By on February 14, 2012

There was a time when the Lincoln Navigator was the hottest SUV going, an epoch that coincided with the “shiny suit era” of rap music. From a peak of nearly 39,000 sold in 2003, Lincoln sold just 8018 in 2011.

An anecdote related to me by a former Ford PR exec has it that Lincoln and P. Diddy were going to collaborate on a product placement/endorsement deal – Ford gave P. Diddy a Navigator, and P. Diddy then became involved a nightclub shooting that tarnished the reputation of the music mogul himself and his then boo Jennifer Lopez. P. Diddy protegé (and recent convert to Orthodox Judaism) Shyne took the rap for the shooting, and Ford pulled the deal. Why does this bizarre footnote merit a mention? Because Diddy then adopted the Cadillac Escalade as his vehicle of choice, and everyone with any pop culture exposure knows that the Escalade is the car to have for anyone who has suddenly come in to money. The Navigator became an instant also-ran, while Cadillac’s brand was at a high point not seen since the days of tail fins.

Despite cutting a bold figure, the Navigator’s utilitarian pickup truck roots are immediately apparent after climbing aboard, as you step up from the F-Series sourced power running boards and sit in the cushy driver’s seat. There are plenty of parts bin interior pieces here, and the blonde wood, tobacco tan leather upholstery, analog clock and retro typeface gauges are ostensibly designed to evoke a sort of 1960′s Mad Men feel. The Navigator is no 1963 Continental – if anything, its Betty Draper’s Country Squire station wagon with a dose of nouveau riche vulgarity, thanks to the shiny latticework of the grille and the chrome dubs mounted at all 4 corners.

The 5.4L modular V8 isn’t a bad powerplant, with 310 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque on tap. The biggest handicap is Ford’s 6-speed automatic, which felt like an antiquated 4-speed until the spec sheet shed light on the extra two gears. On minor inclines, the transmission hunted for gears repeatedly, and kickdowns were slow and clumsy. With the 2WD setting engaged, I saw a whopping 10 mpg in the city and that’s with conservative throttle applications. $100 was barely enough to fill the Lincoln’s gargantuan gas tank. On brief highway drives, window noise seemed excessive for a luxury vehicle, and it seemed to come through the A-Pillar much like it would on an economy car. The Navigator handles as expected – tracking solidly in a straight line, soaking up bumps efficiently, feeling top-heavy but stable during directional changes.

Ford’s SYNC system with an in-dash touch screen was standard, and the system seems to have a fair number of bugs and glitches worked out. The THX certified stereo sounded crisp at high volumes, and rap music had just the right amount of obnoxious bass to render the music clear and audible to pedestrians who scowled at me while they walked past. A back-up camera and front and rear park assist systems helped maneuver the Navigator into tight spaces, a boon for soccer moms who may take the Navigator to gentrified urban neighborhoods designed before the mass adoption of the automobile.

The best place to be in a Navigator is the back seat. There’s ample room for your person in both the second and third row, though truck space is severely compromised unless the third row is folded. Luckily, there are power folding systems for the last two seats, and a power tailgate option when you’re finished.

When the Navigator first debuted, car magazines still came with mail-away cards for customers to order brochures. What a quaint notion. Even sales of the once-mighty Escalade are in the toilet, as consumers move away from profligate body-on-frame SUVs to the  car-based CUV. As an ironic novelty, the Navigator might be acceptable as a potential purchase, but I just can’t fathom why one would buy this over an Expedition (if they needed to tow a boat) or any number of crossovers out there that are better than the Navigator in every objective area. The Range Rover, an equally ostentatious (and much better engineered) vehicle has stolen the title of the official vehicle of gauche showoffs from both the Navigator and it’s Cadillac counterpart. The Navigator isn’t likely to die any time soon, as it’s a great source of profit for Ford. Ironically, for a vehicle so clearly engineered in the dreadful pre-Mulally era of Ford, the Navigator arguably has the strongest and most unique identity within Lincoln’s otherwise uninspiring lineup. Maybe keeping it around isn’t such a bad thing after all?

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75 Comments on “Review: 2012 Lincoln Navigator...”


  • avatar

    A driver I get to the airport with some regularity has one of these along with several Town Cars in his fleet. After one very trucky 40 minute ride, I asked him to note that he could leave it home when I called for a lift. I’ve ridden in the Escalade as well and it is no better. While I cannot profess to actually like my son’s new Land Cruiser, it is a more comfortable ride than either of these behemoths.

