Starting price: $73,250
Max capacity: 8 passengers
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, 450 horsepower
Fuel economy: 19 mpg combined (2WD), 18 mpg combined (4WD)
Max towing: 8,700 lb
Similar: Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80
John Candy got his start like a lot of overweight comedians, with a lot of fat-guy-falling-down-type jokes. But as his career progressed, something happened. It turned out the big guy could act, and before his untimely demise, he was in the process of reinventing himself as a guy who was still funny, but could also pull off a romantic lead, as he did in “Only the Lonely.”
I’m reminded of John Candy because I recently spent quite a bit of time with another reinvented big boy, the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator. The new Navigator is vastly improved, ready for the limelight in a way that its predecessors haven’t been, for one simple reason: For the first time since its introduction, it feels like a distinctly different vehicle from the Ford Expedition.
This is key, because like many Lincoln products, earlier Navigators didn’t feel much different than their Ford equivalent. But those days are rapidly coming to an end. The Navigator is unique in style, function, powertrain, and details extending right down to the window switches. Not only is it the best Navigator ever, it might just be the best vehicle Lincoln has made in the past couple decades, one that fully justifies its price tag.
The exterior design of the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is polarizing, but there’s no doubt it makes a statement. The enormous grille gets an LED-lit Lincoln badge in the middle, and the dual LED accents under the headlights scroll on and off in a pointlessly cool effect. The rear end boasts Lincoln’s current full-width LED lighting, along with LINCOLN written in inch-high chrome letters. The only part of the new Navigator that resembles its Ford cousin is its shadow, literally, as there’s enough chrome trim and other detail work festooned across the exterior that casual observers are unlikely to make the connection.
But it’s the interior where the Lincoln truly sets itself apart. From the massive touch screen on the dash and the LCD gauges, to the chrome-tipped switches and dials, to just about everything you see, touch, or hear, the Lincoln Navigator is two steps above the Ford. The unique dash design incorporates real wood trim, stitched leather on the dash, and enough brightwork to make you blink in bright sunlight. Our Black Label model was equipped with the blue-leather/white-wood theme known as Yacht Club; others are the white-on-black Chalet, and the brown-on-more-brown Destination themes. We love the floating center console that doesn’t quite connect with the dash itself, and we’re even coming to terms with the pushbutton transmission, at least in this model. Beyond that, everything feels high-quality, with the kinds of textures, plushness, and just-so resistance you expect in a $100,000 vehicle. If there’s anything shared with the Ford Expedition, it’s well hidden. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition had nothing to do with each other, which is the whole point.
Around town the 2018 Navigator does indeed share something with its Ford counterpart: It’s pretty unwieldy. This is a massive vehicle after all, and despite modern aids such as blind-spot detection, parking sensors, an around-view camera and even a self-parking feature, there’s no escaping its 17.5 feet of length and 6-plus feet of height when trying to maneuver into a tight parking spot. Also note that if you’re on the shorter side, the Navigator can be a hassle just to climb into, automatically retracting running boards notwithstanding. We suggest measuring your garage door height as well, and maybe be extra careful in parking garages.
But if you’re adept at parking, you’ll find a lot to like about the Navigator as a city dweller. The Navigator boasts an independent rear suspension, giving it a leg up on its primary rival — the solid-axle Cadillac Escalade — when navigating the often poorly-paved roads of urban America. Occasionally you’ll feel the shake associated with body-on-frame vehicles, but it’s not disagreeable. The twin-turbo V6 offers up plenty of scoot to get around traffic knots, and the quiet interior can be an oasis against the noise of the city.
It’s no secret that the Navigator feels much more comfortable on the open highway than hemmed into the confines of a city. With active cruise control, active lane keeping assist, and a driver’s active imagination, the Navigator proves to be a luxurious and easy choice for long-haul road trips. The interior quiet goes from expected to astonishing when you consider the barn-like shape of the Navigator, which should produce more than its share of wind noise. The beefy twin-turbo V6 engine combines with the 10-speed automatic to provide either relaxed cruising, or excellent thrust for zipping around slow-moving semis; its exhaust note is also one of the few constant sources of noise. While we think the automatic’s programming was pretty solid, you can use the paddles on the steering wheel if you want to try outsmarting it.
The highway ride proves to be equally good. The 2018 Navigator rides softly, but the adaptive shocks are tuned so that you’re never left seasick by the vehicle’s ride motions. The steering, quick around town, also takes on a more relaxed feel at highway speeds, but still offers a good linear feel to whatever inputs you may give it.
Our test Navigator had Lincoln’s much-ballyhooed 30-way adjustable seats. They’re certainly distinctive from the seats you’ll get in the Ford Expedition, but we’re not totally sold on them being better. The head restraint, for example, adjusts forward but doesn’t quite go back far enough. The upper seatback felt flimsy when pushed forward. The controls on the door mimic those you’d find in a Mercedes-Benz, but they were also more confusing than expected. Moreover, with so many adjustments — including individual thigh length — it’s going to take you a long time to find your sweet spot. Good thing the seats have a memory function.
Once you find that sweet spot you’ll be able to appreciate the 2018 Navigator’s interior even more. The gauges are an all-digital screen, and we were divided on the way information was presented. Some of us liked the highlighted look, and others wished they could see the whole dial. At the very least, Lincoln should offer an option to switch between different views. The central touchscreen on the other hand won universal praise. With your iPhone plugged in and CarPlay active, the icons were nearly big enough to palm. The rest of the driver and passenger’s surroundings are befitting a vehicle with a price tag this high, and the soft leathers, warm wood, and bright metal bits all looked and felt top notch, with the glaring exception of a couple of crooked seat seams.
