Reviews

2013 Lincoln Navigator Walk Around

The Lincoln Navigator is a truck. It's built on a pickup-style ladder frame, with a separate body bolted to that frame, rather than welded into one unit. But unlike most truck-based vehicles, the Navigator features a fully independent rear suspension, which contributes to a smoother ride and better handling than the solid rear axle on a traditional pickup.

The Navigator L is nearly 15 inches longer than the standard model, extending its full length to almost 19 feet. The extra length does not significantly change passenger accommodations, but it adds 24 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat. That's more than a big trunk's worth of space. The additional overall length makes this big sport-utility even more challenging to park, however.

The Navigator's basic shape is clean, if slightly bland. It consists of mostly sheer, tapered surfaces that are consistent across the vehicle, with a chrome strip running below the windows. The profile is tidy for such a big vehicle, almost lean.

The front and rear were clearly designed in Lincoln's retro-style brand theme. The eye is immediately drawn to the big, intricate grille in front. Its horizontal and vertical lines are supposed to inspire thoughts of Lincoln's Star logo, and the high-intensity beam headlights on either side add a jeweled, classy look. A second, thinner grille below the bumper replicates the bigger one above, flanked in this case by the fog lights.

The taillights look as if they were lifted from last year's (and since re-styed) MKZ sedan. They're shaped like wings that cut into the liftgate and wrap around the rear corners, with chrome edging and a hard contrast between the red and white sections.

The details seem to be an attempt to spice up an otherwise staid look, as if Lincoln is trying to out-bling the Cadillac Escalade. The optional chrome hood accent is basically a thick piece of chrome tacked on the end of the hood above the grille. We'd find the Navigator more attractive without it, but it harkens back to Lincoln heritage.

The Navigator comes standard with 18-inch seven-spoke machined alloy wheels. The polished 20-inch wheels, with their seven double spokes, look good, but have an adverse effect on ride quality and interior noise. We prefer the 18-inch wheels because the taller sidewalls soften the bumps and are better for towing. Then again, we view the Navigator as a truck, not a car.

Two exterior features have definite benefits. The outside mirrors are large, with . integrated spotter mirrors to help cover the usual blind spots. They also feature repeating turn signals along the bottom edge and approach lamps underneath. The lamps light when the doors are unlocked with the remote key fob, and cast a nice circle of visibility around the doors. More than that, the big mirrors retract against the windows with the touch of a button. That's handy when parking in tight spaces or for curbside parking.

The Navigator retains its trademark retractable running boards. When the doors open, the running boards drop and extend, creating a step that makes climbing in and out easier. They are artfully integrated into the overall exterior design, and are almost impossible to detect when the doors are closed.

Interior

Deliberately retrogressive styling touches outside the Lincoln Navigator carry through inside, and the square-ish shapes and flat switch clusters generate a kind of post-modern, Scandinavian-furniture feel to the interior.

The leather is thick and soft. The plastics, with some retro-looking graining, are nice to the touch. There's a mix of satin-nickel and chrome peppered throughout the cabin, and nothing looks cheap. The only real gripe in our test vehicle was the seam where the wood panel for the center stack blended down into the wood on the center console. It felt more like a bump.

One of the Navigator's obvious strengths is space, seemingly acres of it, in all directions.

The front seats are large and thickly padded, yet they adjust to accommodate all sizes, from NBA forwards to those who must sit up close to the wheel to peer over the tall dash. Power-adjustable pedals are standard, and they can be moved forward or back with a button on the dash. These pedals have their advantages, but they would be more valuable if the power-adjustable steering column telescoped in addition to moving up and down. Without a telescoping wheel, the pedals don't really add anything to the adjustment mix. If we had to choose one or the other, we'd choose the telescoping wheel.

One minor annoyance with the Navigator's driver's seat is the speed at which it automatically moves backward or forward when the key is removed or inserted. In most cases, this is a welcome feature that makes it easier to climb in and out of a tall vehicle, and the Navigator's slow-moving seat may or may not have been related to sub-zero temperatures during our test drive. Yet at times the driver's seat moved so slowly that you could literally be backed out of a parking space and going forward before it had returned to its set position.

Once the driver gets comfortable, however, it's hard to beat the commanding view ahead. Greyhound buses or tractor-trailer rigs are about the only vehicles on the road that can obstruct the driver's forward vision in a Navigator.

