2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label Review - The Family Locomotive

Fast Facts

2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label 4x4

3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (450 hp @ 5500 rpm, 510 lb/ft. @ 3000 rpm)
10-speed automatic transmission, four wheel drive
16 city / 21 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.7 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $94,900 US
As Tested: $96,150 US
Prices include $1,195 destination charge.
2018 lincoln navigator black label review the family locomotive

Do not adjust your monitor. This full-size SUV is indeed painted something other than the piano black of livery companies and Uber drivers trying to emulate livery companies. I didn’t pick anyone up at an airport while driving this beast, nor did I drop passengers at a tony downtown restaurant.

It says something about our world when large luxury SUVs have become the default conveyance for the well-heeled. But this 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label turns that idea on its head, as beneath the the many plush layers is a proper truck, ready to haul in style.

My time with the Navigator was different than my usual banal “commute and haul kids to soccer” week — I had a road trip planned. 500-plus miles, each way, to help some friends at a race in southern New Jersey. While my wallet would have preferred something significantly more fuel efficient than a rig the size of a small house, my back was pleased with the optional Perfect Position seats fitted to this nearly-maxed out Navigator.

Those seats, as well as basically every surface inside and out, were swathed in burgundy. I’m trying and failing to recall the last car I experienced with a burgundy interior — my wife immediately recalled her grandfather’s circa-1986 Town Car. It’s surprising at first, but it’s a welcome change from the black and/or tan toward which most luxury cars have gravitated.

The burgundy leather is part of the Destination theme, one of three themes offered on the Black Label Navigator. A Chalet theme offers what seems to be a ski resort aesthetic, with off-white leather and silver wood trim. I’m partial to the Yacht Club theme, with a medium blue leather and bleached wood meant to evoke a weathered watercraft. I’d like to imagine that the SiriusXM satellite radio in the Yacht Club Navigator has all 18 presets pre-programmed to channel 311 — Yacht Rock — and that Christopher Cross himself will appear to shake your hand as you peruse the foursquare.

Yes, I turned up the volume when Spotify presented me with “Ride Like The Wind” via Bluetooth. Twenty speakers seems overkill for but two ears, but the Revel Ultima sound system made everything sound better. Even the 8-plus hours of historical podcasts I endured for the drive home.

Those 30-way adjustable seats are simply incredible. Between the seats, the power-adjustable steering wheel, and the adjustable pedals, finding a relaxing driving position is simple. I’ll admit to playing with the door-mounted seat adjusters a bit too much during my long drive, merely out of boredom. The dual extending thigh cushions were especially welcome, as I never seem to have enough support at my knees.

Most of my drive time was solo, but I did haul the kids a bit to properly test the Navigator. The third row bench seat, my kids report, is more comfortable than most second rows. My 5’8” wife fit in the third row with room to spare, as well. The second row — the chauffeured row, perhaps? — offers nearly all of the same comforts as those experienced by the driver and front passenger. The Black Label has a center console and a pair of captain’s chairs replacing the second row bench found in more pedestrian models, giving cupholders, audio and HVAC controls, and plenty of storage space for, in my case, the kids. The only negative? That second-row console means the otherwise flat load floor that would come in handy for the occasional lumberyard run is no longer good for sheets of plywood (or a large driver wanting to nap at a Maryland truck stop).

The styling of the Navigator Black Label is about as subtle as a three-ton SUV can get. The corporate grille, resembling a thick chrome moustache, is prominent, as are the flanking headlamps. Other than the distinct horizontal line defining the bodysides, stretching from headlamp to tail lamp, the Navigator is a traditional, elegant, two-box beast.

The details are where the Navigator shines. En route to a date with a South Philly roast pork sandwich, a city sanitation worker motioned for me to roll down the window to ask about the wheels. “Whoa. Are those stock?” Indeed, the impeller-inspired 22-inch wheels are the factory fitment on the Black Label. They might be a bit showy for some, but I’m a fan — as is my new shovel-wielding friend, who quickly snapped a pic while I sat in traffic.

