By Keith Burton
Our black Lincoln Navigator arrived just in time for a short trip from the Mississippi Coast to New Orleans. I was on my way to a Toyota event in the French Quarter and this would be a good opportunity to test what the Navigator does best, a cruise on the Interstate.
I wasn’t disappointed. The big Lincoln is a supreme Interstate cruiser. The big SUV’s fully independent suspension is tuned for a remarkably smooth ride for a truck, better than that of its main competitor, the Cadillac Escalade. What surprised me was how much better the Lincoln feels from its lesser stablemate, the Ford Expedition. Whereas the Ford feels sluggish and heavy, the Lincoln drives more lightly with better feel on almost all controls.
On the Interstate, the Lincoln is serene with plenty of power.
Of course, my drive from the Katrina-devastated Mississippi Coast through the devastated east New Orleans and the infamous 9th Ward was not without some poignancy. These are areas nearly 18 months from the hurricane, that remain badly hurt and I wonder if recovery is even possible.
I arrived at the Royal Sonesta on world famous Bourbon Street in the late afternoon. Already, the street was busy with tourists and I was amazed that the narrow street more known for partying, was open to vehicles, but it was. I drove into the hotel’s lower garage and was greeted like I was royalty. “Nice vehicle,” the valet said about my black Lincoln. He parked the Lincoln in a premium location just next to the entrance. Nearby was a new Escalade.
Ford has done a really nice job with the Lincoln Navigator. It has a new grille that reflect the design of the Lincoln Star. Pictures do not do the grille justice. It is better looking in person. The design of the Navigator is more refined and conservative than the Caddy, which to this editorial eye seemed just right for a luxury SUV. The Caddy screams “Bling,” whereas the Lincoln’s chiseled lines and nice touches of chrome, state elegance.
The Lincoln isn’t as fast on the road as the Escalade, but it is adequately powered. The six speed automatic is seamless and provides a good match to the engine. I do wish there was a manumatic feature, however.
Where the Lincoln excels is in the interior. It is filled with rear wood and leather that is much softer to the touch that in other Ford products. The texture and fit and finish is very good as well. The seats are big and comfortable and there is plenty of room for adults in all the seats.
As in any luxury SUV, electronic gadgets and good sounding sound systems are the norm and this Lincoln had them all. But I have to say that the 600-watt THX system in the Lincoln is wonderful to listen to. It even makes radio stations that normally are marginal sound good. Another nice feature is the electrically operated running boards. These are not new the Navigator, but they are especially well-integrated into the design and work smoothly to help getting in and out of the Navigator easy. The running boards extend quickly when a door is opened. They are so well designed that they appear just as a rocker panel below the doors that look like they are part of the body.
I have only one criticism of the interior, and that is of the instrument cluster. Ford’s designers have gone back to the past for the gauge cluster design and it doesn’t work here. It is hard to see and interpret and style doesn’t really fit the overall interior design.
The ride of the 2007 Lincoln Navigator is due to an all-new independent rear suspension. The new IRS features a five-link design, with the fifth link controlling fore/aft movements while the short and long arms control lateral forces. This allows for greater control of wheel movement, as well as enabling lighter suspension components for improved response.
Power is provided by Lincoln Navigator's 5.4-liter, three-valve Triton V-8, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, that generates 300 horsepower and 365 foot pounds of torque. A wide-ratio, 6-speed transmission has smaller steps between gears than a typical 4-speed automatic and offers improved shift quality and faster acceleration. Ford says that with a wide 6.02:1 gear ratio and two overdrive gears (fifth and sixth), the Lincoln Navigator’s 6-speed offers up to a 7 percent increase in fuel economy on the highway over a typical 4-speed automatic. We say around 16.8 mpg in combined hwy and city driving.