The gauge package is the weak link in the Navigator's interior. The dials look like they're straight out of the 1960s, with black script on a white background and white lighting. They're not as crisp as some other, more contemporary schemes. The speedometer and tachometer are fine, but the four auxiliary gauges across the top (fuel level and coolant temperature among them) aren't. They're small to begin with and essentially covered by the steering wheel rim if a driver likes to keep the wheel low in its travel range.

Switches and control buttons are generally well placed, concentrated in the center stack or on stalks on both sides of the wheel. Most are big enough to operate with gloved fingers, and they have a nice, positive operating action. The gripe here is a row of switches near the bottom of the stack controlling the fans and seat heating and cooling, among other things. The buttons are on the small side, but the illuminated pictographs on them are tiny, so they seem even smaller than they really are in the dark.

Ford's SYNC system provides hands-free phone connectivity and voice activation of audio and other functions. On the Navigator, standard SYNC AppLink software provides hands-free voice control of select smartphone apps. The voice-activated DVD navigation system includes Sirius Travel Link, which provides uninterrupted, coast-to-coast coverage of real-time traffic data; weather reports (current and five day forecasts with storm information and even ski resort conditions); fuel options sorted by price or distance from more than 120,000 gas stations; major league pro and college sports as well as movie listings from more than 4,500 theaters. A six-month introductory subscription to Sirius is included at no cost.

We rate storage options in the Navigator slightly better than average. The front center console is big, with more than enough room for a fairly large purse, but it's countered by a small glove box that's all but filled by the owner's manual. There are hard pockets or bins at the bottom of all doors, with enough width and depth for phones, wallets or CDs, and flexible map pockets are located on the front seatbacks. The cupholders are deep and fairly useful, and front passengers can share those for the second row, which are located on the back of the center console. There are three more cupholders for the third seat.

The standard second-row seating arrangement is two captain's-style bucket seats. These are the choice if comfort for second-row passengers is the primary objective. On the other hand, a three-place second-row bench is available at no charge, and it doesn't give up much (except another storage console that goes between the buckets). The bench is not brick flat, as it is in some sport-utility vehicles. It offers some contour and bolstering to improve comfort without diminishing the value of the middle space. The bench seat is also split 40/20/40, so kids can fold down the back of the center section and feel as if they have their own space. Also, there's no center console to get in the way when the seats are folded.

Second-seat passengers have their own adjustment for temperature and airflow (between the floor and overhead vents), as well a power point located on the back of the front center console. The rear DVD entertainment system is by Invision and features two 7-inch wide-screen monitors built into the backs of the front-seat headrests. Each is equipped with its own top-loading DVD player, infrared headphones and remote control, so squabbling siblings can watch two different movies while you enjoy 90 minutes of (relative) peace.

Headrests on the second- and third-row seats can fold down when the seats are empty. Good thing, because when they are up they reduce the scope of the rearview mirror considerably. The view rearward isn't all that broad in any case. Lincoln has offered a solution to this problem with its rear backup camera. The image is shown in the rear-view mirror. It is quite small, no more than three inches across. While the image is useful, obstacles are not as easy to spot as they are in systems that show their images on six- or seven-inch dash-mounted screens.

Third-row seat access is easy, with a one-hand flip lever that folds the second seat forward and clears a wide path to the rear. Passengers already in the third seat have a strap release that reverses the process. The third seat is another of the Navigator's strengths. It will actually seat adults approaching six feet in reasonable comfort, as long as they're willing to climb back there. The longer Navigator L does not increase rear seat legroom, though it does add a few millimeters more hip and headroom. The big gain is in shoulder room, up from 51.9 in the standard model to 67.1 inches in the L.

Lincoln's power-folding rear seat is easy to use and can be handy. The seat is split, and operates with a pair of toggle switches just inside the power liftgate. Simply press one or both, and one or both seat halves fold flat to the load-floor level. We'd like it better if there were redundant switches on the dash, as there are for the rear sliding doors on a minivan, for example. And if the rear-seat headrests are up, the driver has to lean into (or climb into) the rear to manually release them before the power folding mechanism will work.

Cargo capacity for the Navigator L is 128.2 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded. For perspective, that's more space than the entire interior volume of most passenger vehicles, and enough space for 4×8 sheets of building material. Behind the third row of the Navigator L is 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space when the third-row seats are upright. That's considerably more than any other luxury sport-utility, and almost as much as in the typical mid-size wagon with its rear seats folded.

A cargo divider folds up out of the floor behind the seats and essentially splits the load area in half, which helps control cargo by limiting the space over which packages or bags might slide back and forth.

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