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Full-sized upscale dinosaur gets a makeover

Pros Powerful EcoBoost V6 engine; commodious

Cons Big and heavy; drab styling; dynamically numb; gas pig

Value for money Fair

What would I change? Needs a serious weight reduction

How I would spec it? As is

If nothing else, the freshened 2015 Lincoln Navigator is proof positive that dinosaurs can receive heart transplants.

The full-sized sport-ute segment was delivered a near-fatal blow during the economic recession a few years ago, but not quite enough (unfortunately, some environmentalists will say) to bury the gas-sucking behemoths once and for all. General Motors has the largest stake in the segment and has refreshed all of its big rigs (Suburban, Yukon, Tahoe, Escalade, et al) for the 2015 model year. Ford is not nearly so committed, its Lincoln-branded luxury ute just passing time in the shadows of the more familiar and better-known Escalade. (Through October, the Navigator sits 84th on automotive vehicle sales tracking website Good Car Bad Car’s 2014 list of 89 SUV models sold in Canada. By comparison, the Lincoln’s main rivals — none of them big sellers — are ranked 51st [Mercedes GL-Class], 68th [Range Rover], 71st [Escalade], 77th [Infiniti QX80] and 83rd [Lexus LX 570].)

Lincoln has dumped the aged 5.4-litre Triton V8 in favour of a twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. >

Lincoln has dumped the aged 5.4-litre Triton V8 in favour of a twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost V6 mated to a six-speed automatic.

But, for the new model year, Ford has done something rather extraordinary. It has dumped the aged 5.4-litre Triton V8 in favour of a twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. The transplant sees a huge uptick in power and torque figures for the eight-seat Navigator — the Triton was good for 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet; the twin-boosted V6 pumps out a more impressive 380 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Not that this turns the three-ton Lincoln into a tarmac terror, but it sure can get out of its own way. A 4.10:1 rear axle is standard on the longer-wheelbase Navigator L (optional on the standard model — the tester was so equipped) and helps multiply the torque for maximum acceleration, making towing easier (9,000-pound maximum when properly equipped).

I can’t speak for what the big Lincoln would be like to drive loaded to the gunnels with passengers and luggage and towing an Airstream, but, for day-to-day moseying around town and on the highway, the loss of two cylinders is no hardship. The EcoBoost is smooth, powerful and efficient in operation.

The twin-boosted V6 in the Navigator pumps out an impressive 380 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.>

The twin-boosted V6 in the Navigator pumps out an impressive 380 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.

As for fuel economy, well, anybody seriously concerned about the depletion of this country’s natural resources wouldn’t be buying one of these beasts in the first place. Still, I would have thought the Navi would be a perfect candidate for a diesel option to lessen its impact. As it is, the 2,753-kilogram Lincoln was probably as swinish as if it was still powered by a big V8 — I averaged 18 litres per 100 kilometres for a week of mostly suburban usage with some highway thrown in for good measure.

Ford says the 2015 model is the best-handling Navigator ever, in part to the addition of electric power-assisted steering. If best ever means being able to manoeuvre the almost-5.3-metre-long SUV into parking spots without an upper-body workout, then kudos. If it means any sort of association with the road, the company needs a better descriptor — something like heavy or disconnected.

The same applies to the ride. The tester was equipped with the Lincoln Drive Control option, which offers continuously controlled damping, a technology applied to the suspension that monitors multiple vehicle sensors and road conditions every two milliseconds and adjusts suspension needs accordingly. Again, kudos is due the system’s ability to tune out any road imperfection thrown at it. However, galumphing over sharper imperfections, such as railway tracks, sends the Navigator into a bouncy up-and-down motion that feels more like a pickup truck than a $75,000 luxury sport-ute.

Ford says the 2015 model is the best-handling Navigator ever, in part to the addition of electric power-assisted steering. >

Ford says the 2015 model is the best-handling Navigator ever, in part to the addition of electric power-assisted steering.

Available only with a four-wheel drivetrain for the Canadian market, the Navigator comes with Hill Descent Control, along with standard hill start assist. With hill start assist, if the Lincoln is parked on a slope with a grade of five degrees or more, it will remain stationary for up to two seconds after the brake pedal is released, stopping forward or backward roll. With Hill Descent Control, once the desired speed is set, the system applies brake pressure as needed to descend steep grades at a controlled speed.

