Maximum plush in a full-size SUV.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price (MSRP) $43,645
As Tested (MSRP) $52,130
Lincoln Navigator offers a high seating position, good acceleration performance, a roomy cabin for four people and cargo, plus big-league towing capacity. Like the Ford Expedition, the Navigator is built on the rugged structure of the Ford F-150, the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. Compared with the Expedition, the Navigator offers a softer ride, more luxury features. It also offers distinctive styling, though whether it's attractive is subject to debate.
ZLincoln Navigator has been trumped by the all-new Cadillac Escalade. Look for cash incentives and special financing as Lincoln attempts to sweeten the pot.
For 2001, free scheduled maintenance is included in the base price for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
Lincoln Navigator is available in two-wheel-drive ($43,645) and four-wheel-drive ($47,395) models. Otherwise, buyers need only choose among colors and a short list of extra-cost options.
Navigator is powered by a 5.4-liter V8 engine rated at 300 horsepower and comes equipped with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission.
The 4x4 Navigator uses Ford's Control Trac system with a two-speed transfer case; drivers can select between a full-time all-wheel drive mode with a variable front/rear torque split or a true off-road mode with a locked 50/50 front/rear torque distribution.
Though based on the popular Ford Expedition, the Navigator has its own identity. Aside from the roof and the glass, which are interchangeable, few exterior panels are actually shared with Expedition. Unique fenders, bumpers, doors, hood and rear liftgate distinguish the Lincoln.
Navigator's grille emphasizes mass and a kind of beefy elegance, yet makes it recognizable as a member of the Lincoln family. Driving lights are set into the bumper. From the side, hefty running boards (lighted at night) and large rub strips blend with flattened wheel arches, again emphasizing mass. But Lincoln used brightwork only sparingly: Apart from the grille, plated trim is confined to strips below the side windows, the door handles and the rear license plate surround.
Big on the outside means big on the inside. There's ample stretch-out room, and even tall drivers can wear a hat. Front seats are comfortable, with power lumbar adjustment, and are separated by a huge center console.
Climate-controlled seats ($595) use a compact heat pump combined with a small fan to provide either hot or cold air through specially perforated leather surfaces. Just select A/C or heat on the side of the seat, then adjust the temperature with another knob, also on the side of the seat. Unfortunately, the location of the switches makes them difficult to access, and it's easy to forget you've got the seat-heater on. Still, these super-deluxe thrones complement the Navigator's automatic climate control system, which adds auxiliary air conditioning for the second and third rows as standard equipment for 2001.
Low-back bucket seats also separated by a huge center console are standard for the center row; these, too, are plenty comfortable and surrounded by ample space. A 60/40 split bench seat for three is a no-cost option. This may be preferable for those who need cargo-carrying capability, because that big center console does not appear to be removable.
The third-row bench seat is adequate for two or three small children. Flipping it forward to make room for cargo takes some effort, however, because the center row needs to be adjusted to make room for it. The third-row bench is easy to remove and wheels make it easy to roll to the back of the vehicle and into the garage. It's heavy, though, so you may need some help getting it into or out of the vehicle to avoid back strain. Flipping the third row up reveals attachment points on the bottom of the seat that are not friendly to pets, but fine for groceries.
For $1,280, Navigator offers a video entertainment system with two wireless headphones and a 6.8-inch screen; it keeps kids entertained on longer trips, eliminating the "How much farther" question.
A curved dashboard houses instruments and controls where they can easily be seen and reached. A large center console offers additional storage space and a place for front-seat occupants to rest their arms; while a roof-mounted console carries switches for the rear power swing-out windows, plus a trip computer and compass. Separate audio controls with headphone jacks allow center-row passengers to listen to their own tunes.
Navigator's pedals are power adjustable: At the touch of a dashboard-mounted switch, the pedal cluster moves forward or back. Though the range of adjustment is only three inches, this allows shorter drivers to find a comfortable driving position more often, while keeping them at a safer distance from the steering wheel-mounted airbag. The pedal adjustment settings can be captured in the standard memory-seat feature, thus allowing two drivers to change places and get comfortable at the touch of a button.
A fully integrated Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation system is optional ($1,995) and requires the CD changer ($595); the two work together to provide mapping, route directions, points of interest and emergency assistance. It's a nicely designed set-up that's intuitive and easy to operate, which can't be said of all of these systems. Just make sure you program it up before driving, as any of these systems can easily distract you from the road. The five-inch screen and controls fit neatly into the center console, providing ease of use, but they also fill the console's storage space.
Seat-mounted side-impact air bags, previously optional, are standard for 2001. They should provide additional protection against head and chest injuries.
All materials used inside the Navigator are first-class, from the soft Nudo leather upholstery to soft-touch coverings applied to practically everything else including dashboard and door panels. The window switches are lighted internally at night, a nice touch.
The Navigator is easy to handle for a big truck. It has superb outward visibility, and its speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering keeps steering effort down to a reasonable level. Surprisingly, Navigator is slightly shorter than Lincoln's own Town Car. Still, the Navigator is a truck, and it isn't as easy to handle as a Town Car or any other sedan. Extra care and attention is required when maneuvering in close-quarters. The high seating position and light steering isolates the driver from the road.
The brake pedal feel is light, yet precise. The ride quality is good, though it is not as soft as that of a traditional family sedan or wagon. An advantage of the Navigator's long wheelbase is a resistance to pitching over freeway expansion joints and other irregularities. When driven on twisty roads, Navigator does not lean unduly, nor does the front end dive excessively under hard braking. The Ford Expedition seems to handle a little better, however; the Ford feels more connected to the road, with more feedback through the steering and the suspension. The Navigator doesn't seem to offer as much feedback as the new Chevrolet Suburban, either.
Though reasonably quiet, the Navigator is not silent on the road. The engine roars like truck engine. Wind and tire-tread noise are evident. Fortunately, our Navigator was equipped with an Alpine audio system ($580) that automatically adjusts the volume as speed increases.
Performance is a Navigator strength. Acceleration is good, even with a full load of passengers on board. Two-wheel-drive Navigators can pull a trailer weighing up to 8800 pounds. This big Lincoln has a substantial thirst for fuel, however, with an EPA-rated 12/17-mpg city/highway.
Four-wheel-drive Navigators ride an inch higher than the 2WD version, and are equipped with a four-corner load leveling system, which uses compressed air to compensate for varying loads while improving ride quality. When parked, the system can make the Navigator kneel down to lower the step-in height, thus making getting in and out of the vehicle easier. A simpler rear-only system is standard on two-wheel drive models.
The Navigator is not a great off-road vehicle, but if narrow trails and serious rock-climbing are avoided, occasional forays off the beaten path can be undertaken without fear of being left stranded. By simply turning a rotary knob on the dashboard, the driver can select between full-time four-wheel drive (good for changing weather conditions), part-time four-wheel drive (best for serious off-road driving), and low-range four-wheel drive (best for really rugged terrain). The driver can switch between the first two modes at will, but must bring the Navigator to a halt before engaging low range.
For little more than the price of a fully loaded Ford Expedition, the Lincoln Navigator makes a more dramatic statement, carries more prestige, and is protected by a longer-running warranty. Navigator has a slightly softer ride as well, without sacrificing much off-road capability, although on-road handling suffers a little. Fuel economy isn't a strong point, either.
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