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The SUV segment is the dominant player in the market. It seems like no matter what features automakers put in sedans and coupes, they just can’t outsell sports utility vehicles. All SUVs have seen impressive sales lately. But the luxury SUV is starting to become one of the most sought-after vehicles on the market.

Because high-end SUVs continue to increase in popularity, there seem to be a plethora of options. Back in 1998, however, the choices weren’t so vast. In the late ’90s, only three different full-size luxury SUVs existed: the Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, and Lexus LX. All three were nice, but only the Lincoln Navigator gave families a luxurious ride while cruising suburban streets.

So, what was it about the 1998 Lincoln Navigator that made it the pioneer of the luxury SUV sector? Recently, car columnist Doug DeMuro illustrated what made this vehicle so spectacular for its time.

The 1998 Lincoln Navigator’s head-turning exterior

You may think the ’98 Navigator looks strikingly similar to the Ford Expedition. That’s because Ford wanted to model this luxury SUV after their already popular full-sized Expedition. Once you looked more closely at the Navigator, you could see it had a few more high-end features.

The door handles, for example, had a stunning chrome finish that added a touch of style. The Navigator was also equipped with illuminated running boards that made getting into the vehicle at night much easier. 

The interior was ahead of its time

Back in the late ’90s, reverse cameras, Bluetooth connectivity, and multimedia displays did not exist. But that didn’t mean the Navigator lacked the most state-of-the-art luxury features for its time. The SUV featured soft leather and rich wooden trim throughout the cabin.

There were several other never-before-seen features, like a power-adjustable seat and pedals. With just a push of a button, you could move the gas and brake pedal forward. This way, if you didn’t have long legs, you could still reach the pedals without having to sit dangerously close to the steering wheel.

The control cluster on the steering wheel is something we’re used to seeing nowadays. However, one dial mounted on the steering wheel was the temperature button, which allowed you to easily control the climate. In 1998, that feature was something most people had never seen before. Although it was an extremely convenient feature, many manufacturers have not incorporated it into today’s cars.

What type of engine did the 1998 Lincoln Navigator have?

The ’98 model came equipped with a 5.4-liter V8 paired to a 4-speed automatic transmission, capable of producing 230 hp. Today, the Navigator’s engine is capable of producing double the amount of horsepower. But with the first generation, Lincoln was more concerned with interior luxury features than power and performance features.

However, the Navigator still performed well. It provided drivers with a smooth, reliable means of transportation. The 1998 Lincoln Navigator may not look as luxurious as some SUVs do today. But it was definitely ahead of the game.