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The large SUV class isn’t nearly as competitive as the compact or midsize segments, and even less so among luxury offerings, still, there remains a classic battle of GM versus Ford. The Cadillac Escalade remains the leader in the segment, but the Lincoln Navigator is eating into the Caddy’s lead.

The Lincoln Navigator is off to a strong start to 2023

According to figures gathered by GM Authority, Cadillac is still the undisputed champ of the luxury, heavyweight SUV class. Through the first quarter of 2023, over 9,000 Escalades were sold, putting it far ahead of the Navigator, Infiniti QX80, Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Lexus LX.

However, sales of the Escalade are down 12% over the same period of 2022, while nearly double the number of Navigators were moved compared to last year.

Sales of the Navigator for Q1 were 4,170 models. That’s less than half of the Cadillac, but the market share of the Escalade has fallen significantly. The Cadillac was responsible for 60% of all luxury full-size SUV sales in the first three months of 2022, but its market share has fallen to 46%. Meanwhile, the Navigator’s share of the segment has grown from 12 to 21%. The Navigator is now the second only to the Escalade in market share after surpassing the Grand Wagoneer, which had an 18% stake in the first quarter of 2022.

It should be noted the Navigator is not the only large luxury SUV to get off to a strong start to the year. Sales of the QX80 and LX are each up over 180%, but both models account for far less sales than the Escalade or Navigator. The Grand Wagoneer, meanwhile, is down 35.5% year-over-year.

What’s behind the Lincoln Navigator’s surging popularity?

The Navigator’s improved sales could result from the updates the model received for 2022, which have carried over into the 2023 model. The Navigator’s exterior styling was lightly refreshed while the interior received a more notable overhaul, making the model far more modern, tech-rich and luxe.

Additionally, the Navigator now sports a hands-free semi-autonomous driving mode—Active Glide—that rivals the Super Cruise feature in the Escalade.

With these improvements, the Navigator is now better suited to taking on the Escalade directly. Of course, positive reviews never hurt.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the Navigator as its top 2023 large luxury SUV, just ahead of the Escalade. The publication praises the Lincoln for its upmarket and spacious cabin, intuitive infotainment, and powerful engine, claiming the only “miniscule cons” of the Navigator is a lack of steering feel and “slightly stiff suspension.”

Edmunds ranks the Navigator as its No. 2 full-size luxury SUV, two spots ahead of the Cadillac, while giving it much of the same praise with its fuel economy and ride quality serving as its only major faults.

Can its momentum continue?

The Navigator’s facelift for 2022 suggests the model won’t receive a major overhaul for a few more years, but a full refresh is likely going to be needed soon if the three-row is going to keep gaining on the Escalade. The Caddy was fully redesigned in 2021 and includes some leading-edge tech and features the Navigator cannot yet match.

GM Authority argues the Escalade’s market share loss to the Navigator can be attributed to “availability issues.” So, it remains to be seen if the Navigator’s momentum will remain a blip on the radar, or if the Caddy’s crown could be in trouble.


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