When it debuted in 1998, the Lincoln Navigator introduced Americans to the concept of the full-size luxury SUV. Though the Navigator reigned supreme that year, the competition soon exploded and today Lincoln finds itself racing to play catch up in the segment it created. Enter the 2015 Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV, a freshened version of the existing platform the division hopes will keep pace with newer rivals such as the Cadillac Escalade and Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport. For 2015, Lincoln's Navigator will be offered in one trim with an optional Reserve Package upgrade riding atop either a standard or stretched "L" wheelbase. 

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The 2015 Lincoln Navigator sees major improvements in the areas of styling, interior layout and powertrain. Outside, the new Navigator retains its familiar boxy silhouette but has its edges softened. The addition of a new split-winged grille brings the Navigator's styling in line with the rest of the Lincoln fleet, while 20-inch machined alloy wheels and LED running lights round out the exterior upgrades. Inside, the Navigator is treated to a much-needed overhaul, with a configurable instrument cluster and more soft touch materials covering the new dash, door panels and console. Improvements have also been made to the MyLincoln Touch system, which now features more hard buttons and rotary knobs for controlling audio and temperature settings as well as a simplified menu selection.  

Luxury Reserve Package added

Buyers who upgrade to the Reserve Package get premium leather seating in all three rows, Ziricote wood trim (normally reserved for yachts and musical instruments), hand-wrapped leather dash, door panels and console as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel.  Large 22-inch wheels and piano black finish on the power running boards and lower side panels give the Navigator a more sinister appearance. Reserve models also get a few more paint color options.

With the addition of the Reserve Package comes Lincoln Drive Control with continuously controlled dampening. The CCD system allows for three driver selectable suspension settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.  In Comfort mode we found the system to be quite effective, delivering an ultra smooth ride but with a bit too much float for our taste. Those seeking a firmer ride with better cornering will likely find the Sport setting the best choice.

Missing from the 2015 Lincoln Navigator's long list of standard and available features, however, are some must have items such as collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, lane keep and parallel parking assist. Lincoln tells us because this is a mid-cycle refresh, the exiting Navigator architecture doesn't allow for such additions. So, while you can get a foot-activated power tailgate on the Ford Escape, you can't on a Navigator. Similarly, the Lincoln MKZ's cool hidden keypad that activates with a swipe of a finger doesn't make the Navigator's check list, although a somewhat dated hard-button key pad is present.

V8 vanishes

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV replaces its aging V8 with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. While some might raise an eyebrow at such a move, a few minutes behind the wheel is all it takes to erase any doubts. The new EcoBoost engine delivers more power and better fuel economy than its predecessor, pumping out an impressive 380 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures for 2WD models are 16/22 mpg (15/20 for the L) and 15/20 mpg when 4WD is added to the mix (15/19, L).  Coupled to a 6-speed automatic, the Navigator proves surprisingly quick, with excellent throttle response and plenty of torque delivered to the wheels around the 2,500-2,750 rpm range. Towing is impressive too, serving up a best-in-class 9,000 pound tow rating and a maximum payload rating of 1,750 pounds (2WD, SWB).

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Thanks to its independent rear suspension, the 2015 Navigator continues to offer the convenience of a flush-folding third-row seat and class-leading rear cargo space of 54.4 cubic feet (86.3 for the L). With the third-row seat up, the Navigator can actually fit two adults comfortably, something many three-row SUVs claim, but seldom achieve in practice.  

Ordering Made Easy

To simplify the ordering process, the 2015 Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV is offered in just one trim, with a choice of two wheelbases and 2WD or 4WD. A base Navigator carries an MSRP of $62,475 including destination, while the long wheelbase L trim bumps that price to $64,640.  The 4WD option adds another $3,575 to the bottom line, while the Reserve Package bumps the Navigator's price up by another $7,500. A fully loaded 2015 Navigator L 4WD with the Reserve Package tops out around $79,000. At first glance, this pricing seems reasonable when compared to competitors such as the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570 and Mercedes Benz GL, but as we pointed out earlier, the 2015 Lincoln Navigator is missing some key technology and luxury features many buyers in this segment consider a must have.

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