In addition to the engine transplant, the Navigator sees its first real cosmetic change since 2007, including a new hood and new corporate-look split-wing grille, while the back end gets a power liftgate. Other touches include 20-inch wheels, jewel-like daytime running lights, high-intensity-discharge adaptive headlamps with LED accents and power running boards — this last item a particularly welcome touch as even those of longer leg will find it’s a hike up into the cabin. The results, though, are a half-hearted effort at best. Compared with the bolder Escalade — also refreshed for 2015 — the slab-sided Navigator looks dowdy.

Also read:

>

Our first drive of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade 

The cabin is a far cheerier environment — quiet, comfortable and luxurious in a traditional way, with a redesigned dash, dark leather, and polished wood and shiny trim bits.

Sync with MyLincoln Touch, the controversial driver connect system, allows drivers to use voice-activated or touchscreen controls to make phone calls, play music, manage the navigation system or set cabin temperature. The system includes a 4.2-inch LCD screen in the instrument cluster, an eight-inch touch screen in the centre stack and traditional knobs for easy operation. I ignored the voice command option and used the knobs, thereby saving myself a world of aggravation.

The Navigator's cabin is quiet, comfortable and luxurious. >

The Navigator’s cabin is quiet, comfortable and luxurious.

Given the Navi’s size, the blind spot information system is a welcomed and necessary feature, signalling when another vehicle is detected in an adjacent lane behind either rear wheel. Likewise the rear-view camera.

Designed to seat up to eight, there is a second-row option that include two captain’s chairs with or without a centre console, or a fold-flat bench. Due in part to the Navigator’s independent rear suspension, the fold-flat PowerFold third-row seats contribute to beaucoup cargo volume. The regular model has 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row, 54.4 cu. ft. with the back seat folded and a humongous 103.3 cu. ft. of space with the second and third rows folded flat. Hell, you could park a Cessna 172 in there!

Ultimately, while Ford’s decision to substitute technology for old-style cubic inches is a bold move in the engine bay, it needs to follow that up by doing for the Navigator what it did for the F-150 pickup; use aluminum to significantly reduce the vehicle’s weight. Unlike the F-150, though, the Navigator is a niche product, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of full-sized, three-ton luxury SUVs; I find them excessive for the most part, especially at the gas pumps. More objectively, though, upgraded as the big Lincoln is, it doesn’t really move the bar. As an overt symbol of financial success, Cadillac’s Escalade is still the standard bearer.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is far too heavy and would benefit from using more aluminum like its F-150 sibling. >

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is far too heavy and would benefit from using more aluminum like its F-150 sibling.

 

Our Rating
Vehicle Specs

2015 Lincoln Navigator

>
  • Type of vehicle

    Four-wheel-drive full-sized luxury SUV

  • Engine

    Twin-turbo 3.5L DOHC V6

  • Power

    380 hp @ 5,250 rpm; 460 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750 rpm

  • Transmission

    Six-speed manumatic

  • Brakes

    Four-wheel disc with ABS

  • Tires

    P275/55R20

  • Price: Base / As Tested

    $75,110/$76,185

  • Destination Charge

    $1,750

  • Natural Resources Canada Fuel Economy

    (L/100km) 16.2 city, 11.8 highway

  • Standard Features

    Dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled front seats, power-fold 60/40 third-row fold flat seats, voice-activated navigation screen, memory settings for driver’s seat position, exterior mirrors, adjustable pedals and steering column, leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed steering wheel with power tilt column, cruise control and secondary audio controls, THX II premium audio system, Sync, power windows, door locks and sunroof, remote keyless entry, power liftgate, remote start, blind sport information system, scuff plates, rain- and speed-sensing windshield wipers, power-deployable running boards, forward and reverse sensing systems, rear-view camera, power folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, integrated blind spot mirrors and driver’s side auto-dimming feature

  • Options

    4.10 rear axle ($75); rubber floor mats ($150); 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($750)

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    Source : http://driving.ca/lincoln/navigator/reviews/road-test/suv-review-2015-lincoln-navigator

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