Years ago when I watched Mad Men on Sunday nights like everybody else, it was fascinating to see who came on board as ad sponsors for the show, and if they would have some sort of retro styling that mirrored the throwback program about fictional 60s American Advertising world and more. When Lincoln Motors enlisted actor John Slattery aka Roger Sterling of the Emmy Award-winning AMC TV series as their pitchman, they didn’t utilize the suave and comedic actor to get back to the past. Lincoln's marketing team pushed him forward like they’ve been doing with their vehicles and I was glued to the televised ads. The sight of the new vehicles and technology he promoted like that MKX sports utility vehicle and MKZ sedan, got my attention with admiration, interest and an open mind that stuffy vehicles once considered to be oversized moving violations driven by visiting grandparents and aging businessmen, could become more for future generations. And to witness and experience the difference of a new Lincoln, I test drove the MKZ Slattery promoted. And I loved it.
Fast-forward a half a decade later, Lincoln still holds my attention more than just because of pitch personalities like Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey —who wanted to align himself with the brand and produce snazzy commercials— or Tennis Veteran Serena Williams, who’s been driving a Lincoln Navigator since her late teens. Lincoln Motors keeps my attention for the simplest reasons: design, performance, and legacy. Famous for its flagship vehicle the Continental driven by Hollywood’s Golden Era celebrities, the century-old company is changing with the times and aspiring to capture the hearts of the young and the young at heart, not to mention diverse cultures and their families. The goal of Ford’s luxury imprint is to go bigger and be all-inclusive. Kind of like my own personal mantra.
Over the last year, I’ve spent time with Lincoln re-discovering its many models including the MKZ, Continental, and notably the Navigator. And out of the many models each has its own tone, legacy, and fervor. But undeniably, the Navigator is the king of the road. Back in early 2013, Ford even conveyed that the next generation Lincoln Navigator would be a direct competitor to luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. It was vital that Lincoln had its foot cemented in the Luxury SUV game. My test drives included destinations spanning from Wineries in Northfolk County to the hills of the Blue Mountain Ski Resort to the urban street of Montreal, Quebec and finally, the small streets of the coastal surf town of Tofino, British Columbia. It tracked through snow, mud, rain, and potholes with ease. Since its inception in the late 90s, it has been an unavoidable attraction to many because of size, engine power, passengers comfort, cargo and towing. I recall that because of his size, former NBA player and sports personality Shaquille O'Neal felt the Navigator was the first vehicle perfectly designed for big and tall men like himself.
Tofino Road Trip.
My first impression upon seeing the refreshed Navigator is that I couldn't believe my eyes— that Lincoln managed to manufacture a likable, modern and urban SUV. With factory tinted windows, large stylized wheels, sleek taillights, chrome accents and a front grille that whispers heavyweight luxury, the Navigator is none too shy to let you know that it has arrived. There's even a trim model where the front emblem on the grille illuminates. Many of the modifications can also be found on Lincoln's crowing Continental, which has certainly influenced the design of the Navigator. I remember the pictures and the buzz from the 2016 New York Auto Show where the concept Navigator was revealed with gull-wing doors and stair-like running boards. It was magnificent and I’ve been a sucker for those door since John Delorean introduced his namesake DMC coupe. But those fantastic features did not make it to the factory build. But because of the all-aluminum body, the Navigator is 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Like I said before, the Gullwing doors and staircase running board are gone but on some models, when you open those conventional doors, you’re greeted by puddle lights and power-deployable running boards— no more stepping into a dark vehicle but into an extremely welcoming and well-lit SUV.
People from all walks of life will compliment the vehicle with the question, “Is that the new Navigator? Nice!” Now in its fourth generation, the 8-passenger marvel's more noticeable modifications are to the chassis, body, and trim which only make it even more magnetic. Under the body, the Navigator shares DNA with Ford’s Expedition SUV and F-150 pickup truck. Not to mention that it also shares the same 450 hp twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 engine paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission (with switchable rear/full-time four-wheel drive), found in the notorious F-150 Raptor. So, with a turbocharged engine that produces 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, you can imagine that on the road, the Navigator is no joke.
