Freshened 2015 Lincoln Navigator shows its truck roots

Will updated styling and more power be enough to shake the retro feel?

Published: January 24, 2015 08:00 AM

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With each passing redesign, freshening, and advertising campaign, Lincoln tries to reposition the brand so it appeals to younger buyers than its traditional AARP members. Out of the entire model range, the Lincoln Navigator traditionally draws some well-heeled forty-somethings with kids.

The updated Navigator has some curb appeal, but the freshening comes across as a half-hearted effort. Compared with the latest GM full-sized SUVs, the Lincoln Navigator feels like a retro-mobile that channels a utilitarian large SUV rather than a luxurious flagship.

There is a spark of vitality under the hood, where a 380-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 replaces the old, thirsty, and lethargic V8. With more than enough power for quick, effortless acceleration and trailer towing, the new engine won’t leave anybody longing for a couple of more cylinders. As far as the Eco part goes, don’t expect a whole lot of fuel economy gains. Other changes include LED lighting front and rear and an upgraded interior.

Compared to its main rival, the Cadillac Escalade, the Lincoln Navigator lacks a plush interior and modern infotainment system. But it’s not that simple. Our early impressions indicate that the Lincoln has the Cadillac beat on ride comfort. Third-seat room is better, too. Old-school styling retains big windows that help with visibility. It also costs about $20,000 less than our more lavishly equipped Escalade.

Still, the Navigator conveys its age in the way it feels, looks, and drives. With its huge panels of cheap-looking plastic, the improved interior can’t hold a candle to the luxuriously trimmed cabin of the Escalade. Handling agility is wanting. Wind noise is intrusive, even compared to the new Ford F-150 pickup.

Our biggest gripe is that the update doesn’t include the latest electronic crash-avoidance systems typically found in the class, such as forward-collision mitigation. Plus, there’s no steering-wheel heater—an apparent oversight.

With daily use including airport runs in its native habitat, we’re quickly racking up break-in miles on our Navigator, and it will soon be in our formal test program.

In the meantime, look for a full road test on the related Ford Expedition EL later this month.

—Jim Travers

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