I recently had the chance to drive a 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label, which is a Lincoln vehicle that costs $100,000. I am not exaggerating this number. I drove a Lincoln — the brand primarily known for creating the Town Car, which provides slightly better passenger-carrying accommodation than a Ford Crown Victoria — that cost $100,000. Surprisingly, it was excellent.
I borrowed this Navigator from a viewer in Newport Beach, California, which is a very wealthy city where people primarily drive Bentley, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and vehicles of that type. Not Lincoln. In fact, the owner of the Navigator I drove had previously owned a BMW and a Mercedes-Benz, and his wife drives a Mercedes-Benz. He is exactly the kind of person Lincoln is hoping will buy a Navigator.
And despite the owner’s “foreign-car” history, he loved his Navigator. As you can imagine, the Navigator is full of all sorts of crazy tech features and equipment, and he proudly showed them off to me. But, he conceded, it hasn’t come without problems: Occasionally, when a rear door is opened, the tailgate also opens for no apparent reason. He sent me a video of this. And once, just after I showed up and before I started filming the attached video, the Navigator wouldn’t shift out of “Park” and into “Drive.” Only after a few minutes with it off — and adjusting the “Drive Mode” — did it finally comply with our request to get it to move.
But if you assume those things are glitches — and, hopefully, they are — the Navigator was otherwise fabulous.
In my opinion, its primary benefit is style. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s even more gorgeous in the Black Label trim, with big wheels on the outside and truly excellent interior trim on the inside. I was especially impressed by the fact that the high-quality materials extended all the way to the third-row seats — a place where no one ever will ride, and a place where the people who may climb back there will be children, who won’t appreciate the contrast-color seat piping anyway. But it’s there, all of it, on every surface. Lincoln didn’t cheapen anything on this car.
And then there’s the technology. The Navigator has all the usual features you’d expect in this segment, of course, along with some impressive extras. For instance: From the push of a button in the cargo area, you can lower the rear seats, which has become pretty typical — but you can also raise the third row back up again. The rear passengers use a high-quality touchscreen to control the rear-seat entertainment system. And not only does the front seat have an adjustable bolster to provide additional support for your legs, but it’s double-adjustable — one adjustment for each leg.
I could go on with the cool stuff from the Navigator, but there’s too much to cover here, and you’ll see it all in the video. Maybe more important is the driving experience — especially since the Mercedes-Benz GLS, the Audi Q7 and other rival full-size luxury SUVs have done such a good job refining the experience behind the wheel.
After spending a little while driving the Navigator Black Label, I’m happy to report the Lincoln feels just as comfortable as any of those vehicles. The ride quality is truly excellent and tremendously supple, the steering is light and easy to adjust (a benefit in this segment) and most noises from outside the car are muted like you’d expect from a $100,000 luxury vehicle. Also, the Navigator I drove featured power seats that appeared endlessly adjustable, and I found them tremendously soft and comfortable — though there are so many adjustments it took me a while to get the driver’s seat into the right spot.
My one gripe with the Navigator, aside from the few glitches we experienced: acceleration. Although it has 450 horsepower and an immense 500 lb-ft of torque, the Navigator I drove — the long-wheelbase “L” model in the top-end Black Label trim — is just a little too heavy for that engine to really make the thing feel exciting. It moves more than quickly enough, sure — but this same engine is in the Raptor, where a permanent grin is almost installed on your face from the hilarious acceleration and engine note. Not in the Navigator L Black Label, weighing in at around 6,200 pounds; the turbocharged V6 instead feels a little taxed under hard acceleration, and — I hate myself for saying this, because I welcome the new crop of turbocharged engines and their fuel-economy benefits — it just doesn’t quite feel like it has the grunt of a V8.
With that said, the 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label is one of the best new cars I’ve driven recently — and certainly the best Lincoln I’ve ever driven. When Lincoln started its product renaissance a few years ago, I always felt they should’ve “led” by improving the Navigator, just as Cadillac attracted new buyers to its ever-stronger brand with the Escalade in the early 2000s. Now, with the new Navigator in place, Lincoln is finally in a position to be mentioned in consideration with other top luxury brands — and I can’t wait to see where they go next.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
Also published on Medium.