2023 Lincoln Navigator Review

2023 Lincoln Navigator - Navigator finds its true North as a posh, comfortable and luxurious SUV.


Lincoln's largest vehicle, the Navigator, is a full-size, body-on-frame SUV that seats 7 or 8 passengers and comes in two lengths, regular and extended. Most recently redesigned in 2018, Navigator has seen some impressive changes since, including a revised infotainment system, the addition of ventilated and massaging second-row seats, and Lincoln's hands-free driving system, called Active Glide. Navigator competes with the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon Denali, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Lexus LX, Toyota Sequoia Capstone.

Trim levels include Base, Reserve and Black Label. All models are powered by a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. That engine mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on Base and Reserve. Standard on the Black Label and optional on others is full-time 4-wheel drive with low range. The standard-length model has a wheelbase of 122.5 inches and an overall length of 210 inches. Extended models, called Navigator L, have a 131.6-inch wheelbase and 231.9-inch overall length.

The Base model sells for $80,000, Reserve $92,000 and Black Label $108,000. Extended-length models add about $3,000 to the bottom line. Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with brake intervention and steering assist, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, surround-view camera, front- and rear-parking sensors and automated parking system. Also included on the base model is a 13.2-inch touch screen for the infotainment system, wireless support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play, wireless smartphone charging tray, heated and ventilated front- and second-row seats, power folding second- and third-row seats, tri-zone climate control, adaptive LED headlights, 20-inch aluminum wheels, power running boards, hands-free tailgate and adaptive suspension.

Considering Navigator's overall size and prestigious 6,000-pound curb weight performance can be impressive. With just a driver aboard, Navigator can accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in less than 6 seconds. Passing punch is good and the alert 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Load Navigator up with passengers and cargo, and the engine and transmission both seem to work harder than necessary, but that's more a function of small displacement/turbocharging compared to some competitors' old-school V8s.

The highest-rated Navigator nets a combined EPA rating of just 19 MPG combined. That number is actually near the top of the class. Add to that the fact that Navigator runs fine on regular-grade gasoline and the Navigator becomes more of a bargain. Real-world fuel economy depends on your driving style. To get the most efficiency out of the turbo V6 drivers need a light throttle foot and must stay below 65 MPH on the highway. Race from stoplight to stoplight and cruise at 85 on the highway and the Navigator will be no more efficient than V8 competitors.

Lincoln's Drive Modes seek to simplify operation of the available 4-wheel drive system, but generally are a bit more confusing. There are different modes for different terrains, including a "sport" mode called Excite and an "eco" model called conserve. More importantly there are modes for slippery conditions and a mode called Slow Climb that allows driver's to engage the systems low range. While many other brands offer terrain response modes, a simpler solution would be to offer buttons for 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD lock and 4WD low. Towing capacity ranges from 8,100 to 8,700 pounds depending on model.

Calling Navigator large is an understatement - especially in stretched L form. Still, it's not the beast to drive you might expect. Of course there's plenty of brake dive and acceleration squat and body lean in turns, but drivability is on par with class competitors. While the steering is dreadfully slow at parking speeds, it firms up once underway and imparts enough feel and tracks true on the highway. Brakes seem to have good stopping power, but braking distances definitely increase with a full passenger load.

The suspension does a great job of filtering out road imperfections and providing a smooth and comfortable ride. There's little impact harshness and rebound is kept in check. That said, Navigator doesn't like to be thrown into fast corners, rather it prefers to be guided. Same can be said in quick changes of direction, which are unwarranted. Overall, Navigator accounts for itself quite nicely as a road trip vehicle or carpool cruiser.

Interior noise levels are quite low. The engine produces a heart growl in hard acceleration, but cruises quite quietly. There's little wind rush or tire roar at highway speeds.

Navigator offers a modern and functional interior. Though fit and finish are excellent, materials seem a cut below what can be found in some competitors. All-in-all the feeling is more truck like than say the Escalade or Grand Wagoneer. The large digital instrument cluster is somewhat programmable and easy to read. The center infotainment screen is a long reach for taller drivers, but very bright and crisp. Separate climate and audio controls are much appreciated as well.

From a tech standpoint, Navigator has it all -- and more. However, unlike some competitors, the systems are easy to operate and provide seamless operation. All except for the self-driving dubbed Active Glide. A version of Ford's Blue Cruise, Active Glide allows the driver to take hands off the steering wheel on expressways. For the most part the system works well, but it can become confused in bright sunlight or when lanes merge and driver override is required more than in General Motor's similar system.

Front seats are sublimely comfortable, given the multitude of adjustments. They provide ample support yet are firm enough to stay comfortable on the highway. The second-row seats, bench or buckets, are also quite comfortable Head and leg room are impressive in both cases. The third-row seat is reasonably roomy, but certainly not long-trip adult friendly. Step-in height is definitely noticeable and certainly off-putting for smaller adults. Outward visibility is good forward, but only fair to the sides and rear.

Speaking of space, Navigator has plenty. Though there is only 19.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats in standard-length models, things only go up from there. Fold the third row and space grows to 58 cubic feet. All seats down and 103 cubic feet. Though the seats fold at the touch of a button. The load floor isn't quite flat and seems to be higher than expected.

Bottom Line -- Navigator is no longer a dressed-up Ford Expedition. It's a true luxury SUV, with all of the comfort, quietness and features you'd expect. Improvements over time have made it even better. While domestic competitors stick with large-displacement V8s, Lincoln has already made the transition to a smaller turbocharged V6 and that gives Navigator a slight leg up in overall operating costs. Of course, Navigator, Escalade and newcomer Grand Wagoneer are expensive, but you certainly get your money's worth.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.