The 2015 Lincoln Navigator: Where They Went Wrong

I don't remember much of the Matrix trilogy. That's not for any reason other than the fact that it has been about 6 years since I've watched any of the movies. Instead, I remember particular scenes from the trilogy that gives me an overall gist of the plot. For me, one of the more memorable scenes came from the first film; it wasn't anything crazy as far as filmmaking goes. Simply, it was that black Lincoln Continental driving through the rain and stopping. Then watching the suicide door swing open to throw whatever that creepy stomach robot was out of the car—Like I said nothing special, but that Lincoln always stayed in my mind. I was sold on the brand. Around the same time as that movie, Lincoln introduced the LS. It was classy and sharp looking. Even cooler was it beat the BMW 3-series at its own game.2003 came and Lincoln introduced the redesigned Navigator, a design that in my eyes has aged much better than the current generation. It even had my first introduction to power running boards, which I thought was the coolest thing ever (a feature not available on the 2003 Expedition my parents bought). Lincoln was on a roll. Now, fast forward ten years… "What the hell happened?"

The answer to that question is long and winded and varies on who you ask. The short version is a parade of uninspired vehicles. Ford forgot the point of Lincoln and is now struggling to put it back on track. To be fair though, "What happened" isn't the question I want to answer, mainly because it doesn't matter. Ford is trying to forge a new path for Lincoln and the latest products have shown promise. The MKZ, while a bit polarizing, gave a new look for Lincoln and proved that you can make two cars built on the same platform look different, even if they drove the same (the MKZ's Achilles' heel). The follow-up, the Lincoln MKC, is a crossover that I am truly excited for, sporting a unique look separating it from its Escape brethren. More importantly, it sports a unique engine to the brand platform and an adaptive suspension called continuous controlled damping (CCD). For the first time Lincoln is getting the features and attention it deserved. Enter the 2015 Navigator…

Short version; It is a disappointment. In fact, the idea that Ford decided a mid-cycle refresh was all that was required for the seven year old platform in the Navigator and its Expedition brother is disappointing all on its own. And while I understand that both vehicles only account for about 50000 sales annually, I have serious doubts that the platform will remain competitive for another 7 years. However, such is life, and with 4-dollar a gallon gas, I understand the choice made by Ford. Anyway, let's look at this redesign.

The Exterior:

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator: Where They Went Wrong

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator: Where They Went Wrong

It's a nose job. The middle section of the SUV is exactly the same, which means it looks exactly like the current Navigator, which looks exactly like the middle section of the current Expedition. This is a problem for a brand that is desperately trying to show the world they are not rebadged Fords. What about the nose you ask? Well it's not terrible, incorporating the grill from the MKC expanded to fit the larger SUV. The lower grill isn't half bad either. The problem though, is that there is no bumper shaping that separates the two. They grills are in the exact same plane, giving the Navigator an unfortunate copy/paste look to it. It's the same problem (among others) that the MKT has. There is no definition in the front of the truck. It's the same story in the back, with a bumper that seems too small for the rest of the truck. Design wise, it looks like a 2004 Lincoln Aviator and a Dodge Durango had a regrettable one night stand… seriously it even looks depressed.

And while I think the overall look is better than the outgoing model, the reality is that the MKZ and MKC have shown us that Lincoln can create their own designs on an existing platform. That fact that there isn't a bigger change for the Navigator is just disappointing.

The Interior:

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator: Where They Went Wrong

Interiors are a bit hard to really change on a mid-cycle refresh. The problem is that you have to keep the same interior mounting points and installation techniques as the current model. Still, without a doubt, there is much improvement here. The dash went from a pseudo-80's retro with square gauges to the current MyFord MyLincoln Touch suite of technologies (though somehow, even with an 8" screen, it looks tiny in that dash—this would've been a great opportunity for something unique, like a 10" HD screen). The new dash shape even has a touch of Bentley Continental to it… if you squint while looking at the sun. Luxury trimming such as Ziricote wood and Wollsdorf Leather have also been added, which sounds comfortable just typing it. However, it has already been noted by publications, that they are combined with the hard plastic door and dash trim of the current model, an overlook that in my opinion is just plain sloppy.

Personally, I have two major complaints. The first are the seats. They have the exact same stitching pattern as the current model, which coincidentally, is the exact same stitching pattern found in the current Expedition Limited my parents own. Why not match the stitching pattern of the MKC? It's unique to the brand and helps with that design cohesiveness that everybody seems to love. This extends to my second complaint: MyLincoln Touch. Usability issues aside, it is a very powerful system. But, if I can tell from the press photos that it is the exact same system used in every other Ford, I don't want it in my Lincoln. Even if you kept the exact same features and user input steps, it shouldn't be hard to give Lincoln a slightly different layout or color scheme to differentiate the two. Using it across the entire Lincoln line-up would more than pay for the development and help make the Lincolns feel separate.

The Features:

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator: Where They Went Wrong

Many of my complaints have centered on differentiating Navigator from its Expedition brother. And like the exterior and interior reviews, it is a mixed bag here too. We know the Navigator will get the top range Ecoboost V6 engine from the F-150 while the Expedition is expected to get the 5.0L V8. And while the power figures are nice, Lincoln is taking a risk marketing a V6 with the competition (Escalade) running a huge V8. Those fuel savings better be massive. We also know Air suspension is available again, though this is far from a game changer as it is also an option on the current Expedition. A drive Control System has been fitted using continuously controlled dampers like the MKC. If this is a Lincoln only feature, it could provide some of the differentiation that the Navigator sorely needs. Sadly, beyond a set of available 22" wheels, that's pretty much it…

Conclusion:

The Navigator is Lincoln's third model in their supposed resurrection. They had a shot to make it great: they missed. It feels half-assed. Not helping matters is the fact that Lincoln decided that the first upgrade to the Navigator in 7 years didn't warrant a reveal at an Autoshow. It's as if even they realize this isn't the type of attention they want. That's a problem because Lincoln needs to stand tall. They need to blow our minds. Even if they had lost money on the redesign, it would've been worth every penny to do this SUV right. The Navigator was once Lincoln's most popular model. It is the reason the Escalade exists. Yet somehow, even after the lessons learned with MKZ and MKC, this is what Lincoln gave us. I recognize that full-size SUV's are barely a market anymore, but simply put; they needed more than a dolled up Ford Expedition.