REVIEW 2015 Lincoln Navigator L 4X4
In this day and age of economy cars that can be ordered with factory navigation systems, sophisticated infotainment features, and heated seats, it’s sometimes hard to see how automakers can set their luxury models apart from their more attainable offerings.
The Lincoln Navigator has been in production since 1997, so Ford’s luxury division has obviously found a way to do that in the full-size SUV segment. It was recently my week-long job to discover the ways in which Lincoln differentiated its 2015 Navigator L 4X4 from its (relatively) attainable cousin, the Ford Expedition, whose $66,990 EL King Ranch variant I found plenty luxurious.
The most obvious difference between the big Blue Oval and the long-wheelbase Lincoln is visual. Both were restyled for the 2015 model year. The Navigator gets the Lincoln split-wing grille flanked by LED-accented high-intensity discharge adaptive headlights. Its large grille sections are appropriately sized for such a large SUV, but they dwarf the headlamps, making them into the automotive equivalent of beady eyes. My tester’s 22-inch polished aluminum wheels – part of the $7,800 Equipment Group Reserve 101A – were simultaneously eye-catching and understated.
The Expedition’s rear hatch was spanned by a thick chrome stripe; the Lincoln’s power liftgate featured a length of brightwork as well as a panel of dozens of LED brake lights.
Overall, my Navigator tester was attractive in a largely subtle way. Its calming White Platinum Metallic paint ($695) lent itself to such quiet elegance.
That elegance extended to the cabin. Lincoln’s craftspeople fitted the Navigator’s Wollsdorf leather-wrapped steering wheel, door panels, and center stack and gearshift surrounds, with genuine Ziricote wood trim. The company states that the natural-grain wood is typically used for interior accents in yachts.
It was a wonderful upgrade from the faux-wood in the Expedition King Ranch and looked right at home in a vehicle that cost $75,760 as tested. So did the Navigator’s increased amount of premium leather relative to its Ford cousin. The Lincoln wore it on its armrests, the top of its center console, its gear lever, glove box door, and hand-wrapped instrument panel.
The Navigator’s center stack was noticeably sleeker than the one in the Expedition. Its metallic knobs and switches had a precise and finely wrought feel to them.
Like the Expedition, the Navigator had heated and cooled leather front seats and heated second row seats, although it had captains chairs in its middle section instead of a bench.
Both rigs had features such as touchscreen and voice-activated navigation systems, power-deploy running boards, blind spot monitors, and PowerFold third-row seats. Their multi-mode suspensions delivered the same ride qualities: Normal split the difference nicely between the jiggly Comfort setting and the rougher-riding Sport mode.
The two vehicles were nicely equipped, but the Ford’s long list of equipment left little room for the Lincoln to shine. I had a hard time seeing what, in terms of usable interior features and technologies, set it apart from its less expensive corporate cousin. It seemed to me that my Lincoln tester’s nearly $9,000 higher price was primarily down to the badge on its front end, its upgraded interior materials, and its hotter engine.
My review vehicle packed the same twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 as its Ford cousin. In Lincoln tune, the engine developed 380 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Its increased output (and 4.10 gearing) was almost immediately noticeable. The Expedition pulled hard, but the Navigator made me think it was trying to run away from me – in a good way. Shifts from the six-speed SelectShift automatic were imperceptible.
After fewer than 300 miles of mixed driving, I got about 15.5 mpg, which is just shy of the combined mpg figure of 16 the EPA gives the truck. The organization rates the L 4X4 for 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.
I didn’t end up towing with the Navigator, but if I did, I would’ve been able to pull a maximum of 8,400 pounds – 700 shy of the Expedition EL’s limit. I did use the 128.2 cubic-feet of cargo space behind the Navigator’s front seats to move, though. With a little “persuasion” I was able to fit my queen-size mattress inside the cargo hold, along with plenty of drawers and personal possessions.
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator L 4X4 was an attractive, comfortable, elegantly furnished, and powerful SUV. Was it posh? Without a doubt. However, the same can be said for the Ford Expedition EL King Ranch. Sure, Lincoln set its Navigator apart from the Expedition, but not far enough to make me lose sight of how capable and luxurious a loaded Expedition can be.
* price includes $995 destination and delivery fee
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