For all the talk in the past week about aluminum and making vehicles lighter to boost fuel efficiency, Lincoln’s modestly upgraded Navigator goes against everything we’ve heard and seen from Ford Motor Co. — at least for now.
The update sports changes to the interior, exterior and powertrain, but no major changes to the materials that form the body of the 17-year-old nameplate. The upgrade will allow Lincoln to keep pace in the full-size luxury SUV segment until the Navigator’s next overhaul in 2016.
Despite the modest overhaul, Lincoln says the Navigator — the highest-priced offering in the luxury brand’s growing lineup — will top its segment in fuel economy, towing and cargo space.
“It’s kind of amazing,” Andrew Frick, Lincoln’s marketing manager, said of the efficiency and towing gains in an interview this week. “But we’re always looking for different ways we can adjust to what the customer wants.”
The updated 2015 Navigator will be unveiled to the public at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 6 and will go on sale this fall. Pricing and fuel economy figures are not yet available, though the SUV will likely have a similar starting price to the current model — about $57,000 — and Lincoln officials say the vehicle will have “unsurpassed” fuel economy among its competitors.
“It seems like they were strategic and appropriate in where they updated the vehicle, getting the front and rear to visually be in line with the rest of the range is good for now,” said Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive.
The biggest change for the new Navigator is under the hood, where the standard engine will be Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, replacing a 5.4-liter V-8. That engine should produce at least 370 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque, Lincoln officials say.
Lincoln says fuel efficiency will top the 14 miles per gallon city, 20 mpg highway of the current V-8, and top all other segment competitors, including the revamped Cadillac Escalade — which comes out this spring — and the Infiniti QX80 (formerly the QX56).
The refreshed Navigator features a variation of the trademark split-wing Lincoln grille. The front end is less boxy than the current version. The rear end now features LED tail lamps that extend the width of the SUV, similar to the new MKZ and MKC.
Inside, there’s the new Lincoln steering wheel — a bit bulkier than the current version, and wrapped in leather.
The SUV will help Lincoln continue its new-vehicle momentum, which started slowly last year with the delayed introduction of the MKZ sedan.
This year, Lincoln’s new MKC compact crossover will hit dealer lots in the summer. The new Navigator will join the MKC and MKZ, which are two of the four new vehicles Lincoln plans to introduce by 2016. The MKX, a mid-size crossover in due in 2015; another as-yet named vehicle will follow in 2016.
The refreshed Navigator is unlikely to move the needle for Lincoln, which will trail Cadillac and Infiniti in the segment, which totals about 50,000 sales annually here in the U.S. But it will help Lincoln appease its loyal Navigator fan base — about 7 in 10 Navigator buyers come to back to buy another — until the SUV’s next major overhaul in 2016, according to IHS Automotive research.
That overhaul is primed to include extensive use of aluminum to lighten the approximately 6,000-pound SUV. Ford’s goal is to strip 250 to 750 pounds from each vehicle to meet federal fuel efficiency standards.
“I’m not saying it won’t happen,” Frick said, when asked about a future aluminum-bodied Navigator. “Taking weight out of a vehicle is something we’re constantly looking at.”