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Taking Flight: 2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L 4X4 Test Drive

Every automaker tries to create a successful vehicle. They consider economic factors, pick a popular segment, conduct customer research, and manufacture a vehicle that they hope will fly off of dealership lots. Many times, they succeed. They produce a quality product that meets customer needs and release it at the right time.

While it’s difficult for an auto company to create a hit vehicle, it is possible. It’s much harder for a manufacturer to produce one that defines an entire segment of the market. Lincoln accomplished that feat with the Navigator. For more than 20 years, the Navigator has epitomized the American luxury SUV. It’s large, powerful, distinctively styled, and lavishly trimmed. Lincoln released the all-new, fourth-generation Navigator for the 2018 model year. It features an aluminum body that makes it almost 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, styling cues from the newest version of Lincoln’s flagship sedan, the Continental, a more powerful engine, and an attractive interior full of desirable creature comforts.

Lincoln offers the 2018 Navigator in two sizes. The standard-wheelbase model rides on a 122.5-inch wheelbase and is available with the Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label packages. The longer L model offers 9.1 more inches of wheelbase and comes in Select and Reserve trim.

I had the privilege of driving a 2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L 4X4 for a week and learned what makes Lincoln’s latest version of the quintessential American luxury SUV its best one yet.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L Exterior

You can buy any SUV if you just need transportation from point A to point B. You buy a Navigator to stand out, to show people you’ve arrived. It stands out. The Lincoln star sits proudly in the middle of its rectangular grille, which is filled with a metallic mesh that repeats the shape of that iconic badge. Full LED lighting illuminates the road ahead.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

Metallic accents, such as the spear extending out from the front fender vents and a pronounced crease just below the beltline make the Navigator Reserve L appear as if it’s moving even when it’s standing still. Blacked-out B-, C-, and D-pillars almost make the roof appear as if it’s floating above the passenger compartment. Standard turbine-like 22-inch wheels add even more of a dramatic flair. Individual chrome letters spell out “L I N C O L N” above a thick strip of chrome and LED taillights that span the width of the hands-free, motion-activated liftgate.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

At night, the Navigator puts on an eye-catching and convenient light show. The front Lincoln star lights up. When you approach the vehicle with the key fob in your pocket, the standard illuminated, power-deployable running boards extend as the side mirrors cast down a helpful luminous “welcome mat” in the shape of the Lincoln logo.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L Interior

Inside, the Navigator gave me control and surrounded me with comfort and chrome-like trim (the Navigator is a thoroughly modern vehicle, but Lincoln hasn’t forgotten its heritage). Lincoln was kind enough to add its optional Perfect Position Seats with Active Motion massage to the front row. Each one features heating, ventilation, two levels of massage intensity, and 11 individual air cushions to offer 30-way adjustability. The individual left and right thigh bolsters were my personal favorite and made it easy to get the exactly right fit.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

My test vehicle also had the optional Revel Ultima audio system. Whether I picked the Stereo, Audience, or On Stage sound setting, the 20 strategically placed speakers played my music with clarity and force.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

Although the Navigator is based on the Ford Expedition, it’s hard to tell from behind the wheel. Lincoln’s interior designers did a fantastic job making the Navigator’s cabin look completely different from that of its corporate cousin. The main gauges in the 12-inch instrument cluster are unique. The 10-inch center touchscreen sits above a bespoke center stack. Instead of a dial, the Navigator features four small paddles that allow you to select park, reverse, neutral, and drive. I was pleased to discover Lincoln kept things simple and used good old-fashioned knobs for the sound system’s volume and tuning functions, and for the HVAC system’s fan speed. Simple toggle switches modulated the temperature of the tri-zone climate control system.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

On a cold and rainy Sunday morning, my girlfriend and I picked up our friends Austin, Rachel, Josh, and Eddie, then headed to breakfast. After learning how to get the second-row bucket seats out of the way, Josh and Eddie were able to climb into the power-folding third row, which provided plenty of space for them (I’m 5’10” and during my independent testing, I was pleased to discover just how much legroom and headspace I had back there). Austin and Rachel had more than enough room in the heated middle row. Vents in the ceiling over both rows kept every one of our friends warm and comfortable.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

If I had needed to haul cargo instead of people, I would have been able to fold down the second and third rows of seats and fit 120 cubic feet of gear. With its first two rows of seats up and the second row fully forward, the Navigator Reserve L offers 80 cubic feet of capacity. That goes down to 73 when the second row is pushed all the way back. When all three rows are completely upright, the Navigator can transport 36 cubic feet of luggage. That figure only goes down by 1.7 when the third-row seats are reclined all the way.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L Performance

Luxury is more than just dramatic style and shiny materials. Luxury is also power, the ability to get what you want exactly when you want it. If you want to get up and going in a hurry, the Navigator Reserve L’s second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 gives you the power to do it. Thanks to its 450 horsepower, 510 lb-ft of torque, and quick-shifting 10-speed automatic, charging to highway speeds was as easy as a short press of the right pedal. The Navigator Reserve L pulled with a ferocity that was surprising for a vehicle that weighs north of three tons. It also had enough grunt to pull an 8,100-pound trailer behind it.

With the turn of a dial, I was able to put my press loaner into various drive modes. A significant amount of the time, I left it in Normal. If I wanted a little extra oomph, I picked the Excite setting. Normal 4X4 Auto was for rougher terrain. I didn’t need the Deep Conditions mode because I didn’t encounter any snow or mud. However, it did rain a lot during my week with the Navigator Reserve L, so I activated the Slippery setting to make sure it was as sure-footed as possible. There was also a Conserve setting, which maximized fuel economy. According to the EPA, when the Navigator Reserve L 4X4 (and its driver) is on its best behavior, it can get 16 city, 21 highway, and 18 combined mpg.** I averaged slightly more than 16 mpg.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L Safety

A sense of safety and security is a mental form of comfort. The Navigator Reserve L provides that in a variety of ways which range from a comprehensive array of airbags to front and rear parking sensors to emergency brake assist. A 360-degree camera system featuring a rear view camera with its own washer watched my surroundings and gave me a clear view of them so I didn’t bump into another vehicle or, even worse, a pedestrian.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L Overall

If you want to see a definition of the American luxury SUV, go to an AutoNation Lincoln dealership to check out the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. It’s in a class of its own. Prices for the 2018 Lincoln Navigator L start at $79,755.* My Navigator Reserve L 4X4 press loaner had an as-tested price of $88,070.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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