    It’s a good thing they’re making money on it.

    • 0 avatar

      The Lincoln has independent rear suspension. The Escalade is still using a live axle/multilink in the rear. Though the Escalade is faster, the Navigator is cheaper, has better ride and makes more sense as a people hauler/tower.

      My uncle has a 2010. He’s dismayed there is nothing scheduled to replace it cause he has a big family.

      Escalade sales are “in the toilet” cause that damn thing costs over $70,000. Meanwhile the SRX which is just $40K sales are up.

  • avatar
    lungchin

    really? a 2012 navigator review? –

    how about you review something relevant? – like the LR evoque? – something that hasnt been around forever – something thats actually interesting & fresh

    • 0 avatar

      Unlike Wu-Tang, TTAC is not for the children. There’s an Evoque review around the corner. In the mean time, I’ve got CARS on Blu-Ray for you.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Hahahahahaha and RIP ODB

      • 0 avatar
        LKre

        Derek, I have been a reader since 2006 or 2007, and I have never seen a writer’s response like the one you gave here to lungchin. I dont know what made you decide to review this absolutely irrelevant vehicle, but I am even more puzzled by your tone. It very easily could have been me instead of him. (Unless you two know each other and accept the tone and the reference to Wu-Tang.) If this site is “not for the children,” maybe you should keep this light side of yours under the lid, under a blanket, or whatever. Together with that Blue-Ray disc.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Careful, snarky responses from Ed are the beginnings of the Car & Driver disease.

        BTW, I still like my CTS Sportwagon.

      • 0 avatar
        JMays

        lungchin is spot-on with this. Derek – maybe time to review one of the Ford/Lincoln SUVs that were designed within the last decade? What’s up next…a review of the ‘new’ Chevette?! Yawn…

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @JMays:

        ‘What’s up next…a review of the ‘new’ Chevette?! Yawn…’

        A valid point, however…if Derek was born when I was (which judging by his rhetoric was), the only Chevettes he likely saw growing up were the ones driven by the working poor with rotted out rockers, doors and exhaust.

        The Chevette was a micro-chasm of the (first) Malaise era, driven by people who honestly couldn’t afford a better ride. The Sonic comes to mind in this instance…

    • 0 avatar
      Brunsworks

      To me, the entire thesis of the review is, “Oh, look what’s still around after all these years.”

      That said, regardless of its other merits, I cannot get past the rubbish front grille on this machine.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Might not be the most relevant vehicle out there, but I’d rather read a review of something that isn’t splashed all over every other blog/website/magazine/whatever. If anything, I thought this review was a bit too protracted and information-thin.

        I’d prefer to read reviews of “the rest” to the Hottest New Thing (R) which everybody and his brother is reviewing right now.

      • 0 avatar
        agroal

        Why all the hating for the Chevette? I was in a Chevette the very first time I ever made love. I was all alone at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      changsta

      I agree with lungchin. A review of the 2012 Lincoln Navigator is irrelevant… especially in light of the fact the Michael Karesh reviewed one a few months ago.

      There has definitely been a delay in reviewing some of the newer models. The Range Rover Evoque being one of them, but more notably, there still has not been a proper in depth review of the new Honda CR-V. It is also kind of funny that you state that “TTAC is not for children” when an increasing amount of your references in articles are related to modern pop culture.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Aye, if these beasts at least rode as softly and in as isolating way as their 60s forebearers at least there would be a reason to buy one.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I bet if the renamed it “MKExpedition” it would sell like hotcakes!

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Coming from a GM family, with a few Toyotas in my personal history, I never understood the ‘slade or the ‘gator.

    I have no idea what makes a Escalade worth 70 grand when you can drive off in essentially the same car, a Yukon, for less than 45 grand. The Gator is the same way. What gives it so much premium over a standard Ford SUV? I can’t think of one, and I bet most drivers couldn’t tell the difference from the driver’s seat of a leather equipped Tahoe/Yukon or Expedition from the upscale models. All of the difference is in Detroit’s pockets, in a stupid new money way only gangsta rappers could spend.

    I’d argue the ONLY GM SUV with a characteristic drive quality is the truckish 2500HD ‘burban with leafs in the back. Ever since Ford killed the Excursion, they have no such beast in their livery.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      A Yukon? What the hell is that?

      Everyone knows what an Escalade is! The dream car of many (idiots) is a dark Escalade on 22″ Giovannis (or insert any obnoxious bling bling rims).

