Owning a luxury car is not about how fast you go or how much you spend. It's about how special you feel and how many stories you can tell about your car.
Against all odds, Lincoln appears to have figured that out. The new 2018 Lincoln Navigator SUV is steeped in the knowledge, full of details you initially miss, only to find them delightful upon discovery.
I recently tested a top of the line Navigator Black Label loaded with those goodies.
Lincoln completely reworked the Navigator this year. It's new from stem to stern, from high-strength steel frame to 30-way seats, Apple CarPlay and aluminum body panels.
Really, 30-way seats? Lincoln counts fore and aft for each cushion as two ways (misleading, perhaps), but even being able to adjust 15 things on a seat is crazy.
Those are big changes, but the things that will help most as the Navigator tries to claw back to the top of the luxury-SUV market are smaller touches an owner may not notice until they've had the big SUV for a few weeks. This includes diamond stitching on the inner side of a grab handle; laser-burned pinpricks in the Khaya wood trim. Khaya wood? That's African mahogany, don't you know? And if you don't, you just made the day of an owner who will be delighted to tell you all about it.
The 2018 Navigator is also big, quiet and powerful. There are two models, the 210-inch-long Navigator and 221.9-inch long-wheelbase Navigator L. Prices start at $72,055 and $80,750, respectively.
Long-wheelbase models typically account for about 30 percent of Navigator sales. Black Label is Lincoln's top trim level. Black label vehicles come with special, high-end interiors and loaded with features like 20-speaker Revel audio.
I tested an all-wheel-drive regular-wheelbase Navigator Black Label with burgundy paint and interior trim. It stickered at $95,375.
The 2018 model is the first all-new Navigator in more than a decade. It uses a high-strength steel frame similar to that of the Ford F-150 pickup, but adds an independent rear suspension – Lincoln's hallmark in this segment.
The suspension creates extra legroom for passengers in the third row of seats. The Navigator is one of the rare SUVs that can accommodate adults in all three rows. The new one is a couple of inches longer than the 2017 model, but avoids looking oversize because of several horizontal lines running along its sides. Aluminum body panels are new, and help reduce weight about 200 pounds from the outgoing model.
The Navigator is remarkably quiet for such a large SUV, thanks to active noise cancellation and suspension tuning that also delivers a smooth, cushioned ride.
Other mechanical features include a 450-hp 3.5L twin-turbo V6 that delivers an amazing 510 pound-feet of torque at just 3,000 rpm for smooth acceleration. A 10-speed transmission shifts quickly and seamlessly. The shifter is controlled by horizontal "piano key" switches placed low in the center stack.
The Black Label package on my test vehicle included deep red "burgundy velvet" paint and a matching interior. The leather seats and trim have contrasting stitching. Even the inner sides of the front-door grab-handles have the same pattern stitches on their seams.
That's what designers call a "third read" feature. You're not likely to notice it in the showroom or the first week you own the car, but it catches your eye later, you'll nod and appreciate Lincoln's attention to detail.
Another feature that gets better the more you know about it are the highlights in the deep red Khaya mahogany. As in all other cars, the wood is a thin veneer over a piece of metal. The highlights are created by using a laser to burn tiny holes in the wood. The holes get bigger and the color of the underlying metal changes the longer the laser is focused on a single spot. The size and color of the dots change progressively as they move from one end of the piece of trim to the other.
The center console is exceptionally wide and accommodating, but it's covered in a single strip of wood from the large Khaya trees, so the grain flows uninterrupted from front to back.
The headliner is a suede-like material that looks and feels like the Alcantara luxury brands have used before, but it's Dynamica, from a new supplier because Alcantara doesn't make rolls of material wide enough to cover the roof of a Navigator.
A wide head-up display changes automatically when the driver adjusts the gauges below it, so as to not duplicate what you see on the instrument panel.
While only the driver can see the HUD, another special feature is visible only to people outside the Navigator: The Lincoln badge on the grille lights up a soft blue-white when the car is running.
Features like that can become a laughing stock if they're associated with a dull, average vehicle, but Lincoln's attention to detail makes the 2018 Navigator anything but that. It announces itself as it arrives, and lives up to the fanfare.
2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label
Vehicle type: Large luxury SUV
Base price: $72,055
Price as tested: $95,375
Key Competitors: Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX, Mercedes GL
Engine tested: 3.5L twin-turbo V6
Power: 450 hp at 5,500 rpm, 510 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city/ 20 highway/18 combined.
Wheelbase: 122.5 ins.
Length: 210.0 ins.
Curb weight: 5,855 lbs.
Assembly site: Louisville, Ky.
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