2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label Review - The Family Locomotive

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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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.)

  • RICK Lou, not sure about panthers and Cougars , BUT at 76,I now consider myself a vintage Rolls Canardly. I roll down one hill and Canardly get up the next! Wishing you a Very Happy, Merry HanaKwanzaMas. 🎅🎄
  • Lou_BC The dealbreaker for me is the $80k starting price in Canada.
  • Zipper69 The Grenadier was designed ground up to be a "better Land Rover" and by most press accounts comes close.What little we know about the Quartermaster it's clear that it's intended for serious off road work without additional aftermarket fettling needed.The price is clearly a barrier, but IF it's the real deal, it will have a slot in the market.
  • Michael Charging more for less. Hmmmm
  • FreedMike Meanwhile, over at Nissan, you can get a perfectly nice, well equipped Frontier four-door that has a V-6, 4wd, and is capable of all the "truck stuff" you could ever want for $36,000. And unlike the "pay over sticker or go f**k yourself" nonsense you get at the Toyota place, the Nissan store will probably happily make you a nice deal.