Ann M. Job
For a distinctive, luxury sport utility ride on a large scale, buyers need only to look to the 2015 Lincoln Navigator.
The new Navigator is the only full-size, luxury 2015 SUV sold in the United States solely with a V-6 — a twin-turbocharged V-6, to be exact.
Don’t fret. The six cylinder produces more horsepower — 383 — than last year’s Navigator with its 310-horsepower V-8.
The new EcoBoost powerplant also is designed to improve fuel efficiency by some 2 miles per gallon in both city and highway travel over the 2014 Navigator.
Styling has been gracefully revamped inside and out. Gone is the gaudy grille that looked like a mouthful of braces. A more respectable and tasteful split-wing Lincoln grille takes its place, accented by pretty light-emitting diodes.
Inside, the Navigator gets premium trim and upgrades to the Sync with MyLincoln Touch communication and control system.
All the while, the 2015 Navigator remains very much a truck-based SUV with considerably more third-row legroom than a Cadillac Escalade and more towing capacity — up to 9,000 pounds — than a Lexus LX 570.
Best of all, the 2015 Navigator in both rear- and four-wheel drive earned five out of five stars from the federal government in frontal and side crash testing.
The 2015 Navigator is something of a bargain in the large, luxury SUV segment, undercutting the competition. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $62,915 for a base, 2015 Navigator with rear-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission. The lowest starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a 2015 Navigator with four-wheel drive is $66,490.
By comparison, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade has a starting MSRP of $73,965 for a base, two-wheel drive model with 420-horsepower V-8 mated to an eight-speed, automatic transmission. And the 2015 Lexus LX 570 starts at $84,105 with standard full-time all-wheel drive and 383 horsepower.
The Navigator, which was introduced in the late 1990s, has seen a recent resurgence in U.S. sales. Calendar 2014 sales totaled 10,433, a 21 percent boost from 2013.
The bargain starting price makes an impression, especially when all the standard features and the size of the vehicle are factored in.
A sizable, 8-inch display screen in the middle of the dashboard projects great views from the standard rearview camera.
A leather- and wood-trimmed steering wheel also is standard, as are the lighted Lincoln brand logos projected onto the ground next to the vehicle when the unlock button is pushed on the key fob.
Other standard amenities include heated and cooled, power-adjustable, front seats; navigation system; high-definition radio; split, 60/40, power-operated, third-row seats that fold down with the touch of a button; power liftgate; reverse and forward sensing system which sounds a warning when the car is too close to object; conversation mirror to keep track of back-seat passengers; and power running boards on the sides to help passengers enter and exit.
Many shoppers may be wary of a 6,000-plus-pound SUV that’s powered by a V-6. But the new Navigator puts doubts to rest with its ready power and strong acceleration.
The test Navigator, which was a regular-wheelbase model with four-wheel drive, measured more than 17.25 feet long from bumper to bumper. Yet the 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 provided good get up and go for merging into city and highway traffic. There also was strong power available to move around other vehicles on all but the most challenging mountain highways.
Torque peaks at 460 foot-pounds at a low 2,750 rpm compared with the 306 foot-pounds at 3,600 rpm from the V-8 in the Lexus LX 570.
At times, the Navigator’s six-speed automatic seemed to hunt for the correct gear in aggressive driving in the mountains. And, the Navigator had a tendency to coast at speed for far longer than the driver wanted after the driver’s foot was removed from the accelerator. As a result, the brakes on the Navigator were used quite a bit.
The test Navigator averaged 16.5 mpg in driving that was 75 percent on highways. This compared with the government’s fuel economy rating of 15/20 mpg.
Because the gas tank in the regular-wheelbase Navigator can hold 28 gallons, which is 14 percent more than the 24.6 gallons of the LX 570, the test Navigator’s travel range was better than expected - some 460 miles.
Regular unleaded or premium can be used, and filling up with regular at today’s prices cost nearly $72.
The test Navigator had wind noise — so much so the driver checked to be sure a window wasn’t left open.
A full 8.4 inches of ground clearance meant the Navigator could clear many obstacles on trails and dirt paths, and the high ride height gave passengers good views out.
Passengers noticed that the Navigator’s body mass shifted from one side to the other in cornering and curves. The three ride controls of Comfort, Normal and Sport on the Navigator softened or firmed up the ride, but this SUV still worked to keep road bumps away from passengers.