Navigating Troubled Waters: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lincoln Navigator
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator.
It is hard to remember now, but the Lincoln Navigator was the first, and for a time, most successful of the big luxury SUVs.  In 1997 (as a 1998 model), it beat Cadillac's Escalade to the market by a full year and sold 44,000 units.  By 2014, sales were down to a point where it would have taken more than five years to sell that many.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Lincoln Navigator
2015 Lincoln Navigator.
Part of the problem was that the Navigator had been neglected by Lincoln---eight model years without a refresh.  The good news is that the refresh is here for 2015, and like its close cousin, the Ford Expedition, which we reviewed a month ago, the changes are substantial.  They are also paying off, with Navigator's year-to-date sales up 65.1% compared to last year at this time. Still, that is only enough to make the Navigator the 75th best-selling SUV of any size or class in America---out of a total of 94.

The cosmetic changes are a big improvement, with a much more attractive new grille and tailgate treatment, as well as a bump up from 18-inch to 20-inch wheels as standard equipment.

Like the Expedition, the Navigator has abandoned V8 power. Its only available engine is the 3.6-liter Ecoboost V6, but it is more powerful than the powerplant it replaces, at 380 horsepower, and EPA fuel economy estimates are improved at 15 city/20 highway.

Interior view of 2015 Lincoln Navigator
2016 Lincoln Navigator interior.
The interior re-design brings a more modern appearance, standard SYNC and MyLincolnTouch, push-button start, a touchscreen for the audio and navigation systems and a backup camera. And like the Expedition, the independent rear suspension makes for a remarkably smooth ride and better third-row access and comfort.

Our test vehicle was a four-wheel drive model, so the base price was $65,055. One option package and an optional paint color drove the price well past the $70,000 mark:

The Reserve Equipment Group ($6,850) upgrades the 20-inch wheels to 22s and adds Lincoln Drive Control, a system that continuously monitors body motion, steering and braking dynamics and adjusts the suspension in response, depending on which of three settings you choose---Comfort, Normal or Sport.

The Ruby Red Metallic Clearcoat paint was an additional $495.  With $995 destination and delivery charges, the as-tested price was $73,395.  Where Lincoln might find an edge is in pricing.  Cadillac's Escalade in four-wheel drive form now starts at $76,565 and in Luxury trim with 22-inch wheels, begins at $80,565. At present, the Escalade is outselling the Navigator by a little less than two-to-one. And Escalade is having a very good year, too, selling 76.1% better than it did at this time in 2014.  It will be interesting to see if the Navigator's refresh gives it enough of a boost to close the gap.