BAY HARBOR, Mich. -- Noodle around in the Navigator L, Lincoln´s luxurious full-size and long-stretched sport utility vehicle (SUV), and from the driver´s seat you may observe a curious phenomenon which occurs among sidewalk spectators when this jumbo-size hulk of a wagon moves down the street: Heads turn and eyes follow as everyone seems to notice it.
Of course, Navigator rises high and draws to an extremely long length, measuring bigger than most other vehicles on the road, so it´s bound to stand out in traffic. Yet the reason so many eyes follow a Navigator when it moves in traffic extends beyond mere physical dimensions. That massive prow, you see, commands attention.
The stunning snout looks bold and unusual, as accented by the shapely composite hood with chiseled chamfers defining the prominent powerdome and the face dominated by chrome glints of a wide-stretching egg-crate grille. Penetrating high-intensity discharge (HID) projector headlamps mark clear-lens lamp clusters at top corners of the prow, while round foglamps interrupt the low front fascia also housing a chrome-dipped egg-crate grille.
It looks so bold, so big and so powerful that you simply cannot fail to notice a Navigator. Launched in 1997 as a 1998 product, the Navigator originated the class of luxury full-size SUVs. In original treatment, it dominated the segment with a 5.4-liter V8 engine and modes for rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction.
A new design emerged in 2003 and retained the bold styling of the original as well as its 5.4-liter V8 powertrain, although the revamped version brought more power and torque. It also carved out more room in the cabin for as many as eight passengers on three tiers with a standard third-row bench that tucked into the cargo floor for a slick disappearing act.
For added safety, a side curtain-style air bag system called a Safety Canopy came with the new design, and an all-wheel-drive (AWD) model gained a multi-phase Control Trac system to direct engine torque to whichever wheels need it. In 2007 a new version -- Navigator L -- stretched even longer to carve out 25 cubic feet more cargo space.
For 2008 models, more equipment comes to Lincoln´s luxurious SUV. The new gear includes a power liftgate, heated and cooled front bucket seats, the Sirius network satellite radio service, a deluxe THX II audio system and convenient PowerFold third-row seat.
Running boards at the bottom of the four side doors show a wide step surface. An air suspension system operates to drop the wagon by an inch in height with engine off to make entry and exit easier for riders. Further, optional power running boards extend or retract with the opening or closing of doors.
The opportunity to drive a 2008 Navigator occurred recently along the winding shore of Lake Michigan on Route 119 out of Bay Harbor, Mich. Through curvy twists and bends of the lake road we prod our wagon to run the convoluted course at a quick clip in order to see how nimble it can be due to Navigator´s menu of facile mechanical features which include a rigid chassis, fast-response rack and pinion steering plus a fully independent suspension system.
And Navigator shows us in wiggles through right-left-right chicanes on the road that it can dance a tricky waltz as reinforced by powerful V8 muscle. It feels almost sporty, so agile the posture and smooth the ride, yet Navigator has a nine-foot wheelbase (or ten-foot for Navigator L) and stretches for 17 feet (or more than 19 feet for the L).
Sole powertrain for Navigator is a 5.4-liter V8 with a cast-iron engine block designed for quiet operation. It musters 300 hp at 5000 rpm, with the torque extending to 365 lb-ft at 3750 rpm.
Controlling that engine torque is a wide-ratio automatic transmission featuring six forward gears. Equipment promoting active safety includes four-wheel disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Also aboard is the AdvanceTrac anti-skid gizmo with Roll Stability Control (RSC), along with the Safety Canopy curtain-style air bags.
Navigator´s vast cabin contains three tiers of seats including the third-row bench which tucks into the floor. The second row of seats may be either two buckets divided by a console or a bench split 40/20/40 in sections with a smaller center seat that slides forward for a child to sit closer to the front row.
Seatbacks of the third-row bench split 60/40 and fold separately via the PowerFold push-button power controls. A new option for 2008 is the Rearview Camera System (RCS) which mounts a tiny video camera in the rear liftgate handle and activates when you shift into reverse gear. You get a sharp video display in the rearview mirror of Navigator´s rearward path.