by Sebastian Cenizo
If you want the biggest and best that a three-row luxury SUV has to offer, the Lincoln Navigator L is hard to beat. Despite being plagued by a less-than-compliant ride thanks to blingy 22-inch wheels, the Navigator L is still a symbol of luxury and power that cossets its occupants in comfort. Tri-zone climate control, a panoramic roof, and heated and ventilated front seats are among the highlights. One engine and transmission option is available: a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 paired with a 10-speed automatic. Power is 450 horsepower with twist rated at 510 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive is standard while a 4x4 option is available, but the main drawcard of the Navigator L is its ability to seat up to eight in impressive comfort while also carrying plenty of cargo thanks to its long-wheelbase format.
Not much has changed on the long-wheelbase variant of the Lincoln, although lesser models have been impressively revised. However, some notable changes are brought to the 2020 model, with your smartphone now being able to double as a key to open and remotely start the SUV, among other things. A new Monochromatic Package is also available that offers unique styling cues for the Lincoln's exterior. Some new colors are also added to the palette, with three similar shades dropped to make way for the new options.
A large and boxy vehicle, the Navigator nevertheless exudes a sense of luxury, with massive 22-inch wheels, a large chrome grille, and LED lighting at the front and rear. A dual-exit exhaust also features, while a subtle spoiler complements the roof rails. A large panoramic glass roof is also standard on these long-wheelbase models.
As a long-wheelbase model, the distance between the front and rear hubs increases. On the regular Navigator, the measurement is 122.5 inches, but here it's 131.6. The overall length is 221.9 inches, with height varying slightly depending on your preferred drivetrain. Rear-wheel-drive models are 76.2 inches tall while 4WDs are 76.1 inches high. With the mirrors folded, width is 83.6 inches, and a massive 93.8 with them deployed. The heaviest model is the 4x4 version of the Black Label trim, which crushes the scales at 6,089 lbs. Maximum ground clearance is 9.6 inches, with approach, departure, and breakover angles measuring 22.4, 20.7 and 19.8 respectively.
The Navigator is only available with a single powertrain configuration, but it's a good one. The 450 hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 sitting up front produces 510 lb-ft of torque, and despite the humongous curb weight, the Navigator L feels properly quick, with more than enough grunt to get you away from the line gracefully. The 10-speed SelectShift automatic is a transmission we've lauded in numerous Ford products for its intelligent gear selections and smooth shifts. In the Navigator L, it fails to disappoint. Shifts at cruising speeds are all but imperceptible - exactly what you want in a luxury SUV. Should you be unhappy with the shifts or desire more control, paddles allow you to shift the transmission yourself. When you need to tow extra items, the RWD model is capable of up to 8,400 lbs while the 4WD variants can manage up to 8,100 lbs, while on 4WD models, a low-range transfer case helps get things rolling or helps you climb through tricky terrain.
Equipped with adaptive suspension as standard, one would expect the luxury-oriented Lincoln Navigator L to be absolutely phenomenal at smoothing over imperfections in the road. However, with 22-inch wheels fitted as standard on these long-wheelbase models, the ride is crashy, to say the least. Unfortunately, no smaller option is available from the factory. The adaptive suspension also doesn't pay dividends in the corners, as the steering, although light, still has to contend with a massive and bulky SUV. The result is vague accuracy and nothing that inspires enthusiastic driving. Of course, this is perfectly acceptable in a luxo-barge, but we'd prefer a little more feel to be sure of what the front wheels are doing. As expected, braking is not face-bending, but it offers sufficient stopping power and is easy to modulate.
Whichever variant of the Navigator L you choose, the manufacturer estimates for gas mileage remain the same, even with 4x4 added. The Lincoln L scores a very thirsty 16/21/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 27.8-gallon gas tank, it has an estimated mixed range of around 500 miles. This is improved over the regular Navigator, which only has a 23.6-gallon tank. Rear-wheel-drive variants of the shorter Navigator weigh less and therefore perform marginally better on the highway and combined cycles, with scores of 22 and 19 respectively.
The Navigator L can seat seven in its standard configuration, surrounding occupants in lavish leather and rich wood, which includes second-row captain's chairs and a third-row bench. The second row can be specced with either a pass-through or a console, but for maximum seating capacity, you can option in a bench, increasing the passenger count to eight, including the driver. While the third row is slightly more spacious than in the regular Lincoln, six-footer still won't appreciate being bundled in there. Nevertheless, power-folding second and third rows do add some convenience for ingress and egress, and passengers in the second row and forward will appreciate generous legroom and headroom.
Traditionally, long-wheelbase SUVs add the extra space to the second and third rows of seats, but in the case of the Navigator, it all gets added to the cargo bay. Here, you can have each row inhabited and still makes use of a decent cargo area. In the regular model, the volume behind the third row is limited to 19.3 cubic feet. In the Navigator L, that's vastly improved at 34.3 cubes. Press a button to fold the third row, and the volume behind the second row is increased from 57.5 in the short-wheelbase model to 73.3 in the long-wheelbase model. Maximum volume with the second and third-row seats folded is 120.2 cubic feet (103.3 cubes in the regular version).
In the cabin, each row offers cupholders and/or pocket storage for water bottles, with bins and hidden storage dotted about. In the front of the cabin, a pair of retractable covers hide spots for a pair of smartphones, while the traditional glovebox is large enough to store everyone's phones when a game of iSpy goes wrong.
