2018 Lincoln Navigator Review: Brash 3-Row SUV Royalty

  • Styling is as ostentatious as you'd hope
  • 3.5L V6 is smooth and potent
  • 10-speed transmission is accurate and discreet
  • Vast cabin has very road-trip-friendly seats
  • Rear looks like the designers left work early
  • Corners confirm this is a big, heavy SUV
  • No air suspension means bad roads can unsettle things

Big, lavish SUVs are big, money-making business right now, and little screams comfortable excess like the Lincoln Navigator. Two decades of the automaker's burly people-carrier – punctuated with appearances in rap songs and spats with Cadillac's Escalade – have seen it both grow-up and glow-up, but it's with the arrival of the fourth-generation that the Navigator has truly reclaimed its ostentatious identity.

Like the Continental before it, the Navigator gets Lincoln's big, bold grille and goes to town with chrome. The Lincoln badge juts proudly from matching mesh, flanked by huge headlamps with double hockey-stick daytime running lights. It's imposing, brash, and – given it'll be centered in the rear window of a lot of other traffic – unmistakable.

From there back things get a little less defined. The slab-sided doors have none of the charm of the Continental, with its sinuous ribbon that flexes into elegant door handles. Instead, the Navigator finishes up with an oversized light bar that spans the width of the trunk. Coupled with the blacked-out rear pillars, there's something of the Ford Flex about it.

That's not a comparison you want to be making when you're talking about a luxury SUV which starts in the low-70s, but spirals up to over $95,000 in the Navigator Black Label form you see here.

Inside, leather the color of fresh liver wraps some seriously meaty thrones. Lincoln calls the hue "Mahogany Red" and it's matched with the headliner and the carpet; it's like sitting inside an exceedingly plush abattoir. Khaya wood on the dashboard themes well, though the Navigator's heavy-handed varnish gives it the gloss of plastic. Open pore would've been so much better.

It's a hit with the eyes, but not so much when your fingers get to touching. That's when you realize most of the shiny chrome is in fact shiny chrome-effect plastic. Worse still, there are some oddly unfinished chunks of trim, along with a few edges that are sharper than I'd like to feel.

A 10-inch touchscreen atop the center console gets a straightforward UI. It's Ford's Sync 3, yes, but dressed up in a Lincoln-specific theme. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a WiFi hotspot to share the car's 4G LTE connection. Those with shorter arms might find it a stretch to reach, however, given the sheer width of the Navigator.

There are buttons for the key features on the steering wheel, and behind it a 12-inch digital instrumentation panel. Unlike other automakers, Lincoln takes an exceedingly minimalistic approach to its virtual dials: you don't get tiny maps or masses of information, just some spartan gages that glow within the darkened cluster.

Minimalism doesn't describe the Perfect Position seats, however, a $1,250 option. Driver and front passenger get 30 ways of adjustment apiece, the contours wrapping around them with the intimate embrace of an Alien face-hugger. I'm not joking when I say you could spend a solid five minutes tweaking each of the settings to perfectly suit your imperfect body.

Those in the second row get captain's chairs though not the vast flexibility; they'll have to sate their need for buttons with the Black Label's dedicated HVAC control panel in the center armrest, instead. The third row seats three, and while it's the most cramped spot in the car, all things are relative when you're talking about an SUV that's 17.5 feet in length.

Seats power-fold, either accommodating adult-sized passengers or expanding the 19.3 cubic feet of trunk to 57.5 cubic feet with the third row flattened. Drop the second row, and that grows to 103.3 cubic feet, though the captain's chairs don't collapse fully for a completely flat load floor. If you need more, there's up to 8,300 pounds of towing capacity, too.

On the road, the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 musters 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, controlled with a row of surreptitious silver toggles running across the center console. Gearshifts are equally discreet, the Navigator slurring between the ratios in the manner least likely to be noticed.

The Navigator Black Label gets four-wheel drive as standard, while Premiere, Select, and Reserve trims offer 4WD as an option over rear-wheel drive. It leaves the big SUV impressively sure-footed, while the heavily-assisted steering belies the overall heft. There's no disguising it in the corners, mind: carry too much speed into a turn and you can give yourself a fright, and not in the good way.

Better, then, to squeeze out power on the straights, the Navigator bursting forward capably, then rely on the equally-capable brakes to shed that pace before the next curve. Lincoln's Adaptive Suspension (CCD) is standard, and does a decent job of hiding road imperfections, though the air suspension on other SUVs still out-performs it. At times, and on the wrong asphalt, the Navigator can wallow and lurch. 22-inch wheels look great, but you pay for that in the ride.

Forget the "S" in SUV, then, and instead appreciate the Navigator as a lavish way to road-trip in style. The cavernous interior, full-throated Revel Ultima audio system with 20-speakers, and active noise control all conspire to make this one of the best ways to transport a handful of adult-scale passengers, without the usual fighting over who sits where.