"Well, if we're going to be stuck," somebody in the third row said, "this is the way to do it."
We were stuck all right, on the cramped parking lot along the East River in Manhattan otherwise known as the FDR Drive. But inside Lincoln's latest Navigator, six of my soccer teammates and I felt less crowded than the 18-yard box on a corner kick.
Navigator is Lincoln's land yacht. The 2018 model is the first complete redesign in about 20 years and the last part of the massive overhaul the brand has undertaken since the Great Recession. The changes have paid off: Lincoln's sales last year were the best since 2007. "We've produced four all-new products in four years," says Andrew Kernahan, chief program engineer for The Lincoln Motor Co. Navigator, the fifth, now bears the signature Lincoln grill and other touches such as lighting elements that are in line with the Continental.
In Navigator, Lincoln is trying to fashion a luxurious family room on wheels, one that can be converted, after you stow the second- and third-row seats, to enough cargo space to hold the contents of your garage. Whatever you can do in your family room--watch cable or streaming movies and sports, surf the web on Wi-Fi, text and talk--you can do within Navigator's comfy confines. The interior is plush enough. Kernahan says Lincoln studied the way instrument maker Yamaha uses wood to fashion the console and surrounding pieces out of one piece of wood so the grains match.
What's lacking in the Navigator is fussiness. "When people have too many switches, they don't use them," says Kernahan. So Lincoln has eliminated all those pointless knobs and toggles drivers have come to expect in luxury cars, however pointless. What Lincoln has accomplished is grand simplification. It's also noticeable in graphics displays. In the customized driving modes, for instance, the Navigator displays pictures, and human terms such as "excite" instead of "sport plus" make the technology more accessible. At least that's the theory.
For business owners, Navigator can function as a mobile office. There are USB ports on all three rows of seats, and plenty of light from the dual moonroof. You could park it by your office and hold a meeting if the conference room is booked. Unlike many 3-row SUVs, Navigator's bleacher seats can fit three actual full-sized humans. Which is to say that this thing is on the gigantic side, some 210 inches long. By comparison, the two-row MKC is nearly three feet shorter. You might just appreciate the park assist for once.
Then again, you could just drive the thing, which is not a bad idea at all. To move this much metal, Lincoln powered the Nav with a 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6. That enables it to crank out 450 horsepower without breaking a sweat under the watch of the 10-speed transmission. The engine shows up in all four of the Navigator's trim levels: Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label.
For all this room, comfort, and elegance you can expect to pay up--and Lincoln hasn't backed down on pricing Navigator with foreign competition. The entry-level Premiere version is priced at $73,000. The high-end Black Label version starts at $94,900, and includes four-wheel drive as standard. Crossing the $100,000 line is just a short trip. Clearly, Lincoln believes that in the new Navigator it has a competitive luxury war wagon. My soccer teammates would agree.