The 2012 Lincoln Navigator is one of the few large, truck-based luxury SUVs around, and the styling is as bold and flashy as ever. While the experts do find some aspects they like about the Navigator and extended-wheelbase Navigator L, they nearly all reach the same conclusion: there are better large luxury SUVs available. The Navigator inherits most of its mechanical components and characteristics from the 2012 Ford Expedition on which it is based. The Navigator is certainly a roomy and capable large SUV, but the drawbacks in the cheaper 2012 Ford Expedition (Base MSRP $36,530 to $52,330 are magnified in the considerably more expensive Navigator.
A 5.4-liter V8 that makes 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque is standard on the Navigator and Navigator L, and there are no other engine options. While the power isn't much lower than the competition, nearly all reviewers lament the engine's lack of smoothness. About.com's reviewer wishes there was an engine option with "a bit more giddyup," and TheTruthAboutCars.com says the engine delivers power with "an unseemly roar." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.) Still, the Navigator has a high 9,000 pounds max towing capacity with two-wheel drive and 8,700 pounds with all-wheel drive. The longer Navigator L's top number is 8,700 pounds in 4x2 guise and 8,300 pounds in 4x4 configuration.
Unfortunately, despite being down on power compared to its contemporaries, the engine doesn't have redeeming fuel-economy numbers. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Navigator and Navigator L will deliver 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway/16 mpg combined with two-wheel drive and 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/15 mpg combined when equipped with all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive system is a single-speed, transfer-case unit. All configurations of the Navigator use a six-speed transmission.
Most experts agree that the Navigator provides a smooth and serene ride, though it won't win anyone over for its agility. AutoWeek.com states that "the ride is as quiet as an ocean liner, with waves in the pavement having little impact on the vehicle's soft and rolling ride." Steering response is surprisingly good for a truck this large, though a few reviewers would prefer beefier brakes to inspire more confidence in short stops.
The interior of the Navigator is upgraded from its Ford counterpart, but no reviewers are particularly impressed with the material quality or fit-and-finish. TheTruthAboutCars.com asserts that "the current interior is a step back in materials and style from the one that preceded it," and most reviewers agree that the interior is unimpressive for a $60,000 car. With that said, experts say the Navigator does have comfortable seating in all rows and excellent visibility for a car its size. Edmunds.com says the SUV offers "one of the most accommodating interiors in the segment" despite its less-than-perfect materials. Some critics find the retro-inspired interior design to be outdated.
The third-row seats in the Navigator represent one place where it has the edge over its main competitor, the 2012 Cadillac Escalade (Base MSRP: $63,170 to $82,495). Reviewers say the third-row seats are well-designed and are the most comfortable of nearly any car with three rows of seating. Furthermore, these seats can be folded flat into the floor at the touch of a button, something incredibly convenient that the Cadillac Escalade can't do.
Plenty of features come standard on the Navigator, including a power liftgate, a power-folding third-row seat, heated and cooled front seats, automatically deploying running boards, and Ford's advanced Sync infotainment system. The Navigator has a cargo capacity of 104 cubic feet for the regular wheelbase version; the Navigator L is 18 inches longer and allows for a total maximum cargo capacity of 128 cubic feet
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't fully tested the Navigator or Navigator L, but it has given the SUV a rating for rollover resistance. Both the Navigator and Navigator L get 4 stars out of 5 for rollover resistance when equipped with all-wheel drive and a lower 3-star rating when equipped with two-wheel drive. Standard safety equipment includes the expected front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags for all seating rows, electronic stability control, traction control, as well as a useful trailer-sway control that uses the stability control sensors to better manage undesired motions from heavy trailers.
The Navigator and Navigator L come with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.
Nearly all of the experts agree that there are better balanced options when it comes to large luxury SUVs. A Car and Driver review says that "everything the Escalade has, the Navigator has at about 70 percent." Others point out that the cheaper Ford Expedition offers as much passenger comfort and towing capability at a lower base price. Ultimately, the Navigator and Navigator L are a tough sell among strong competition.
This comprehensive overview from Edmunds.com contains insights into how the Lincoln Navigator stacks up against the competition, including driving impressions. The editors enjoy the quiet ride and towing capabilities, but ultimately find that other luxury SUVs are better all-around.
Review: 2012 Lincoln Navigator, Editors of Edmunds.com, Nov. 21, 2011
In its write-up of the 2012 Navigator, ConsumerGuide.com finds the poor observed fuel economy and weaker V8 engine (when compared to rivals) to be flaws in an otherwise decent package.
Review: 2012 Lincoln Navigator: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
Editors of ConsumerReports.org have tested the Lincoln Navigator. The editors offer a concise but informative review of the Navigator, including information on expected reliability from reader surveys. To view articles and data on ConsumerReports.org, you'll need a subscription.
Review: Lincoln Navigator, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
FuelEconomy.gov is a consumer website run by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy that provides official fuel-efficiency ratings for all new vehicles. The 2012 Lincoln Navigator gets a combined 16 mpg estimated fuel-economy rating in the two-wheel drive configuration, and 15 mpg combined when optioned with four-wheel drive. This is poor fuel economy but about average as far as large SUVs go.
Review: 2012 Sport Utility Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, Not Dated
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not fully tested the 2012 Lincoln Navigator, but it does provide a rollover-resistance rating. NHTSA gives the Navigator 3 stars out of 5 in this category for two-wheel drive models, and a 4-star rating for models equipped with four-wheel drive.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
AutoWeek.com gives a quick summary of the test experience, noting that the Navigator's ride is quiet but the brakes are too weak for towing duty, in their estimation. The 2008 model year is essentially unchanged from the 2012 Navigator.
Review: Short Stint: 2008 Lincoln Navigator L, Jacob Lingeman, July 1, 2008
TheTruthAboutCars.com expresses disappointment with the Navigator and says the differences between it and the cheaper Ford Expedition are superficial. Roominess and comfort are good, but the reviewer says the Navigator falls short as a luxury SUV. The 2011 model year is essentially unchanged from the current 2012 Navigator.
Review: Review: 2011 Lincoln Navigator, Michael Karesh, March 2, 2011
This is a review of the 2010 Lincoln Navigator L, the extended wheelbase version of the Navigator. There have been no significant changes to the Navigator since 2010, so this review is still valid. Sajeev Mehta takes a positive stance on the Navigator, considering its comfort, utility and uniqueness.
Review: Review: 2010 Lincoln Navigator L, Sajeev Mehta, April 21, 2009
9. Edmunds Inside Line
Though this review is older, the Navigator hasn't changed much since the 2007 model year. This full review does offer a lot of detail about the interior of the vehicle and the driving impression, so it's still a useful source of information.
Review: Full Test: 2007 Lincoln Navigator L 4WD, Donna DeRosa, Oct. 30, 2007
10. Car and Driver
This review dates back to 2007, but the Navigator hasn't changed significantly since then, so the findings are still valid. The short Rants and Raves format is essentially editor notes about the car. All three reviewers here agree that the Lincoln Navigator is outdone by the competition.
Review: Rants and Raves: 2007 Lincoln Navigator Ultimate, Editors of Car and Driver, Aug. 2007