      I don’t see anyone of note drive a Yukon.

      • 0 avatar
        Mrb00st

        Which is why it’s so funny that the average median income of Yukon Denali buyers is higher than that of Escalade buyers. I will leave out the jokes about food stamps fitting nicely in the Escalade’s cupholders, because this isn’t Autoblog, but I will say there’s a butt for every seat.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Rob Dyrdek had that pretty neat all-black one on “Rob & Big.” Of course, that was a few years ago… Almost made the big-eyed, surprised Yukon (in my eyes the worst-looking of the big GM SUVs) decent.

        I’ve also heard “Denali” dropped in some rhymes over the past few years. Might be Escalade Jr., but it’s something. I don’t think many rappers are riding around in or rapping about Suburbans or Expeditions.

        Anyone else remember Tupac’s reference to his “Eddie Bauer?” THAT makes me feel old… If I’m not mistaken, Ford entirely killed off the EB trim after the ’11 Explorer debuted. Not sure if they still offered it on the Expedition or not. Just saw an Aerostar Eddie Bauer in traffic yesterday, with requisite rust holes in the rear quarters. The Aerostar was one of the first vehicles sold in the US with a 5-speed automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      FJ60: Both the Expedition and Navigator have an XL version that was the Excursion

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The Excursion was a completely different platform from the Expedition/Navigator. The Excursion was based on the Super Duty chassis while the Expedition/Navigator have always been based on the F-150. GM’s HD trucks share more in common with the half ton models than Ford’s Super Duty vs F-150.

        The Expedition EL and Navigator L are the same platform as the regular length versions, just with a 12″ stretched wheelbase and the additional length added to the rear cargo area behind the 3rd row seat.

        Excursions still demand a premium on the used market in any kind of decent condition. Every time we’ve had one traded in we’ve been able to sell it within a week.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        When I was still in the AF, I worked with a female Major who drove an Excursion (or was it an expedition?) It was the obnoxiously big ugly one.

        As far as I can remember, she was single, lived on base, and had no kids. I never could figure out why a 5’3″ (not so attractive) woman needed such a large, expensive, and gluttonous vehicle…

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        Nullo, the 4×4 diesels and the V10′s are indeed very valuable. But most people don’t realize that the 7.3L diesel was more reliable than the 6.0. If I ever wanted Ford to resurrect a truck, it’d be the Super Duty based Excursion, especially with the over-the-top design of the current Supers. If you MUST have an SUV and still tow a crap-ton I prefer one of these monsters over the 2500HD ‘burban (the only remaining beast of its kind).

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I went to high school with a docter’s son – only child – whose parents both drove Excursions. The father’s was the V10, the mother’s the diesel. I don’t believe they had a boat or a camping trailer, and like I said, total of three in the family. The V10 was forest green and the diesel was maroon, both EB trims with the gold lower cladding. They would occasionally swap vehicles. I remember being astounded at how cheap and ugly the itnerior was. Sure, fake leather… But the dash looked and felt like it came from a ’93 Escort!

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Oof… Doctor**

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez

    What a fun read. I laughed out loud several times.

    The “shiny suit era” of rap music was truly the beginning of the end.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I cannot say I really care for these big barges, but I enjoyed one I had as a rental…partly due to the driving conditions.

    I was “upgraded” to a Navigator in MSP, heading to easter South Dakota for a wind farm project. 5 hrs of driving and I was pretty refreshed getting out, of course stopping in a few small towns, the vehicle did me no favors. Either it was the black Lincoln, the Illinois plates (this was during the last election period), or wearing my company’s logo on my shirt. Well, after a 3 long days of meetings and field work, the drive back was pretty relaxing. Great HID headlights, a nice stereo, get up to 80 quicker than my Acura TL and set the cruise…made it back in time for my flight.

    I didn’t realize I had just made “silver medallion” on Delta, but enjoyed another American perk: first class on the way home. Scotch please.

    Definitely not a vehicle I would ever own, but it’s the right vehicle sometimes. Just like the Town Car was and Lincoln should be.

