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2015 Lincoln Navigator offers added power

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator. Credit: Ford

For those who require or desire something really big to drive, charting a course in the Lincoln Navigator's direction is one sure way to get your fill. For the 2015 model year there's more upper-end content and power to play with, all of which is contained inside a more tasteful, up-to-date package.

The Navigator currently plays second banana to the equally proportioned and highly successful Cadillac Escalade, which is the usual ride of choice for sports and entertainment celebrities.

Against that public relations onslaught, the latest Navigator might not, as stated in the vehicle's press materials "recapture that glory" of years past. However the changes that Lincoln's designers and engineers have visited upon the largest of Lincolns are nonetheless significant.

The front clip incorporates a bolder split-wing grille, a new hood and projector-style headlamps ringed with mini LED running lights. In back, a full-width LED taillight bar is an attractive addition, even if it does accentuate the vehicle's proportions. The rest of the Nav's boxy sheetmetal remains constant with previous versions, which is pretty much how the Escalade and similar competitors appear.

The Nav also rests on a set of 20-inch wheels (two inches larger than before), with an upgrade to 22-inchers available.

Unchanged is your choice of the standard-length Navigator, or the Navigator L that extends the distance between the front and rear wheels by 12 inches and overall length by nearly 14 inches.

Of course the big Lincoln's refresh wouldn't be complete without some attention paid to the interior. The good news is that the old-school-look dashboard has been completely modernized and the optional - on the "Reserve Package" - over-the-top wood trim has been replaced by more tasteful "Ziricote," which is an eco-friendly plant-based product used in watercraft.

The Reserve Package also adds double-stitched premium leather trim for all three rows of seats - including a second-row bench or dual captain's chairs - plus the dashboard, king-size console/armrest and other surfaces. The only sour note is that the classy analog clock positioned atop the control panel has been deleted.

All of the above-mentioned adjustments pale by comparison to the change between the front fenders. The previous 5.4-liter V8 that made 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet or torque has been jettisoned for a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that's rated at 380 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That compares favorably with the 2015 Escalade's 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque.

A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is in charge of directing power to the rear, or all four wheels when the Nav is equipped with Lincoln's optional Control Trac four-wheel-drive.

Standard with either layout is Hill Start/Descent Assist that holds the vehicle for up to two seconds when transitioning from the brake pedal to the accelerator. This is definitely a helpful feature, considering the vehicle's nearly 6,000-pound base curb weight. Also standard is a load-leveling system that prevents the Navigator from listing when it's filled with heavy objects.

The optional Continuously Controlled Damping, as the name implies, constantly adapts the suspension according to Normal, Sport (firm) and Comfort (soft) settings.

As for towing ability, the Navigator's stout chassis can trailer up to 9,000 pounds, exceeding the Escalade's max capacity by 1,000 pounds.

Fuel economy ratings have yet to be assigned, but a best guess would be 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway (previously 14/20).

The 2015 Navigator goes on sale later this year and carries a base price of $62,500. The L is $64,650. That's about $10,000 cheaper than the Escalade's base price which, barring any price wars or deep discounting, should push would-be rock stars in Lincoln's direction a bit more.

What you should know: 2015 Lincoln Navigator
Type: Four-door, rear /four-wheel-drive full-size sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6, twin-turbocharged (380)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Market position: Full-size luxury utility vehicles will always be popular with people who have plenty of disposable income and who need to haul their families and their toys to their mountain-top, lake- or ocean-front retreats.
Points: Front and rear redesign is a modest improvement; Twin-turbo V6 has sufficient guts to get the job done and is a big improvement over previous V8; Upgraded interior and suspension appointments help Navigator keep up with the times; Any chance of a turbo-diesel option in the near future? Not likely; Similar updates also performed on Ford Expedition.
MPG: (city/hwy): 17/23 (est.)
Base price: (incl. destination) $62,500

By comparison
Chevrolet Escalade
Base price: $72,700
All-new-for-2015 luxury wagon closely mimics Navigator's power output.

Infiniti QX80
Base price: $62,500
Plenty of space towing capacity and luxury offset by a thirsty 400-hp V8.

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
Base price: $64,000
AWD and lots of comfort features are included. Diesel engine is optional.

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