Lincoln Hopes to Get Back on Track with Navigator Makeover

Production model a year away.

by on Mar.23, 2016

The Lincoln Navigator Concept makes its splashy debut at the 2016 NY Auto Show.

When it first rolled into showrooms in 1997, luxury car buyers had never seen anything like it. That first Lincoln Navigator was big and brash and decidedly American. It was an instant hit — in the process spawning an assortment of imitations. And somehow, the full-size luxury SUV ran off track.

All but set to abandon the nameplate entirely, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury division launched a less than compelling update two years ago – and more than a decade after the last full Navigator makeover. But Lincoln may finally be ready to get it right, at least if the concept version of the luxury SUV debuting at this week’s New York International Auto Show is any indication.

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The Lincoln Navigator Concept is even more over-the-top than the original luxury ute, with twin gull-wing doors and three-step fold-out running boards. But while a number of the show car’s features won’t get beyond the show car stage, Lincoln officials acknowledge, the Navigator Concept suggests there’ll be a lot to like about the production version coming sometime next year.

Like the Navigator Concept, the production model will use a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6.

“This kind of quiet luxury sets Lincoln apart,” said Kumar Galhotra, president of the luxury brand. “Now, we’re showing fans of large SUVs how we can exceed their expectations, without being the loudest statement on the road.”

(Click Here to see how Lincoln’s new ad campaign is going to the dogs.)

At least in show car form, the Lincoln Navigator Concept appears to be a bit longer than the current production model – somewhere between the standard and extended versions of its key competitor, the Cadillac Escalade.

The new model features a more modern design, picking up some necessary aerodynamic cues, as well as the distinctive new grille that debuted on the updated Lincoln MKZ and which will become the new “face” of the brand.

With upstart rival Tesla Motors opting for rear gull-wing doors on its new Model X, the idea of opting for a similar approach on the Navigator might not seem so unrealistic – even if the Navigator Concept’s doors yawned wide enough to cover both the SUV’s first and second rows. But, in fact, “gullwing doors are always over the top,” said Galhotra, shooting down that idea.

The gull-wing doors make it easy to peak at the Navigator Concept's roomy, lavish interior.

The 3-step running boards also will be abandoned by production time, it seems. And the unusual, pedestal-mounted seats will opt for a bit more traditional construction.

One feature we’d love to see carried over – but likely won’t – is what Ford describes as, “A custom wardrobe management system (that) holds gear chosen for a day on the water.”

But, as Lincoln has shown, it will still come up with a classy interior, including such innovative touches as the split front seat that allows a driver to adjust things slightly for each leg.

The concept takes what we’ve seen with the recently remade MKX crossover to another level of refinement. It also adds an array of connected car technologies. And there’s an even more sophisticated version of the Revel audio system that Lincoln has begun offering as a top-line option. WiFi, Apple Car Play and other technologies have been added.

A closer look at the Navigator Concept's IP.

One of the big disappointments with the current Lincoln Navigator was the dearth of advanced safety technology. Not even Active Cruise Control or Forward Collision Warning. The Concept – and the production Navigator – goes even further with auto-braking with pedestrian detection. There’s a 360-degree camera, a lane-keeping system that vibrates the steering wheel to alert drivers, and the truck will gently nudge itself back into its lane.

In the early days of the Navigator, you couldn’t imagine it powered by anything less than a V-8. The Concept opts for a twin-turbo V-6 making even more power, however, a full 400 hp. Lincoln insiders whisper that this powertrain package will carry over into the production model.

(Maserati joins luxury SUV segment with debut of Levante. Click Here for a look.)

There are no plans for a plug-in hybrid – for now, but Galhotra told that is “something, we consider constantly.”

On the record, Lincoln officials are reluctant to talk about what they’ll deliver to showrooms, or even when the Navigator remake will go into production, though that’s likely to be within about a year. We could see a more real-world version make its debut at next autumn’s L.A. Auto Show, or Detroit in January 2017. Another option would be to wait for the Shanghai Motor Show in 2017. That’s not an off-the-wall idea, as Lincoln now sees China becoming its fastest-growing market.

(Click Here for a review of the all-new Cadillac XT5 SUV.)

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One Response to “Lincoln Hopes to Get Back on Track with Navigator Makeover”

  1. JAE says:

    Too bad some of the styling and interior design won’t make it on here or on any proper RWD sedan, or preferably a Continental Mark coupe.

    I do like the color however.

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