Something Old, Something New For Lincoln's Big SUV

Preparing for public introduction at the upcoming Chicago Auto Show, Lincoln held a press preview in Detroit for the 2015 Navigator, the grand duke in the division's SUV lineup. Although the presentation was liberally sprinkled with the word "new," the Lincoln team carefully avoided "all-new," since the '15 model is essentially another in a series of Navigator freshenings. Offered in standard and long-wheelbase versions, with seating for up to eight, the Navigator's body-on-frame chassis dates to the original model, introduced in 1997, and will continue to serve through the lifespan of this update.

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Still, in this iteration newness does go beneath the skin. A 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine replaces the 5.4-liter V8 that's propelled Navigators since the beginning, a change that will improve both power and efficiency according to Lincoln. The V8 was rated for 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque, whereas Lincoln anticipates "at least" 370 hp and 430 lb-ft from the twin-turbo V6. Lincoln also forecasts improved fuel economy, although final EPA ratings have yet to be determined.

The new engine will channel power to the rear wheels (four-wheel drive will continue to be available) via a 6-speed automatic transmission, and the increased power will allow the Navigator to tow up to 9,000 pounds, a max that Lincoln expects to be best in class. There's also a new auto adjusting suspension system-Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD)-that monitors road conditions and various vehicle sensors to update shock absorber damping every two milliseconds, according to Lincoln, which should enhance ride and handling via three driver-selectable presets: normal, sport, and comfort.

Also new: an electric power steering system, and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels (22-inch wheels optional), replacing the 18-inch wheels of the current Navigator. External newness includes a new interpretation of the Lincoln split wing grille, a new hood, HID headlamps with LED accents, a freshened rear fascia with a power tailgate, and "welcome mat" puddle lamps illuminating the ground beneath both front doors.

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Inside, the dashboard and instrument binnacle have been redesigned, there's a new steering wheel, leather upholstery extends to all three rows, and second generation versions of the SYNC infotainment and My Lincoln Touch systems, the latter including traditional knobs for radio tuning, rather than the previous touch switches. Lincoln also anticipates that the Navigator will continue to be best in class in terms of interior volume.

Production will begin in August at Ford's truck plant in Louisville, Kentucky. New Navigators will reach Lincoln showrooms in early fall.

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