Lincoln Navigator 2022 Enters the Information Age

Lincoln's flagship Navigator SUV evolves with a more regal appearance and available hands-free driving assistance.

The excitement surrounding massive body-on-frame luxury SUVs has reached fever pitch. As lavish and accommodating as ever, these massive driving implements continue to advance in terms of high-tech utility, with Jeep and Lexus adding new and updated entries to the segment's ranks. General Motors even considered giving the Cadillac Escalade the V treatment, complete with supercharged V-8. We'll add the 2022 Lincoln Navigator to that list, which has been refined with thoughtful touches and added hands-free driving capability as part of a mid-cycle refresh.

The ability to transport people and goods while maintaining a glitzy curb appeal elevates full-size luxury utes to status symbols in their own right. Jeep does not even brand the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as Jeeps, fearful that they will be associated with the mud-plugging reputation of its lower-end models. Not so with the latest Navigator, which features the brand's crosshair emblem as a nearly foot-tall protrusion within its gently redrawn grille. The thinner LED headlights flank that grille, while the rear features a slimmer full-width LED taillight bar that now emits horizontal animation sequences when approaching and exiting the vehicle. K.I.T.T., Michael Knight's K.I.T.T., would concur.

While it takes a keen eye to spot the new Gator on the road, a glance inside reveals its 13.2-inch center touchscreen. In comparison to the 10.1-inch display it replaces, the updated setup fits better in the cavernous interior of this seven- or eight-passenger Lincoln, which remains one of the more appealing environments in automobiledom. As the entry point to the new Sync 4 infotainment system's plethora of features—which includes an optional 28-speaker Revel audio system that attempts to shake the truck's windows out—the touchscreen is also crisply rendered and intelligently laid out. Additional animations, such as swaths of faint twinkling stars following the needles around the digital speedometer and tachometer, grace a 12.0-inch instrument cluster display that is more data-focused.

The Navigator's pixelation extends to the rear seatbacks, where second-row passengers benefit from both an optional 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen and a pair of 10.1-inch Amazon Fire TV–equipped monitors mounted to the front seatbacks. While a three-across second-row bench remains available, opting for the standard captain's chairs enables the heated and ventilated middle seats to feature a newly added massage function. Even with a butt in each seat of the 131.6-inch-wheelbase L model, there is still plenty of luggage space for all occupants—34 cubic feet behind the third row, compared to 19 cubic feet in the standard 122.5-inch-wheelbase version.

The Navigator is a warm and inviting place to be, from the optional 30-way power-adjustable front seats to the lovely open-pore wood trim laser-etched with a map of the pathways in New York's Central Park—the latter of which is included in one of two new design packages for Black Label models. Apart from the traditional luxury vibes, this Lincoln's greatest selling point is likely to be the new ActiveGlide driver assistant, which debuts as standard equipment on the upper Reserve and Black Label trim levels as the brand's take on Ford's BlueCruise. Similarly to General Motors' Super Cruise, ActiveGlide uses lane centering, adaptive cruise control, and driver monitoring to enable hands-free driving on approximately 130,000 miles of divided highways. In the gauge cluster, virtual steering-wheel icons and panoramic views of the vehicle on the road combine to indicate when the system is active. Additional convenience and security are provided by an available head-up display (standard on the Black Label), as well as a phalanx of standard active-safety gear.

Though our exposure was brief, ActiveGlide performs as advertised, and the steering column-mounted camera and infrared light emitters detected our attempts to fool them with a mask, sunglasses, and hat. If the system detects that your attention has shifted away from the road, it will beep louder and louder, the steering wheel will vibrate, and the vehicle will eventually tap the brakes before shutting off. It will not automatically bring the vehicle to a halt if you ignore its warnings, as some other systems do. Ford is upfront about the fact that this initial version of BlueCruise/ActiveGlide is quite conservatively programmed and that enhanced capability, among other features, will be available via over-the-air updates. This is a good thing, as ActiveGlide is currently less capable than it could be and, in our experience, less stable than General Motors' Super Cruise. We observed some drifting between lane lines, the system is quick to disengage around tighter bends, and it occasionally refused to acknowledge our presence, even after wriggling the steering wheel. However, as a means of alleviating some of the strain associated with gridlock and tedious highway treks, it is a welcome addition.

Fortunately, the Navigator is now more enjoyable to drive when a human is in complete control, in part due to a retuned suspension that includes a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and a new camera-based system that scans the road ahead and primes the adaptive dampers for impending bumps. Despite its Excite drive mode, this is still a large and heavy vehicle with little athleticism, but its slow, numb steering is well suited to its preferred casual pace, and body motions feel more composed and collected than we recall. The newly added electronic brake booster has been tuned to provide a reassuringly firm and progressive brake pedal, which makes for effortless stops. And all versions now feature new 22-inch wheels (20-inch wheels remain standard on base models), which improved ride quality on Phoenix's smooth pavement. However, we'll reserve judgment until we drive one on our familiar Midwestern goat paths, as the large rollers clomped uncomfortably over the few sharper impacts encountered.

Little has changed under the hood of the Navigator since this generation made its debut in 2018. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine continues to generate 510 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a leisurely 10-speed automatic transmission. Additionally, a maximum towing capacity of 8700 pounds and rear-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is an additional $2695 to $3000 option, except on the Black Label, where it is included. Minor tuning adjustments, however, reduced the engine's horsepower output from 450 to 440, which the EPA apparently notices more than we did. The Navigator's combined fuel economy has been increased by one mile per gallon to 18 or 19 miles per gallon, depending on the model. However, we do not anticipate significant deviation from the 5.2-second sprint to 60 mph recorded in our test of a 2021 model. That's a satisfyingly quick acceleration for a large SUV that starts at $78,405 and can top $120,000 in loaded L form. Notable is the revised exhaust note of the V-6, which thrums more deeply than before and lends this large Lincoln an appropriately throaty voice that could almost be mistaken for that of a burbling V-8.

A comparison test will ultimately determine how the new Navigator compares to its similarly new competitors, including the Escalade. One could argue that Lincoln missed the mark by not commandeering the GT500 Mustang's blown V-8 as a counter to the Escalade V. However, as a pioneer of the segment in 1998, the Gator's latest revisions help keep it current.

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