If you were to guess the number-one three-row luxury SUV of 2020, which would you choose? The Infiniti QX80? The Lexus LX? Maybe the $130,000 Mercedes-Benz G-Class? If the Lincoln Navigator slipped your mind, that’s understandable.
However, MotorTrend ranks the 2020 Lincoln Navigator 4×4 Black Label first in its “3-Row Luxury SUV Comparison Test.” For the first time since its debut in 1998, the Navigator is at the top of its game. “It makes me so happy to see Ford loosen the reins and give Lincoln the money it needs to excel,” said MT’s features editor Scott Evans, who test-drove the 2020 SUV. “The Navigator is such an important step forward for the brand.” Lincoln took another important step by ditching the Continental.
The Lincoln Navigator: Every legend has an origin story
SUVs and their station wagon predecessors share similar histories. Automakers originally built both for commercial use. They both featured all-wheel-drive models. They also became popular among consumers but then eventually fell to minivans.
Then, toward the end of the ’80s, auto manufacturers either stopped producing station wagons or converted them into SUVs. Ford entered the game with the Mercury Mountaineer in the early ’90s. In 1998, the Blue Oval automaker positioned the Navigator as Lincoln’s competitive full-size luxury SUV. But as MotorTrend’s Evans alluded to, Ford was tightfisted when investing in improving it. Most reviewers might agree the first Navigator was the best — until recently, that is.
The Lincoln Navigator as Ford Expedition’s counterpart
The 2020 Navigator is part of the fourth generation, which Lincoln introduced in April 2017 for the 2018 model year. Similar to previous generations, the fourth-generation Navigator continues to be a Ford Expedition counterpart. For example, they’re both offered in standard and long-wheelbase configurations. Vehicles with longer wheelbases usually have much more legroom compared with standard models.
However, a huge difference between the two full-size SUVs is their price. Ford shows the 2020 Expedition starts at $52,810 at the time of this writing, whereas the Navigator starts at $76,185, Lincoln shows. Because the Navigator costs over $23,000 more, one would hope it offers much more than its so-called counterpart. The Expedition offers eight trims, with the Platinum MAX being the highest. That model’s starting price is $76,965, only a little higher than the base Navigator. Lincoln offers only three Navigator trims, with the Black Label being the highest. Its starting MSRP is $97,135, while the mid-level trim starts at $81,725. Of course, there’s also the long-wheelbase Black Label L, but it’s not necessarily a separate trim.
Both full-size SUVs pack a 3.5-liter engine, but the Navigator has more horsepower and torque thanks to twin turbochargers. As a result, it offers 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, more than the Expedition’s 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. And you’ll pay for that extra power at the pump. The Navigator gets an EPA-estimated 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. By comparison, the Expedition has an EPA-estimated rating of 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
Last, Ford’s full-size pickup trucks are known for their power. If you add the heavy-duty trailer tow package, the Expedition boasts a 9,300-pound towing capacity. The Navigator can tow less, up to 8,700 lbs.
The 2020 Navigator costs nearly $100K for a reason
In their comparison, the folks at MotorTrend stated, “Whereas there’s an unmistakable sporty pretense to the way the BMW, Cadillac, and Mercedes drive, the Navigator harkens back to an almost forgotten era where sporty cars were sporty and luxury cars were truly luxurious.” After taking a look for ourselves, we think the term “luxurious” might be an understatement. The 2020 Lincoln Navigator is more like a palace on wheels. Indeed, “palatial” is a perfect adjective.
The Black Label’s opulent interior boasts massaging front seats and real open-grain wood trim. This top trim also offers several themes to choose from, including Yacht Club, Destination, and Chalet, for different looks.
The Yacht Club theme might be the next best thing to an actual yacht, with genuine ocean-blue leather and sun-bleached woods. The Destination theme sports diamond-quilted leather seats with Khaya mahogany appliqués (ornamental needlework). And the Chalet borrows inspiration from Swiss chalets — houses typically found in Europe’s Alpine region. Oftentimes, chalets resemble nicely built wood cabins. Hence, the Chalet theme soothes with warm colors contrasted by an icy-cool exterior.
If any vehicle’s interior was ever worthy of being called “sculpturesque,” the 2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label is most deserving. The interior is not only beautifully crafted but also profoundly customizable. For example, seat adjustment is so precise that occupants can tweak right and left thigh support independently.
However, the Navigator’s immense exterior could hinder drivers who like to weave through traffic or struggle with parallel parking. But despite its exterior dimensions, it ranks only fourth on U.S. News‘ “15 SUVs With The Most Cargo Space” with 20.9 cubic feet behind the third row. The 2020 Chevrolet Suburban tops the list with 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats (for as little as $52,000).
So if you’re looking for a non-amphibious yacht, the Navigator is the boat for you.