Long-wheelbase versions of the Navigator are only available as two of the most luxurious trims and are therefore packed with features. Illuminated power-deployable running boards, a panoramic roof, tri-zone climate control, parking sensors front and rear, along with active park assist, and Active Noise Control are just some of the standard features on the L. Also included are features like wireless charging, ambient lighting, a 360-degree camera, a 12-inch configurable driver display, keyless entry, four 12V sockets, power-folding second and third rows, and a heated steering wheel. It doesn't end there because you also get heated and ventilated front seats, a heated second row (even if you opt for the bench), remote start, auto wipers, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry, power-adjustable pedals, and a hands-free liftgate. Options include a head-up display, massaging seats with 30-way adjustment, trailer backup assist, and a Snow Climb mode with 4x4 models. Safety features include forward-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. Adaptive suspension is also standard.
The infotainment system is a special version of Sync 3, utilizing a gorgeous 10-inch touch display. A Revel 14-speaker system with HD Radio is standard, while a Revel Ultima 20-speaker upgrade is fitted to the Black Label trim. SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice-activated navigation, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard, with a pair of USB ports in each row. With attractive graphics and good responses, as well as a simple-to-navigate menu layout, the infotainment system is good enough for most, but rear-seat entertainment screens for the second-row passengers can be specced too, maximizing the infotainment offering.
The 2020 Navigator has thus far been free of any recalls, but the 2019 model was subjected to two. The first was for an instrument display that may go blank on start-up, while the second was more severe and pertained to rear toe link fasteners potentially being loose.
In terms of warranty, Lincoln offers a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper plan, a five-year corrosion warranty, and lifetime roadside assistance, as well as six years/70,000 miles of powertrain coverage. Black Label Navigator Ls also offer four years or 50,000 miles of scheduled maintenance.
The IIHS has awarded the 2020 Lincoln Navigator with its best possible score of five stars in their crash tests. The IIHS has thus far not tested any variant of the Navigator since 2017, but with features like adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors, we expect that it would perform well. Other safety features include crash severity sensors, a post-crash alert system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and ten (front, front knee, front side, rear side, and rollover curtain) airbags, as well as an available head-up display and inflatable rear seatbelts.
With prices knocking on the door of $100,000, the Navigator L needs to offer more than just a luxury badge. Luckily, it is packed with convenience features, driver aids, and novelty items like illuminated running boards. All of these genuinely make occupants feel special, although those familiar with Ford products will note some parts sharing. The third row isn't particularly accommodating, and the ride on the 22-inch wheels leaves a lot to be desired. This may be a dealbreaker for many. For others, the numerous amenities, as well as the consideration for occupants' comfort is clear, and few SUVs come close to offering as much in the way of luxury. With available massaging seats that offer heating and ventilation as well as 30-way power-adjustability, along with adaptive cruise control and a powerful engine, the Navigator L is a joy to drive on a long trip. Coupled with massive cargo volumes and decent towing capacity, it really is one of the best vacation vehicles available. If only some of that extra wheelbase had gone to the rear legroom...
The 2020 Lincoln Navigator L is available in two trim levels, each with the same engine and transmission. The cheaper of the two starts at $84,565 before the $645 acquisition fee and the $1,295 destination charge. Adding 4x4 increases the price by $2,670. The top trim is the Black Label, which adds exclusive benefits beyond the vehicle itself. This model starts at $99,970 in base form and is only available with 4x4. This trim is essentially fully loaded, but we managed to add some options like black wheels, a rear-seat entertainment system, inflatable rear seatbelts, and fancy paint to bring the total cost to just under $107,000.
The Black Label is the fanciest and most luxurious version of the Navigator L that you can buy, and its special benefits are attractive, but we'd be content with the Reserve model. It's available with rear-wheel-drive, enhancing its towing capacity, and is heavily specced as standard. A great engine and transmission combo, along with a highly luxurious cabin that features tri-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and second row, adaptive cruise control, a 14-speaker sound system, and a hands-free liftgate are all enough for us. Of course, the bragging rights associated with the top trim are hard to ignore, but with a price difference of around $15,000, we'd rather stick with the cheaper version. In case you do want these, the added benefits include free annual vehicle detailing, free car washes at any time through the participating dealer network, remote service pickup and delivery (within a 50-mile radius), and a premium maintenance plan, among other privileges like queue-skipping at airports and upgraded Avis membership.
One of the most popular full-size luxury SUVs, the Escalade is synonymous with financial prosperity. As a result, it's been adopted by musicians and movie stars as their ferry of choice when rolling up to the red carpet. The Lincoln doesn't have that, and for many, that disassociation may be a good thing. There's something of a restrained elegance to the Lincoln, a knowing appreciation that comes with choosing it over the blingier Escalade. It's like choosing the American version of a Bentley. Image aside, the Escalade is more old-school in terms of its powerplant, with a 420 hp 6.2-liter V8 instead of the Lincoln's less traditional twin-turbo 450 hp V6. This makes the Caddy glacial in terms of acceleration comparisons, and if you look at the cabin, the Escalade is much more working-class than an $80,000 SUV should be. Overall, the aging Escalade may be more popular, but that's allowed it to get away with more shortcuts. The Lincoln is a far more upmarket vehicle and is genuinely luxurious. It's the one we'd have.
If you're more concerned with space than all-out luxury, the Ford Expedition Max, on which the Navigator L is loosely based) could be a better option. Starting at a little over $53,000, it's an affordable alternative that is still highly impressive. The same 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 is used here, albeit with 75 hp less, making it slightly more fuel-efficient than the offensively thirsty Navigator. It scores 17/23/19 mpg versus the Lincoln's 16/21/18. It also comes with 18-inch wheels, which should prove more comfortable over small ridges and abrasions in the road than the Navigator L's 22s. Overall cargo volume is also marginally better with 1.1 cubes more in the Ford. Overall, if you want an unpretentious, comfortable, and capable full-size SUV, the Expedition Max is certainly worth considering.