Jackie Kennedy. The way the Lincoln crest appears above the glovebox also feels very Jet Age. The knobs, switches and buttons for the controls add to the retro look, but they’re also tactile and functional. People don’t want to navigate four touchscreens to adjust the heat. Lincoln and other carmakers are wisely going back to simplicity for interior features.

That being said, the interior has all the modern features and amenities you would expect. Sync 3 is solid. The large touchscreen is easy to read and use. It’s colorful and intuitive. Finally, it’s a Sync system I can get on board with. The seats are comfortable, supportive, and the front ones can be positioned 30 different ways. There’s so much variety I never found the perfect spot in my two nights in the Navigator.
The exterior touches from the most recent redesign accentuate the Navigator’s luxurious feel. The Navigator badges, the blingy grille, the generous yet tasteful use of chrome, the LED lights, they all work together to make a statement. Only thing I don’t really like: the swirly wheels. That pattern also shows up on the interior speakers as part of the design theme. It’s not offensive. I would just choose a different style.

Power is excellent. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo six cranking out 450 hp and 510 lb-ft is potent yet refined. As Ford Motor Co. continues to downsize its engines inline with industry trends, I think large V6s still have a place in vehicles like the Navigator. It’s V8 power out of a small package. That being said, I think the Navigator should offer a V8 as an image play.

Overall, the Navigator is really well done. I’d put it slightly ahead of the Escalade in terms of execution. The Lincoln feels fresher, which it is. Cadillac’s flagship luxury SUV is still excellent, though, and when that redesign comes, this segment is only going to get more competitive.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: It’s really hard to talk about the Black Label without focusing on the interior. Honestly, though, that’s what made me love this car despite myself. I’ve said ad nauseum how trucks and big SUVs aren’t really my bag. I was thrilled to take the Navigator home, though. The mid-century modernism on display here is near perfection, all without feeling stodgy or overwrought. Everything is nice to touch and look at but, more important, it’s all interesting. Plus, the attention to detail is exceptional.

I had trouble finding any issues to complain about with the execution of this interior, but I managed to find a couple. First — and this doesn’t really count — there’s no cupholder big enough to accommodate my trusty Nalgene water bottle. The second is the odd placement and format for selecting gears. It’s four toggles laid out horizontally beneath the touchscreen and vents on the center stack. Every single time I needed to shift to park or drive or reverse, my hands always went either to the cupholders or to the right stalk on the steering column. Every time.

Still, I could comfortably live in this car … which is to say it’s opulent, but also huge. While the trucky ride is hidden behind levels of well-crafted luxury, this thing still drives every bit as big as it is. It tends to drift about in its lane, take up a ton of space in any parking lot, and has you creeping through parking structures with your eyes up, constantly calculating the space between the roof glass and the ceiling (or, in the case of our underground garage, steel structural I-beams). I’d hate to mar that beautiful Chroma Crystal Blue paint.

Also, my large son thought it was a fine, roomy vehicle … for dads!

Associate Editor Reese Counts: Unlike John, I dig big, body-on-frame SUVs. They’re brash and unapologetic and spit in the face of every car-based crossover. Sales are relatively small, but margins on these things are huge (as they’re basically boxed-in pickups), so automakers keep making them. Good, because I love driving them. And this Navigator is fantastic. Like, I never thought I’d be this hot on a Lincoln, but here we are.

As Greg and John mentioned, this interior is unmatched in the class. It’s purely American, and I love it. Check out the photos of this Burgundy Velvet one Contributing Editor James Riswick reviewed. It reminds me of the American vehicles I grew up in, but without all the cheap plastics and mile-wide panel gaps. The seats have a silly amount of adjustment, but they’re comfortable, and in the end that’s all I can ask.

I would rock one of these any day. Just give me one with a Coyote V8 or the plug-in powertrain from the new Lincoln Aviator.

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