Lincoln's luxury SUV.
by Ray Thursby
Base Price $42,460
As Tested $51,480
The Lincoln Navigator offers all the requisites that appeal to buyers looking to join the herd of big sport-utilities on the road: a high seating position, brawny looks and a roomy cabin for passengers and cargo. To those SUV attributes, Lincoln adds a host of features designed to coddle its occupants in a quiet, soft environment. Last but not least, the Navigator is built on the rugged structure of the Ford F-150, the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S.
For 2000, the Lincoln Navigator features a new satellite navigation system, a reverse sensing system, climate-controlled seats and minor styling revisions.
Lincoln Navigator is available with two-wheel drive ($42,460) or four-wheel drive ($46,210).
Navigator is powered by a 5.4-liter four-valve twin-cam V8 engine rated at 300 horsepower. It comes standard with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission. The 4x4 Navigator comes with an advanced four-wheel-drive system that offers a low-range set of gears, as well as Ford's Control Trac system.
Though based on the popular Ford Expedition, the Navigator has its own identity. Few exterior panels are shared between the two. Unique fenders, bumpers, doors, hood and rear liftgate distinguish the Lincoln version. Roof panels and window glass are interchangeable.
Navigator's front end incorporates a version of the traditional Lincoln grille into a rounded treatment that emphasizes mass and a kind of beefy elegance. Driving lights are set into the bumper, flanking a smaller undecorated air inlet. From the side, the hefty running boards -- lighted at night -- and large rub strips provide the emphasis. Apart from the grille, plated trim is confined to strips below the side windows, door handles and the rear license plate surround.
For 2000, the Navigator features new side body-cladding integrated into new larger side running boards, a color-keyed front bumper top cap and new door mirrors with an integrated side indicator lamp. Standard 17-inch wheels and tires complete the new, freshened exterior.
A rigid steel frame, suspension pieces and the majority of the mechanical hardware come from the Ford F-150 pickup. Except for a short list of extra-cost options and color choices, all Navigators are essentially alike in terms of trim and equipment.
Big on the outside means big on the inside. Tall drivers can wear a hat while driving the Navigator and there's ample stretch-out room. The front seats are comfortable with power lumbar adjustment and are separated by a huge center console.
For 2000, optional climate-controlled front seats are available. The climate-controlled seats ($495) provide either hot or cold air through specially perforated leather seat surfaces. Using a compact heat pump combined with a small fan to circulate the air, the climate-controlled seats complement the Navigator's automatic climate control system. The switches for this system are located on the side of the seat, which makes them difficult to access and it's easy to forget you've got the seat heater on. To use them, 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. You can also order heated front seats ($290).
Center-row seats are roomy and comfortable. Bucket seats separated by a huge center console are standard for the center row. At no extra cost, a bench seat that seats three can be ordered for the center row in place of the bucket seats. This is 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 three small children or two adults during short runs. It comes with rollers that make it easy to remove it to allow room for cargo. 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. A brace flips down and locks into a bracket that flips up to lock the seat up.
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; the roof-mounted center console carries switches for the rear power swing-out windows and a trip computer and compass. Separate audio controls with headphone jacks allow center-row passengers to listen to their own tunes.
For 2000, softer Nudo leather is used on seating surfaces in the first and second row. Also, the use of real wood application on the interior has been increased, and the center console has been redesigned to provide more storage and larger, improved cupholders. All materials used inside the Navigator are first-class, from the 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 that not all vehicles carry.
Power adjustable pedals are now standard. At the touch of a dashboard-mounted switch, the pedal cluster can be electrically adjusted fore-and-aft. Though the range of adjustment is only three inches, this new feature allows shorter drivers to more find the best driving position with fewer compromises. 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.
The 2000 Navigator is now available with a fully integrated satellite navigation system ($1,995). The 5-inch screen and controls fit neatly into the redesigned center console, providing ease of use. Utilizing a Global Positioning System (GPS) and a CD-ROM drive ($595) located in the center console, the system provides mapping, route directions, points of interest and emergency assistance. It's a nicely designed system that's intuitive and easy to operate, which can't be said of all navigation systems. Just make sure you set it up before taking off as these systems can really distract you from your driving. One caveat: the CD-ROM drive fills the huge center console.
Safety features have been added for 2000. Side-impact air bags are available, deploying from the sides of the driver and front passenger seats. Side-impact airbags are designed to inflate when an imminent side impact collision is detected, providing protection against head and chest injuries.
Other changes to the 2000 Navigator include an automatic park brake release, left-hand A-pillar mounted grab handle, bright sill plates, front seat rear map pockets, leather wrapped rear console cover, revised floor mats and standard HomeLink messaging system.
The Navigator is, despite its size, easier to handle than you might expect. It is slightly shorter than the Town Car, has superb outward visibility, and its speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering works in the driver's favor by keeping steering effort down to a reasonable level. Still, it 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. It doesn't seem to offer the feedback of a Chevy Suburban.
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, the Navigator does not lean unduly in corners, nor does the front end dive excessively under hard braking. The Ford Expedition seems to handle a better, however; it feels more connected to the road, with more feedback through the steering and the suspension.
Though reasonably quiet, the Navigator is not silent on the road. The engine roars like truck engine. Wind and tire-tread noise is evident. Fortunately, the Navigator was equipped with an Alpine audio system ($570) that automatically adjusts the volume as speed increases.
Performance is a Navigator strength. Horsepower has been increased significantly this year, though torque is up only slightly. Acceleration is good, even with a full load of passengers on board. Two-wheel-drive Navigators can pull a trailer weighing up to 8100 pounds. This big Lincoln has a substantial thirst for fuel and fuel efficiency has dropped for 2000 to an EPA-rated 12/17-mpg city/highway.
Four-wheel-drive Navigators are equipped with a four-corner load leveling system, which uses compressed air to compensate for varying loads while improving ride quality. Built into the system is a one-inch increase in ride height. 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 choose between part-time four-wheel drive (best for off-road), full-time four-wheel drive (good for changing weather conditions) and low-range four-wheel drive (best for serious off-road). 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 carries more dramatic styling and a longer-running warranty. Navigator has a slightly softer ride as well, without sacrificing much in the way of off-road capability. Fuel economy isn't a strong point, however.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.