I completely understand that when it comes to a vehicle's interior, everyone has their own opinion but across the board from family, friends, and colleagues, the general consensus about the Navigator’s interior is that it is ultimately luxurious. Some of my favorite accouterments are simple and perfect such as the Panoramic Vista Roof which offered more sunlight into the cabin. Moonsunroofs are disappearing and we're seeing more and more rooflines made mostly of clear glass, which is a beautiful thing, letting the sunshine in. Another great feature that I continuously spoiled myself with is the Active Motion seat massage feature, available to most Lincoln vehicles. While it might throw-off a few drivers while the vehicle's in motion, it certainly makes a long haul, relaxing.
With the integration of tech features like a 10-inch LCD display, a head-up display along with a 12-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster and six USB charging ports throughout the vehicle, there's more than enough tech to keep everyone happy, including hotspot wi-fi that can connect up to 10 mobile devices at one time. You can imagine that with 3 varied trim levels like Standard, Select, and Reserve, the bells and whistles just get better. And if that’s not enough, check out the Black Series, a legion of vehicles with interiors and exteriors coordinated around a theme: Chalet, Destination, and Yacht Club.
If you know me well, you’ll know how much I love Adaptive Cruise Control. I was pleased to take advantage of the ACC -often- with stop-and-go capability whether it was in daily traffic or on long-distance jaunts— it was the perfect driving assist of braking in rush hour. It certainly feels like being behind the wheel of a self-driving SUV but I was still fully in control of the vehicle and the distance from the vehicle ahead of me. And for added safety and peace of mind, it's nice to know the Navigator also has 11 independent airbags.
True to any road trip or the daily commute, the sound of music, matters. The Navigator’s Revel Ultima Audio system doesn’t fall short of offering excellence. Of course, like most SUVs now, you have the option of integrating Apple Car Play or Android Auto to get your beats or podcasts up and running. While streaming some music from Youtube, I got the impression that I was playing music back in a recording studio, getting beats ready for my next editorial video. 20 strategically placed speakers make that the sound quality all-encompassing. Furthermore, as “Content is King”, it was pretty apparent in my tester. The rear-seat entertainment system allowed passengers to stream their content wirelessly with compatible mobile devices to one of the 10-inch adjustable screens mounted on the rear of the front seats. The screens were a spectacle and each screen can display different content providing a personalized experience. The end of 6-inch headrest screens, is coming.
For day-to-day living, there’s plenty of storage compartments within the cabin and ample cargo room for all kinds of items including sports equipment, groceries, furniture and more, as both the second and throw rows fold forward offer that added truck real estate for bigger items.
A final detail that I thought was great for families with young adults who drive, is that Lincoln offers up to 4 memory-setting profiles and key fobs— you never have to reconfigure the driver seat, power-folding mirrors, adjustable pedals as well as audio and climate preferences again (because someone else was just driving it). Add puddle lights that welcome you every time, you know the ride is yours and ready to go.
The Navigator in one hell of an expensive treat and undeniably luxurious. Starting at $87,500 for the standard trim, adding options can bring to the price to $103,500 and beyond for a fulling loaded machine. But notwithstanding price, the more that I drove it, the more I realized that it was a vehicle beckoning to be utilized like most SUVs and not taking the stance of Forest Hill showpiece. With that DNA of some tough AWD mudders, the Navigator is game for any form of road experience hence the various drive modes included (Excite, Normal, Conserve, Slippery, Deep Conditions, Snow Climb and Deep Sand). Keeping it pristine isn’t why you drive it. There are enough chrome elements, color options, and design features to make a unique and lasting impression. It’s a vehicle meant for exploration while hauling the people and things that you love. Behind the wheel of this Uber-SUV, you can be the Queen or King of the Road.