    Oh, and I did get a surcharge for the vehicle being “excessively” dirty. I did request a 4WD.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I meant to add, I achieved about 16mpg while cruising on the way to Brookings. On regular non-ethanol gasoline. In SD, you can get E85 and the Navigator allows/ed for such so I tried it. I averaged 11mpg with similiar driving and weather conditions. I don’t mean to spark any arguements and don’t believe in many several gov’t subsidies but that little trip made it clear that ethanol is not the way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      Been through Brookings. Hope you took the US-14 bypass, otherwise you’re stuck in town for 45min. :)

      P.S. I might’ve passed you after town, I was the douchebag in the tan Malibu with MN plates…lol

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        The was going on 4 years ago, wind farms were in Brookings (and north as well) so I didn’t take the bypass.

        Doubt it, the only delta-bravo I ran across was someone driving an EVO on I-80 eastbound. Apparently he didn’t like my barge sucking that ethanol down at 80 mph. Like I said, the bi-xenon headlights are really great.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        +1. Bet those shined right into the greenhouse of the much lower Evo…lol

  • avatar
    ajla

    Who has been in charge of programming Ford’s automatic transmissions since 2007? And why have they not yet been thrown into an active volcano?

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      no need for volcanos!

      they all got jobs at GM Powertrain!

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota can be just as bad. I had to live with a transvertial 4sp at RAV4.3 for 4 years and hated every minute. Although, my wife’s Lexus has a longitudal 6sp automatic, which is much nicer. Cannot compare it to Ford due to lack of experience, but one surprising thing I noticed in the article is that Derek even had to mention it. Firstly, it’s a luxury truck, how does he even know that tranny hunts? In that Lexus, I can only tell by bringing up the current gear display, unless I really start push where I can hear the engine. Is there jerking when shifting? With 6 cogs and electronic throttle there should not be.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        One positive is most of post millenium Ford transmissions are pretty durable.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I remember the 5A on a Matrix 2.4L being pretty bad, and GM isn’t going to win any awards, but I personally think Ford is the worst.

        I’ve been told that the new Ford automatic transmissions are supposed to “learn” your driving style over time, which will theoretically cure the hunting and occasional flat-out refusal to downshift.

        I don’t know how long this takes, but the original programming is awful.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      So THAT explains the Cruze’s and Sonic’s trans programming!

      They may have also played a role in Chrysler’s 4 cylinder/automatic programming.

      Everytime I swap from a Cruze or Fusion into a Galant or Corolla, I wonder… Why don’t they make automatics that feel like they’re cooperating with you anymore – or at least not TRYING to make your life harder?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A Land Rover product may be better engineered but that is not saying much. Build quality is still lacking and they routinely hit the lists of the most unreliable vehicle. That said I just don’t get this market…none of these have any appeal to me….

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      yeah the thing is reliability would probably be an issue if you are too poor and the Range Rover is your only car

      I laugh because there’s a lot of Evoques ending up on flatbed trucks and yet they still sell like mad.

      JLR products seem to transcend mere reliability.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    whatever…I know youz guyz are bloggers and all but can someone proof read the articles before publication? I think you’re averaging two spelling errors per article, one is usually a simple misspelling, the other more of a than/then and its/it’s nature. Painful to read. Thanks.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    When it comes to the Escalade vs. Navigator, both have strengths over the other. The Escalade has the better powertrain right now, but the Navigator has the better interior packaging.

    You still have to remove the third row seat to get a flat load floor on the ‘Slade, which is a 2 person job unless you’re a power lifter. The Navigator has 2nd and 3rd row seats that are not only fit for adults, but comfortable for adults, in the ‘Slade anyone approaching 6′ is going to be miserable in the third row.

    If you want a Navigator, do yourself a favor and buy the L version that gives you an extra 12″ of wheelbase to smooth out the ride, along with an extra 12″ of cargo room in the back with all of the seats up, and pony up for the heavy duty trailer tow package to get the load leveling rear air suspension that will help with the ride as well.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    why on earth is this thing still saddled with the stone age 5.4L? WHY??? ITS BEEN TWO YEARS SINCE THE 2011 F-150 CAME OUT, HELL PUT THE DAMN 3.7L V6 AND ITS BETTER THEN THE 5.4L. *takes a breath*

  • avatar
    Lee

    In other news, there is still such a thing as a Lincoln Navigator

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    “$100 was barely enough to fill the Lincoln’s gargantuan gas tank.”

    Sorry, but that is one of the stupidest comments I have ever seen in a car review. What, you would prefer they put in a tank that only cost $25 to fill? Sure, you’ll just have to fill said tank about once a day! My old Suburban had a 42 gallon tank, my new one only has 31. I long for the old 42 gallon job…

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Actually, you just made Derek’s point for him: these things are ridiculously thirsty for anyone accustomed to driving more efficient vehicles. It wasn’t a criticism of the Navigator’s tank capacity, it was an acknowledgment of how expensive it is to fuel it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      Which directly came after the sentence the beast only gets 10 mpg…

      It helps to put things in perspective.