Our 2018 Navigator Black Label came with a pair of exceptionally comfortable captain’s chairs in the second row, separated by an enormous console that mimicked the one between the front seats. With separate audio and climate controls, plus a small digital display to let you know exactly what you were controlling at any given time, the rear seat proved nearly as luxurious as the front. The standard bench comes with the same clever sliding center section as the Expedition, allowing parents easy access to kids in boosters or infant seats.
Our test car was also augmented by the Navigator’s available rear-seat entertainment system known as Lincoln Play. It utilizes the in-vehicle Wi-Fi to provide streaming content to the rear-seat passengers, or you can plug in an SD card, HDMI cord, or a good ol’ USB cord and use your own device. If you own a Slingbox at home, you’ll be happy to hear that you can access all your content in your Navigator as well.
This is a real place where adult humans can sit, especially in the longer L models. There’s plenty of legroom, good headroom, and the three-across seating is actually big enough for three people, not just three seatbelts. It’s easy enough to get in, and while not trimmed out quite as nicely as the rest of the vehicle, there are USB ports and a power seatback adjustment. Like the Expedition, the headrests flop forward when you fold the seatbacks.
The Lincoln Navigator’s 19.3 cu ft of cargo space behind the third row dwarfs all of its three-row competitors. That advantage continues as you start folding the third and second rows, and the Navigator opens its cargo area to colossal volumes. The same is true for the Navigator L; while the Escalade offers a slight advantage, it’s not bigger enough to outweigh the many other advantages that come with getting the Navigator over the Escalade.
Infotainment and Tech
The available Revel Ultima audio system by Harman in the Lincoln Navigator may be a good enough reason for audiophiles to put this big SUV on their shopping list. The 20-speaker system sounds superb, with excellent imaging, and even good sound quality in the third row. For the uninitiated, it’s one of those systems that makes you think, “So THAT is what that song sounds like.”
It’s part of an infotainment system that centers around a 10-inch touch screen in the middle of the dash. The system boasts almost comically oversized icons, and while it looks a little overwhelming, the reality is that it makes everything easy to find and use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of the package, and there are dozens of other settings and features squirreled away in the system as well. The Navigator also comes with a 4G LTE-based Wi-Fi hotspot.
Other tech includes safety systems, which include blind-spot monitoring, a backup camera, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, parking sensors, all as standard equipment. You can also get a 360-degree camera — critical for a vehicle this size — as well as forward collision warning, active cruise control, a head-up display and more. Rear-seat passengers can get individual entertainment screens that support Slingbox, so you can watch your home-recorded videos and more as you travel.
The biggest rival for the Lincoln Navigator is the Cadillac Escalade, and we think the Navigator has a distinct advantage. While the Caddy is nice, the Navigator is simply a cut above in more ways, from its independent rear suspension that frees up cargo room and smooths out the ride, to the higher tech, to the better powertrain, to the more plentiful and better features…it goes on and on, but you get the idea. The Lexus LX 570 and Toyota Land Cruiser are more capable off-road, but neither offers the interior space of the Lincoln, and one could arguably say the Lincoln is nicer inside as well. As for the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, it’s definitely a solid player, but is also smaller than the Lincoln, and is starting to show its age despite a decent recent refresh.
2018 Lincoln Navigator Exterior and Interior Photos
Numbers and Details
There are four flavors of 2018 Lincoln Navigator to choose from: Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label. Even the “base” Premiere model comes very nicely equipped, and things get better from there. Below is a breakdown. Note that all prices below include a $1,195 destination charge.
$73,250 (2WD), $75,905 (4WD)
Passenger capacity: 8
450-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6
10-speed automatic transmission
Bluetooth and USB phone connectivity
Available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot
Available 4-wheel drive
Blind spot detection
Foot-activated power liftgate
10-way power heated front seats
Power-folding third- and second-row seats
Three-zone auto climate control
Note: The Premiere is the base-model Navigator, the only model not available in the extended-wheelbase L version.
$77,250 (2WD), $81,945 (2WD L)
Available 4WD/two-speed transfer case ($2,655)
Available trailer package (includes backup assist and brake controller)
Wireless charging pad
Available adaptive cruise control
Available head-up display
Available parking assist
Available lane departure warning
Note: The 2018 Navigator Select is the only model that comes in rear- or four-wheel drive in both wheelbase lengths. It adds to the standard features of the Premiere, and offers many of the higher-end features of the Reserve and Black Label as options.
$82,400 (4WD), $85,600 (4WD L)
Available Revel Ultima audio system
24-way heated power front seats with memory
Second-row captain’s chairs with center console
Illuminated belt buckles (first and second row)
Illuminated Lincoln badge on grille
Note: The Lincoln Navigator Reserve model is not available with rear-wheel drive. It’s also the entry point for the excellent Revel Ultima audio system.
$94,900 (4WD), $98,100 (4WD L)
Standard Revel Ultima audio system
Available “theme” interiors: Yacht Club, Chalet, Destination
Note: Just about everything available for the Lincoln Navigator is standard on the Black Label models.
2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label Specs
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 450 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 510 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Towing capacity: 8,300 lb
Curb weight: 5,855 lb
Wheelbase: 122.5 in
Length: 210.0 in
Width: 93.8 in (with mirrors)
Height: 76.3 in