Thanks to the Big Shovel, once-proud Lincoln may finally free itself from decades of Detroit mud.
You remember Lincoln, don’t you? Used to make giant sedans with vinyl tops for people over 70?
And up until about five years ago – when a few new vehicles started trickling in – the struggling luxury division at Ford was mired in bad products, politics, and corporate indifference, going nowhere.
Then along came the totally redesigned 2018 Navigator SUV, a dazzling, imposing brute that might just dig Lincoln out and shove it into real contention again.
I know, I know. A year ago, that would have seemed as unimaginable as a return to dollar-a-gallon gas and dark suits in the summer. (I deposited mine and any hopes of a promotion at Goodwill about 35 years ago.)
But just take a look at the massive maroon Navigator I had recently, a square-cut, steroidal SUV carved with British lines and motivated by a 450-horse turbocharged V-6 lifted from Ford’s sizzling Raptor pickup.
When Lincoln awoke, it did so with a tribal scream.
My top-shelf Navigator Black Label flashed a massive, slightly recessed grille cast in a chrome-chain design reminiscent of something on a Bentley or Roller.
Tidy two-projector headlamps peered coolly nearby, while a slightly raised hood stood so tall some of us altitude-challenged types strained to see the crisp lines carved in it.
Of course, as a, gasp, $96,000 vehicle, the Lincoln rolled on meaty 285/45 tires wrapped around flashy 22-inch turbine-style wheels – true Dubbers, I guess.
They complemented flat, square sides sliced by a prominent character line just above the door-handles and further aided by a really short overhang up front.
You don’t have to squint much to see Range Rover/Land Rover here.
Moreover, the new Navigator automatically extended hidden running boards when a door was opened – just like the Cadillac Escalade started doing several years ago – and winked at passers-by with flush-mounted tail lamps that swept around the rear gate.
Granted, it wasn’t quite the glory of a 1956 or 1962 Continental, but it definitely loomed stylishly like LeBron James in a fine, extra-large tuxedo.
And unlike Navigators of the past, this one could back up its intimidating presence with some real muscle.
Although Lincoln doesn’t refer to the Nav’s turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 as an EcoBoost – too blue-collar, I guess — it’s essentially the same motor the Raptor uses to terrorize deserts, equipped with a similar 10-speed automatic.
For better or worse, mine also came with all-wheel-drive, a feature that helped push the Navigator’s substantial weight to about 5,800 pounds.
The bad-boy six didn’t seem to care. Around town, it delivered a smooth rush of effortless torque (510 lb.-ft), grunting through dual exhausts with a slight low-pitched growl.
Punch it hard from a stop and the engine paused for a millisecond with a touch of turbo lag and then launched the heavyweight Nav with a vengeance, rushing to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
It was sort of like riding a missile-powered garage. Merging and towing weren’t issues.
Fuel economy, naturally, hovers in the average-to-mediocre range: 16 miles per gallon in town and 21 on the highway.
Likewise, I wasn’t especially impressed with the Navigator’s ride in the city, obviously compromised by the all-wheel-drive (a feature I would absolutely avoid unless I lived in a bad-weather state.)
It sometimes bounced on uneven suburban streets, typically moving around and fidgeting on most surfaces that weren’t new and smooth.
Moreover, with slow steering and some body-lean, the Nav felt a bit ponderous in moderate-speed corners – though not awkward.
But, hey, no one buys a Navigator to turn hot laps.
Besides, with the Nav’s fabulous Black Label interior, you might not even notice.
Mine was swathed in maroon leather and other tony stuff.
A flat dash, for example, in smooth, pliable material overlooked a rounded, slightly protruding second level stitched in some sort of textured maroon material.
A tablet-shaped 10-inch display screen occupied a prominent position at mid-dash, while four buttons at the base of the screen served as shifters for the 10-speed automatic (P,R,N and D).
Meanwhile, a broad console trimmed in dark wood provided buttons for the stereo and touch-pad switches for the climate control, while a second console between the back bucket seats carried similar controls.
Like the two-tier dashboard, the door panels had more of the textured maroon material on their tops, padded armrests and seat-adjustment control panels like those in a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar.
And, of course, the seats looked pretty special, too: Sculpted buckets with stitched bolsters and perforated centers front and back,
In addition, space in the third-row bench seat was a bit tight but reasonable.
My loaded-to-the-eaves Nav didn’t list any major options.
I was impressed. By now, I figured, we would be shoveling dirt on Lincoln. Instead, the resurgent brand offers interesting new vehicles like the MKC crossover, Continental sedan, and now the highly distinctive Navigator.
All of a sudden, Henry’s Cadillac-fighter seems to be clawing onto firm ground again.