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New York — The Lincoln Motor Co. on Wednesday will unveil its 2018 Lincoln Navigator flagship SUV, a stylish three-row family-hauler.

The first all-new Navigator in a decade is also Lincoln’s fifth new vehicle introduced since the company started a rebirth campaign in 2012. The full-size SUV will catch a wave of growing SUV and truck sales in the U.S., bringing to market a hauler packed full of new technology, interior space, storage and tweaks aimed at making the ride smoother, quieter and more attuned to driver and passenger needs.

The new SUV’s exterior is elegant, with Lincoln’s new metal honeycomb grille that debuted on the 2017 Continental. The automaker used some aluminum body parts for the Navigator, and utilized it extensively elsewhere. The new Navigator is nearly 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model even though it’s longer.

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific, said Lincoln did its homework. He said the Navigator should increase sales with the new generation and poses real competition for the Cadillac Escalade.

“It checks all the right boxes ... big, bold, unique, powerful, and luxurious. It’s not a warmed-over Expedition either,” Sullivan said. “This new Navigator could restore it to the glory it once had 20 years ago in 1997. It owned the market then. This is the best shot the Navigator has in picking up share before the redesigned Escalade hits the market in a few years.”

Lincoln pretty much invented the large luxury SUV when it introduced the original Navigator in 1997. It led the market segment and was selling more than 30,000 Navigators per year in the early 2000s, peaking at nearly 39,000 in 2003, according to Kelley Blue Book. It eventually lost its edge to competitors including the Escalade, and an aging design due in part to Ford Motor Co.’s near-bankruptcy during the economic downturn. Last year, Lincoln sold only 10,421 Navigators despite the SUV boom.

Similar to Lincoln’s flagship Continental, which relaunched late last year, much of the Navigator’s charm is in the interior. Soft, warm and premium materials are used. There’s plenty of storage throughout, with a place for purses on the console.

The driver and front passenger seats offer massage, heating and cooling functions, as well as Lincoln’s 30-way adjustable option that debuted on the Continental. A personal profile can set seating, steering wheel, climate control, favorite radio stations and even navigation, for up to three drivers, Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln president, said at a sneak peek Tuesday ahead of the Navigator’s official reveal at the New York International Auto Show.

Second-row passengers have climate control, and the third-row seats have power recline capability, too, so no one gets squished in the back row. The second row seats on the 2018 model move forward with a quick slide, allowing easy access to the third row.

David Woodhouse, Lincoln design director, calls the interior “massively different” from the current-generation Navigator, last refreshed in 2015. He calls it a move away from a cockpit feel to a more calm environment. Ambient lights illuminate the interior at night, and during the day a panoramic sunroof allows natural light into the vehicle.

“Interior space is very important,” Galhotra said. “Generally they have kids, kids are very active. The families themselves are very, very active. So we wanted to design the vehicle not just for the driver, but for the entire family because the entire family experiences the vehicle together.”

When drivers approach the Navigator with a key fob, the LED lights on the lower front of the SUV and the tailamps light up very softly. “We call it the Lincoln embrace,” Galhotra said. “We literally want to create that feeling that the vehicle is welcoming you.”

The new Navigator comes standard with a twin-turbo V-6 engine that cranks out 450 horsepower and is paired to a 10-speed transmission. Fuel economy information was not yet available. The 2017 Navigator averages 15 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway.

The new Lincoln has optional trailer backup assist, 360-degree camera and enhanced park-assist and adaptive cruise control. There are three Lincoln Black Label options, which alter interior design themes and materials, in addition to other membership benefits.

The Navigator is built in Kentucky. Pricing information has not been released. A 2017 Navigator starts at $63,515.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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