Driven: The 2023 Lincoln Navigator Turns Any Vacation Into A Luxury Getaway

Test Drive / Comments

Lincoln's updates make the Navigator a lovable palace on wheels.

Americans love big, luxurious SUVs, and based on the latest entrants to this segment, it's never been a better time to have six figures burning a hole in your pocket. Jeep just updated its Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models with a new inline-six engine, Cadillac introduced a high-powered Escalade-V with a massive supercharger, and Lincoln refreshed the Navigator with new technology and interior improvements.

CarBuzz already sampled the competition but recently spent a week driving the 2023 Lincoln Navigator in its top Black Label trim. The full-size luxury SUV category may be more competitive than ever, but based on our time in the updated Lincoln, the Navigator makes a compelling case to fork over your Wall Street bonus and treat your family to some luxury travel.

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Substantial Turbo Power

Lincoln didn't make any changes under the hood, where the standard 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine develops 440 horsepower and 510 lb-ft. That's more power than the Escalade's standard 6.2-liter V8, but less than the Grand Wagoneer's 6.4-liter V8 or Hurricane 510 inline-six. And until Ford grants Lincoln access to the 5.2-liter Predator V8 from the Raptor R, the Navigator has no answer for the Escalade-V. But despite trailing in power, the Navigator produces more torque than its rivals. And though fuel economy may not be a major factor at this price point, the EcoBoost engine is more frugal than its rivals, with ratings of 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined.

That torque provides substantial passing power despite the Navigator's hefty curb weight. Despite sharing a design with GM, the 10-speed automatic lacks the crispness of the Escalade, but it's still plenty smooth. Getting a quick burst of acceleration is easy, especially in the sporty Excite Mode. The Navigator lacks the body control granted by the Magnetic Ride Control in the Escalade, but most buyers will be perfectly content with its comfy ride quality.

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Highway Relaxation

For the 2022 model year, the Navigator sees the addition of Lincoln's ActiveGlide hands-free driving system. A counterpart to Ford's BlueCruise, ActiveGlide allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for long highway stints, granted that the blue light says it's safe to do so. We spent ample time testing ActiveGlide on a trip from South Florida back to Orlando, and although the system takes the stress away from highway driving, GM's Super Cruise is still superior.

ActiveGlide has some difficulty taking fast corners smoothly without a heavy steering correction that disturbs the cabin. It also requires drivers to put their hands back on the wheel through cashless toll gates, of which there are many in Florida. Finally, Super Cruise can change lanes hands-free and is now smart enough to pass slower traffic and then move back into the right lane. ActiveGlide requires hands-on for these maneuvers. We liken Lincoln's system to the earlier days of Super Cruise, meaning there's a chance ActiveGlide can improve with each passing year.

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Family Entertainment

Up to this point, the Navigator hasn't outshined its two main competitors, but moving into the back seat, it delivers what we believe are the best accommodations in the class. To keep the kids entertained, the Navigator is now available with a Lincoln Play rear seat entertainment system for $2,195. Most systems like this aren't worth the money, but this one packs two built-in Amazon Fire TVs, meaning rear passengers can stream shows and movies on the go and pick up watching where they left off at home.

For a mere $625 extra on the Black Label trim, the second-row captain's chairs offer heating, ventilation, and massage functionality, a combination not available on Escalade or Grand Wagoneer. With this option, the Navigator provides the most luxurious rear-seat experience in the segment. And if the massage function is less important than overall people-moving ability, Lincoln lets customers opt for a three-seat bench with heating and ventilation.

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Space For People, And Maybe Their Stuff

Every SUV in this size class offers a large trunk, but the Navigator is the smallest of the three. There are 20.9 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 63.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and up to 103 cubic feet with both rows folded. For comparison, the Escalade offers up to 109.1 cubic feet, and the Grand Wagoneer is even larger with 116.7 cubic feet. Lincoln does sell a longer Navigator L with up to 120.2 cubic feet of space, but the Escalade ESV and Grand Wagoneer L both offer even more room.

Though it may not have the most carrying capacity for luggage, the Navigator boasts the most spacious third row with 40.9 inches of legroom. If you plan to haul seven or eight passengers plus their luggage, we recommend upgrading to the Navigator L.

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Verdict: Tough Competition

The refreshed Navigator arrives at a tough time when Cadillac and Jeep are shining with their most compelling full-size products in decades. Each vehicle in this class has something unique to offer and the Navigator is no exception. It has the lowest starting price at $77,635, though the top shelf Black Label model we reviewed starts at $106,075. With all of the options equipped to our test car, including a $6,695 Special Edition appearance package, the Navigator rings in at $118,035.

It would be a tough decision if we were buying a vehicle in this segment. The Escalade is more fun to drive, offers a high-performance V model, and superior hands-free driving, while the Grand Wagoneer is larger, more powerful, and equally lavish. Lincoln delivers the most opulent rear seat experience, which makes it arguably the best family vehicle on a long road trip. If you have over 100 grand to spend on your family, the Navigator is a solid option.

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