Once I got to the track, I didn’t feel too much out of place. While several of the crew brought their daily drivers, there were plenty of proper large SUVs there, hitched to enclosed trailers. And while Lincoln has eschewed the big V8 for its newest, I have no doubt that this EcoBoost-powered Navigator will appear in paddocks for years to come. Beyond dragging over eight thousand pounds of toys to the track, once the hitch is dropped one can haul the entire pit crew to the local pizza joint in comfort once the track grows cold.

Indeed, this is a brilliant way to haul people in comfort. The independent rear suspension does a great job of soaking up road imperfections and controlling body motions. It’s still a truck, so it’s better suited to the slab than the twisties, but I’d not hesitate to volunteer another 12 hours or so on the interstate.

I was a bit alarmed when I walked through the paddock, shortly before a nor’easter rolled through, and saw that all of the windows had been lowered. Somehow, in my struggles to get all of my gear to the garage, I manipulated the key fob in such a manner as to invoke global opening of the windows. A quick consult of the owners manual disabled that option — the rain coming over the weekend would be nasty, and I’d rather not have a conversation with the nice folks at Lincoln about why I flooded their nearly-$100k truck.

[Get new and used Lincoln Navigator pricing here!]

And that’s the rub — I’m clearly not the target market for this Navigator Black Label. This is for that horse owner, the vintage race car driver, or the boat owner. The driver who has money, doesn’t need to flash it, but needs to haul the family and a bunch of toys on the weekend. A century and a half ago, a family of means like that might have had a private train car with which to travel. The Lincoln Navigator Black Label is that modern train car — with the locomotive included with the package.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 61 comments
  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Nov 13, 2018

    Throw some charcoal gray paint on that bad boy and it would look amazing with the maroon interior. Kind of reminds me of the old school full size Jeep Wagoneers with the maroon leather-and-corduroy seats and DiNoc wood panels on the sides. On the subject of LDS families, I worked with a gentleman who identified as "jack Mormon"...sorta followed the rules, sorta didn't. At any rate, his wife drove what he referred to as a B.M.W., Big Mormon Wagon...a stripped down Dodge Caravan. That was as fancy as they were willing to go.

  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Nov 13, 2018

    Burgundy interior - I'M IN LOVE. Yes I do hope this is a trend. (Buick has a bourbon/whiskey sort of colored interior but only in the Lacrosse.)

  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.
  • Dlc65688410 Please stop, we can't take anymore of this. Think about doing something on the Spanish Pegaso.
  • MaintenanceCosts A few bits of context largely missing from this article:(1) For complicated historical reasons, the feds already end up paying much of the cost of buying new transit buses of all types. It is easier legally and politically to put capital funds than operating funds into the federal budget, so the model that has developed in most US agencies is that operational costs are raised from a combination of local taxes and fares while the feds pick up much of the agencies' capital needs. So this is not really new spending but a new direction for spending that's been going on for a long time.(2) Current electric buses are range-challenged. Depending on type of service they can realistically do 100-150 miles on a charge. That's just fine for commuter service where the buses typically do one or two trips in the morning, park through the midday, and do one or two trips in the evening. It doesn't work well for all-day service. Instead of having one bus that can stay out from early in the morning until late at night (with a driver change or two) you need to bring the bus back to the garage once or twice during the day. That means you need quite a few more buses and also increases operating costs. Many agencies are saying for political reasons that they are going to go electric in this replacement cycle but the more realistic outcome is that half the buses can go electric while the other half need one more replacement cycle for battery density to improve. Once the buses can go 300 miles in all weather they will be fine for the vast majority of service.(3) With all that said, the transition to electric will be very good. Moving from straight diesel to hybrid already cut down substantially on emissions, but even reduced diesel emissions cause real public health damage in city settings. Transitioning both these buses and much of the urban truck fleet to electric will have measurable and meaningful impacts on public health.