Payne: Lincoln Navigator, luxury suite on wheels

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

The Lincoln Navigator is a rolling condo. Big enough to comfortably seat six and sleep four, with lush interior trimmings, Wi-Fi connectivity and 30-way seats that make BarcaLoungers feel like lawn chairs, it shames most second homes.

I have one criticism: Where’s the fridge?

An icebox is about the only feature that is missing from this 181/2-foot long, 61/2-foot-high, $95,000 masterpiece of luxury. It needs to be. As Lincoln charts its premium comeback, it needs home runs like the Navigator to navigate the treacherous shores of six-figure luxury. An impressive navy of hulking battle ships sail these waters, including the Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover HSR, Mercedes GLS and Infiniti QX80.

Lincoln does not shy from the fight. It brings the big guns:

1. Big power from the same twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that beats at the heart of the Ford F-150 Raptor, the baddest truck ever built. Stomp the Navi’s gas, and its roars like King Kong at dinner time. Call it the Lincoln Raptor.

2. Biggest towing capacity (8,700 pounds) in its class, courtesy of the same bones as the F-series, the most capable pickup hauler on the planet.

3. Biggest heads-up display.

4. Biggest seating capacity.

5. Biggest moonroof.

6. Biggest fuel economy numbers thanks to that turbocharged six — and Lincoln’s first application of a 10-speed tranny (co-engineered with Ford and GM) that drives other rear-wheel drive performance powerhouses like the Camaro ZL1 and Raptor.

But if you think all this brawn makes the Navigator look like a sumo wrestler on steroids, you’d be wrong. Because the remarkable thing about this land yacht is how elegant it is from stem to stern.

The grille is 10 stories high, but modeled after the same Jaguar-esque sculpture that first graced the Lincoln Continental and MKZ sedans. It’s a piece of art (replacing the split-wing grille that always looked awkward on big utes — like wings on a rhino) with little Lincoln logos knitted into a honeycomb pattern. Anchored by a centered, giant Lincoln logo, the grille begins a theatrical welcome — “Embrace,” it’s called — when you approach the big ute.

The logo glows, lighting a path from the LEDs in the headlights, to the lighted door handles, and finally, Lincoln’s signature, horizontal rear lights. Big, illuminated running boards unfold from beneath the car to meet you. To complete the introduction, the mirrors sport LED lights that project the Lincoln logo on the pavement — think of it as a welcome mat. It’s a dazzling display that stopped passersby in their tracks one night in the lot where I parked.

It’s the best show this side of the Tesla Model X’s automatic-driver system and falcon-wing doors. I pined for the original Navigator concept that dropped jaws at the 2016 New York Auto Show with its own gull-wing doors and cascading, fold-out, three-tier steps.

Given that Tesla’s complicated falcon doors delayed production almost two years, it’s probably best that Navigator left the gull-wings in the attic.

The “turbine wheels” on my top-trim, Black Label $96,570 Navigator tester (hey, condos ain’t cheap) are worth the added price. These pinwheels are a nice complement to the ute’s long, horizontal lines. The English accent is unmistakable — from the Jag grille to the Range Rover floating roof and blacked-out C pillar.

But the exterior gift wrap is for the real treat inside. Lincoln has been resolute in following its own premium path. While other luxury brands chase Teutonic athleticism (Caddy, Alfa and Acura), Lincoln claims “quiet luxury.”

You won’t find YouTube videos of camo-wrapped Lincoln’s chasing Nurburgring lap records or jetting down drag strips posting ludicrous zero-60 times. Instead, Lincoln wants to sink you into a recliner, turn up the stereo and deliver you to your destination on a flying carpet. It works.

Easing into the Lincoln’s interior is less like driving and more like settling into a wealthy pal’s basement infotainment man cave. The 30-way thrones are exquisite with automatic, door-mounted adjustments for the head, upper and lower back — even each thigh. Only an ottoman is missing, though the Navigator’s pedal adjusters are close enough. After you’ve tweaked everything to your liking, the console screen will create a “Personal Profile” that recognizes you (and two other drivers) each time you arrive at the club — er, SUV — and adjusts the cabin accordingly.

The front “floating console” should be on display at Art Van. My tester console was laser-cut out of a maroon khaya wood; the mahogany’s continuous grain runs across the cupholder and smartphone (recharging) compartments courtesy of Yamaha piano makers’ laser-etching technique. I’m not making this up. Speaking of piano keys, Lincoln’s push-button, electronic tranny has been replaced by more workable “piano keys” — an elegant touch, though I find GMC’s similar “trigger” transmission even better.

In the middle of acres of stitched, wooded dashboard, an elegant, silver-rimmed tablet rises above the console — though the Lincoln’s superb, steering wheel/voice control-operated, digital instrument display meant I rarely had to take my eyes off the road to poke at its touch screen. Even the console-mounted drive modes — Conserve, Normal, Normal 4x4, Slippery, Sport, Ocean Liner (making that last one up) — are introduced with colorful, digital graphics that might have come out of Lucas Studios.

Speaking of technology, the Navigator can park itself. Using hands-free, self-driving software pioneered on Ford’s Escape, this ocean liner will parallel-park and perpendicular-park into the tightest of spaces. All you have to do is control the brake. Meanwhile, second- and third-row passengers can kick back in living-room comfort. Like the F-150, Navigator saves 600 pounds with an aluminum skin — but the Navigator has plowed its weight-savings into interior quiet and independent rear suspension for effortless motoring.

Both rows get USB ports and Wi-Fi connectivity (up to eight devices). Second-row passengers can also control the radio. Or occupants can just flatten the rear rows, go horizontal (at 6-foot-5 I fit easily), under the biggest moonroof in autodom, and stargaze. Mrs. Payne and I did.

Navigator chief program engineer Andrew Kernahan is a British ex-pat and says he’d like to see Queen Elizabeth park her Land Rovers and try a Lincoln Navigator for a change.

If she did it would be a national scandal. But she would also be treating herself to an SUV worthy of the crown.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

Vehicle type

Front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive,

seven- or eight-passenger SUV


3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6


10-speed automatic


5,685-6,056 pounds (5,855 Navigator AWD as tested)


$73,250 base ($96,570 — Black Label as tested)


450 horsepower, 510 pound-feet torque


0-60 mph, 5.2 sec. (Car and Driver est.);

8,700-pound towing capacity

Fuel economy

EPA mpg est. 16 city/23 hwy/19 mpg combined (4x2);

EPA mpg est. 16 city/21 hwy/18 mpg combined (4x4)

Report card ★★★


Stylish condo on wheels; self-park feature


Can a Lincoln command $90K?; piano shifter even better

if it used “trigger” keys

Overall: ★★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★Fair ★★Poor ★