2021 Lincoln Navigator

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2021 Lincoln Navigator Test Drive Review: Super Size, Super Luxury

by Jake Lingeman

The redesigned, fourth-generation Lincoln Navigator was launched in 2017 as a 2018 model and competes in the uppermost SUV segment where other full-size, three-row SUVs such as the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and BMW X7 rivals reside. Three trim levels are offered - and none of them are cheap. With an MSRP of over $76k for the base model, and the Black Label trim easily cracking the $100k mark, this is the most expensive vehicle in the Lincoln range.

The Ford Expedition on which the Navigator is based starts at only $49,995 and shares the same underpinnings and powertrain, although suitably detuned not to tread on the Navigator's toes. The powertrain in question is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 gas engine with 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque and a ten-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. Can the Navigator justify its hefty premium? Even more importantly, does it have the on-road poise to hide its 'T3' truck chassis and hold its head high among its rivals? The Navigator's ride and transmission refinement are a letdown, but perhaps it has enough redeeming features to stave off the competition. Let's find out.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 8 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 9 /10
  • Value For Money 10 /10
9.0
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2021 Lincoln Navigator Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Navigator?

The biggest changes since its launch were reserved for the first few years on the market, with a big power boost in 2018 and a rationalized model line-up and improved Lincoln CoPilot360 functionality in 2020. Changes for the new Lincoln Navigator for the 2021 model year are relatively minor and are all trim-related, with the optional Monochromatic Package becoming available to exchange chrome exterior trim pieces and wheels with blacked-out ones, and new paint colors. These colors are Rhapsody Blue, Blue Diamond, Iced Mocha, and Silver Jade. Since the Navigator has been on the market for four years, these minor 2021 changes are probably in anticipation of a proper mid-cycle refresh that is likely to happen this year for the 2022 model.

Pros and Cons

  • Impressive engine specs and performance
  • Stylish, imposing Lincoln-family look
  • Excellent luxury and refinement
  • Lots of interior and cargo space
  • Both RWD and 4WD drivetrains offered
  • Does not handle as deftly as its European competitors
  • 4WD models aren't that great off-road
  • Ride quality on standard suspension can be unrefined
  • Automatic transmission can be clunky

Best Deals on 2021 Lincoln Navigator

2021 Lincoln Navigator Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Standard
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$76,705
Reserve
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$82,490
Black Label
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$98,655
See All 2021 Lincoln Navigator Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

We can't say this isn't a big beast, or that it drives smaller than it looks, because it doesn't. It's a pain to get out of a crowded parking lot, but Lincoln did a fantastic job tuning this engine for its task of moving a three-ton house on wheels down to the corner store and back. The V6 usually stays in the meat of the powerband. The Navigator does go quickly, and if we were to pick a point when it doesn't feel absolutely enormous, on acceleration would be the time. But press down on those long-travel brakes and you'll be well aware of how much weight you're dragging to a stop. The transmission can get flummoxed at times and is prone to occasionally thumping and clunking its way about the multiple ratios around town.

The Navigator comes loaded with seven drive modes including Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions, Slow Climb and Deep Sand. Excite is the Lincoln version of a standard sport mode; the throttle gets more sensitive and the shifts come later. Conserve is an economical mode and the rest are self-explanatory. We stayed in Excite most of the time as it suited our driving style. We did click over to slippery when we cruised through some narrow, muddy trails, but we're sure it would have been fine in any mode as the Navigator feels almost impervious to outside forces.

What isn't ideal - and will probably be addressed at the mid-cycle refresh - is the Navigator's suspension. It's not that it's bad, but the truck genes cannot quite be disguised sufficiently as the Navigator proves unable to properly isolate its occupants from the shocks transmitted by larger road scars, despite the standard adaptive dampers fitted. The problem is worse on the larger, 22-inch wheels. It would be wise to tick the box for the optional air suspension to address some of these shortcomings. Thanks to standard Roll Stability Control, cornering is quite composed and body lean contained, but it never matches the precision and poise of the Escalade, never mind the German competition.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Lincoln Navigator a Good Premium Three-Row SUV?

Although the Navigator is not leading the pack as it once was, and it's getting on in life, it's still a good choice. Refinement can be improved and the transmission needs better calibration, but the safety system and basic features list are good. But with SuperCruise now available on the Escalade, the safety credentials of the Navigator's main rival are superior. Cadillac's infotainment system is also better, as is its ride and handling, on which front the Lincoln is also beaten by its German competition. A mid-life facelift and refresh is imminent, though, and Lincoln will be sure to address some of these shortcomings.

Still, in mid- and upper-spec guise, the Navigator offers a lot of car for the money. You'll need to spend at least $85k to get the better options available, which is less than what you'd spend on an Escalade, but for that money you could have a BMW X7 with a few options added. With such formidable competition, we might take a rival over the Navigator, or wait to see what the 2022 model has in store.

Check out other Lincoln Navigator Styles

2021 Lincoln Navigator Comparisons

Cadillac Escalade
BMW X7 BMW

2021 Lincoln Navigator vs Cadillac Escalade

The Escalade - like the Lincoln also hailing from the USA - is also the newest of the Navigator's rivals and has overtaken it in many key areas. An all-new version was released for 2021, boasting a modern cabin, a 38-inch curved OLED display, Super Cruise hands-free tech, and an available 36-speaker sound system, to name just a few. There are also two powertrains to choose from, with a 420-hp V8 and a turbodiesel that makes only 277 hp. Still, the Navigator wins when it comes to towing capacity, as the Caddy only manages around 7,000 lbs. The Navigator also comes out on top when it comes to fuel economy, saving you a few bucks at the pumps. With a very similar pricing structure, we'd definitely have the newer, more advanced, plusher Escalade.

See Cadillac Escalade Review

2021 Lincoln Navigator vs BMW X7

On paper, the X7 may seem like it's already out in the first round due to its smaller size - it comes in at almost seven inches shorter in length and more than five inches shy of the Navigator's height. The wheelbase is similar, though at 122.2 inches to the Lincoln's 122.5. Naturally the X7 doesn't offer as much cargo space either, with only 12.8 cubic feet when all seats are in place. Maximum cargo volume in the Bimmer is 90.4 cubes, which can't hold a candle to the 103.3 cubes offered by the Navigator. But that doesn't mean the X7 doesn't impress - it comes with a beautifully tuned transmission and a fun-to-drive nature that the Navigator just can't muster up. And, if you're looking for a bit of a performance kick, the X7 gets to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds with its 523-hp V8 engine. The answer is simple - if you want space and comfort, go for the Navigator. If size doesn't matter, but performance does, get the Bimmer.

See BMW X7 Review

2021 Lincoln Navigator Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Lincoln Navigator:

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