After a few hours, most of those thoughts faded from my mind (except the constant concern about parking) as I settled into the long and monotonous drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I tackled the trek behind the wheel of the Black Label Yacht Club theme edition of the SUV (starting at $95,500). The vehicle doesn’t pretend in any real way to be more than it really is. It doesn’t handle like a smaller car and even on the best day with a tailwind pushing it down the highway, you’d be lucky to break an average of 20 miles per gallon. What it is, is a comfortable, powerful and — thanks to a redesign — smart-looking luxury SUV.
Inside the Navigator (and really that’s what this vehicle is all about), Lincoln has made sure that all seven passengers are comfortable. The leather seats are plush, and even when folks are crammed in the back (which had enough leg room for actual adults), they remark on how comfortable they were.
For the driver and front passenger, the Perfect Position Seats offer up an almost limitless amount of chair customization with lumbar, shoulder, headrest and leg adjustments available either in the door or via the infotainment system. Oh, and they’ll massage your back and your butt. That’s right, butt massages.
Unfortunately, the massage feature is limited to high or low settings. No real choices on types of massage you’ll be getting. Which is a bummer because other luxury brands have stepped up in this area and when you’re dropping nearly $100,000 on a car it’s nice to know the chairs can focus on your lower back or your shoulders after a hard day’s work doing CEO stuff.
Like the chair adjustments, the massage settings are found in the door and infotainment system. Once you finish adjusting your lumbar support or how much you want your rump massaged, the display reverts back to the Sync 3 Infotainment system. Ford (the parent company of Lincoln) has done a great job building an easy to navigate system that puts the main items you need (navigation, audio and your phone) right on the homescreen. The rest of the features are easy to find with a few taps and it supports CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa voice commands.
During my drive, I was more interested in Ford’s AppLink. With it, Sync 3 supports mirroring of apps from the iPhone. In my case, I wanted to use Waze during my trek. For the most part, the system works great. Waze looks pretty much like it does on my phone (except bigger). It has the same features like finding locations along your route, sharing your ETA with friends and reporting police, traffic, construction and other items to other Waze users.
It was great. I got to use Waze from my iPhone, which CarPlay doesn’t currently support (but will when iOS 12 officially appears), with features that even Android Auto’s support of the app doesn’t even have. I only had one real issue with the implementation.
Waze has to be in the foreground on an unlocked phone. If you lock your iPhone, it becomes unresponsive. If you or a passenger launch another app, the Navigator display informs you that Waze is in the background in white letters on a black background.
So let’s say your wife is sick of you playing Abba and wants to switch up the Spotify playlist, Waze disappears until it’s brought back into the foreground.
AppLink also supports Spotify, Pandora, NPR One and a host of other audio apps. But it’s really Waze that makes it worthy of your interest. Even if it does hijack your phone to work. Which in most cases should be fine because you’re driving and you shouldn’t be looking at your phone or switching over to anything while jamming to ABBA Gold.
Sync 3 is very utilitarian, but you can’t really call it beautiful or even pretty. For that, you have to gaze at the Navigator’s dash cluster. It’s a minimalist layout that’s completely out of sync with the rest of the industry that’s sharing a ton a data with the driver.
A black background with glowing white arms and white text are pretty much all you get and it’s wonderful. Better yet, when you switch drive modes, each feature has an exquisite animation. The Excite mode has two gold comets that fly off into the sky. Conserve has a wonderful animation of the Earth. Normal is just space but it looks great. And really there are a host of others that make you want to switch up the modes in your driveway instead of actually heading to your destination.
Sure it’s a little thing, but that’s what luxury vehicles are: a collection of little things that make up a greater whole to pamper the driver and passengers. In the Navigator’s case, that whole is bigger — more than twice the size of the car I actually own (a Subaru BRZ).
Which brings us to driving. The Yacht theme is apt. The Navigator is a boat to drive. It can be quick thanks to a twin turbo 3.5 liter V6 pushing out 450 horsepower and 510 pounds of torque. But it’s large and when you hit the corners, you’ll notice that. Not that you would go flying around any corners in this SUV. Instead, you use all that power to tow, well, a boat. The vehicle even has a feature that helps you back up a trailer (or boat). Sadly I had neither to test it out. But if you’re taking six of your friends to the lake, it’s good to know you’ll have an easier time launching your water boat into liquid via your land boat.
All that power and size also doesn’t do the Navigator any favors when it comes to fuel economy. During my drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego then back to San Francisco, I averaged about 19 miles per gallon. Most of that was driving in Conserve mode. The EPA average is 18 miles per gallon, but when you’re actually splitting equal time between city and highway driving I got about 15.7 miles per gallon.
Yet for the intended consumers (chauffeurs and people with large, fancy families), the Navigator delivers. It’s packed with luxury and the design updates give it a much stronger curb appeal. Inside, the combination of tech from Sync 3, highly adjustable seats and minimalistic dash cluster makes the driver’s chair the best seat in the car the size of a house. Just expect to become good friends with the gas station employees.