Review: 2012 Lincoln Navigator

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
review 2012 lincoln navigator

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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  • Tstag Tstag on Feb 16, 2012

    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!

    • Multicam Multicam on Feb 24, 2012

      Well yeah, I'd rather walk than be seen dead in ANY car now that I think about it.

  • Nick Nick on Feb 28, 2012

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

  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
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