Looking half-the-time like a Ford Flex that had at last made peace with its boxiness and the other half like a European masterpiece, the new Lincoln Navigator Concept vehicle throws some hints at what's next for Lincoln's big SUV. Previewed in downtown Manhattan before the New York Auto Show, the Navigator Concept had a lot going for it, not the least of which was that it was an imaginative concept car rather a warmed-over mid-cycle refresh of a production model -- a popular, low-cost way to generate extra press by car companies these days.

Nope, the Navigator in New York was a legitimate concept, experimenting with our expectations while giving plenty of hints as to what the next Lincoln Navigator might have in store for us. By far, the most epic piece of conceptual craziness were two immense, 2-row gullwing doors (one on each side) that raised up to give the Navigator Concept a monstrous wingspan.

True concept in the best sense

I wouldn't bet my money (or yours) on seeing gullwing doors make it to production. Nor would I count on the 30-way adjustable seats (but oh, man did those ribbed, leather captain's chairs look comfortable), or another impressive piece of Navigator Concept styling: the super-wide, 3-tiered "concertina" staircase that unfolds to allow the front and rear-seat passengers to exit like royalty.

Likewise, we wouldn't expect to see the custom equipment-storing "wardrobe management system" on the production Navigator's options list, but the idea points to a lot of the attitude that Lincoln is aiming to harness with this concept.

A look at what's possible, too

Fortunately, all this conceptual attitude was enhanced by plenty of reality checks in the Navigator Concept's features department. A lot is perfectly reachable in the next-generation Navigator SUV, starting with the concept's clean, elegant exterior -- with a killer-bold grille -- and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine reported to wrench out more than 400 horsepower.

Like every luxury manufacturer (and most non-lux carmakers as well), Lincoln is re-upping its commitment to camera-, radar- and sensor-based safety engineering and warning systems, including Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, which is the company's system for watching the road ahead (and behind) with an eye toward avoiding the Navigator's contact with the world around it.

And yes, it's still an SUV too -- just a "Quiet Luxury" kind of SUV.


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