      What exactly does 10 mpg mean? Well if gas is about four dollars a gallon, and 100 dollars puts about 25 gallons in the tank, and you drive 250 miles a week, gas for this POS is gonna cost you 5200 a year..

      Yeah yeah, I know. If you can afford a 70K vehicle you can afford 5K for gas a year, blah blah blah.

  • avatar

    The Navigator and the Range Rover Supercharged are both in the $100 dollar a tank club and both get abysmal fuel economy. At least the Range Rover has a supercharged V8 making 510 hp. The Navigator’s 5.4 is an inefficient dog.

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Thanks Derek for the article. I’m learning something new as I have no idea Ford is still making Navigator.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    STILL on the official Lincoln site, Town Car starts at a paltry $47k. $47K! For a cop car! (BTW, an interceptor would set a ‘civilian’ back about $28k).

    Off the top of my head, $47k would buy, among MANY others;
    Acura RL or MDX, Caddy STS, Camaro ZL1, Challenger SRT8, almost a base Corvette, what does a Morgan cost again?….

    How the hell does Ford still justify the Navigator being built? Oh right, they just recently killed the Crown Vic/Marquis/Town Car AND Ranger. Both of which were designed during the malaise (courtesy President Peanut). Mulally has his work cut out for him, and UAW certainly isn’t going to help.

    Could you imagine the backlash if GM would’ve kept building the orca-body Caprice/Custom Cruiser/Roadmaster/Fleetwood through 2011 and THEN asked for a taxpayer bailout? Damn, there I go again…:)

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    No one complains about filling the tank when you’re used to a vehicle of this size. Gas may cost $4/gallon, but you can buy ALL you want. During the oil embargo in the 1970s, gas was cheap ($.40/gallon) BUT you had to wait in line to buy a limit of 10 gallons. You can’t have it both ways.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Simple, it’s dropped in sales because they’ve uglified it, compared to the previous generation which had a much more attractive and cohesive design than this one’s. And at least the one pictured above does not have the ridiculous aftermarket add-on looking chrome side band. Now, THAT’s attrocious!

    • 0 avatar

      If the Rhinocerous-lookin’ Infiniti can sell, anything can. The Navigator looks ridiculous because of all the chrome. If you black out the grill and remove the chrome accents, it is passible.

      Part of the reason it’s a hard sale is because no one needs a truck this big.

      #2 It costs over $55,000 in a market where there are numerous choices that offer more than half the Navigator’s interior space.

      #3 The market would rather spend that same $55K on a BMWX or a ML350.

    • 0 avatar
      naterator

      Thank you! I thought I was alone in thinking that about the chrome side band and godawful front end. And don’t forget about the acres upon acres of “klassy” nickel-satin trim. Man, I hate the 2007+ models. That being said, the 2005-2006 ‘gators have to be one of the best values on the market, with a price of entry significantly less than $20k. Strongly considering replacing the wife’s XJ with one when the second kid gets here.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    @bigtruckseries:
    “If the Rhinocerous-lookin’ Infiniti can sell, anything can.”

    Touché, heck of a good point. Now, there’s an ugly truck…

  • avatar

    I drove an Escalade Hybrid back in September and found it surprising in that it cost $86 grand and got about 20mpg according to the EPA (I don’t normally measure fuel economy myself unless I really have to). This thing’s trash for the most part.

    But, I’d avoid the both of them and the Land Rover for the simple reason taht they’re getting outdated at this point. Range Rovers are stupidly unreliable–my neighbor’s got one and it’s replaced with a loaner at least twice a month, which is pathetic when one knows he’s only had it a year.

    My pick? Get a diesel Audi Q7. It’s cheaper and gets better mileage, and it can still tow.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    The all new Aluminium RR is coming this year with much improved fuel economy so there really will be no excuse to buy one.

    Reliability you may say? Who cares buy a BMW or Toyota if you care about it that much? I mean seriously the reason Europeans avoid cars from brands like Lincoln is because they see pictures of cars like this. I’d rather walk than be seen dead in this!

  • avatar
    Nick

    Toronto has a withering gauche index. The day this bloated, cheesy pimpmobile and its Escalade counterpart are extinct can’t come to soon.


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