One of the greatest tennis players ever, Serena Williams is a force of nature on the court. She also wants to look good, not only when she’s competing fiercely at a tournament but also when she’s driving to one. And she’s a mom who appreciates a car’s safety and comfort, for both her young daughter Olympia and herself.
But Serena Williams has held a deep affection for another car over the years. It’s not a supercar. Instead, it’s a car within reach of people who aren’t celebrities or millionaires: a Lincoln Navigator.
Serena Williams’ first car
When Serena Williams was in her late teens, she bought a Lincoln Navigator, as PopSugar reported. The SUV was her first car, and she named it Ginger. She happily drove it for eight years before giving it to her niece.
At the time Williams bought the Navigator, it was on the rise as one of the first true full-size luxury SUVs. In 1998, its first model year, it had the stability, safety, and size of the Ford Expedition that it was styled after. But it also boasted elegant touches such as lighted running boards and chrome door handles. The SUV’s interior was well-appointed with leather bucket seats and a wood-trimmed steering wheel.
The Navigator that the tennis pro drove also had a powerful 5.4-liter V8 engine that made 300 hp and featured a four-speed automatic transmission. It was the same engine used in the Ford Expedition, the Ford F-150, and the ill-fated Lincoln Blackwood. It had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration but an all-wheel-drive option was also available.
The SUV’s luxury and sheer automotive presence understandably made Williams feel secure and successful, even as a teenager. It was a car she loved to drive, and she had fond memories of it long after she gave it away.
Coming full circle with the Navigator
These memories helped to persuade Serena Williams to become the Navigator’s brand ambassador last year. In the recent commercial that the tennis star made for the fourth-generation Navigator, it’s clear that it’s a cozy, sumptuous haven for her. Her endorsement, we’d venture to say, comes across as much more heartfelt and genuine than anything Matthew McConaughey ever produced for Lincoln. And she does it without saying a word.
Today Lincoln’s flagship SUV is still a stronghold of luxury and power. It has a starting price of over $73,000, as compared to the $43,000 or so that Williams paid some 20 years ago.
The Navigator now shares a 450-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine with the Ford F-150 Raptor. It uses a 10-speed automatic transmission that is the product of a joint venture of Ford and GM.
Both short-wheelbase (SWB) and a long-wheelbase (L) versions are available for this SUV. The SWB version is a behemoth with a wheelbase of 119.0 inches, but the wheelbase of the Navigator L variant is even longer at 131.0 inches.
The height of the Navigator also makes it imposing. It measures 78.3 inches—significantly taller than the 1998 two-wheel-drive model at 72.7 inches. A hefty vehicle, it tips the scales at nearly three tons.
The interior of the Navigator holds its own for comfort and style among other SUVs of its size. It has heated leather captains chairs in the front and, in some models, the second row as well. It also offers 10-way massaging front seats, which Williams demonstrates in the commercial. They are so customizable that the left and right thigh supports can be adjusted individually to different heights.
Tech in this luxury SUV includes a 10-inch infotainment screen and three-zone climate control, both of which are featured in Williams’ commercial. The L model with a higher trim level offers a 20-speaker sound system.
The Navigator still rules among three-row luxury SUVs for cargo space. Behind the third row is 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space which can be expanded to a whopping 103.3 cubic feet if both the second and third rows are folded.
Standard safety features are somewhat limited in the 2019 version of the Navigator, with blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert being the main ones. Others, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, are available as options.
But the 2020 Lincoln Navigator will offer a wider range of standard safety features including forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and rear-view cameras.
A great pick from a winner as well as from a few others
The winner of 23 Grand Slams isn’t the only one who appreciates the Lincoln Navigator. U.S. News & World Report has chosen it as its #1 large luxury SUV. Kelley Blue Book has given it a consumer rating of 4.7 out of five stars. While Car and Driver groused a little about its handling, it still praised the Navigator’s elegance and power.
Strength. Style. Confidence. These words describe both Serena Williams and the Lincoln Navigator perfectly. And both, as the saying goes, have arrived.