Chicago Auto Show: Lincoln Navigator world premiere

Lincoln used an intimidating on-court presence to introduce its intimidating on-road presence, the 2007 Lincoln Navigator. In addition to Executive Director of Design, Peter Horbury (above) and a hail of Ford executives, longtime L.A. Laker, businessman and social crusader Magic Johnson was tipped to yank the sheet on Lincoln's Big Stick. Oh, and Kermit the Frog made sure that "Amphibious Americans" (his words, not ours) were accounted for as well.

Now available in two lengths, standard and extended-length "L" (as is the Ford Expedition which it is based upon), the Navigator has been substantially revamped for 2007. Up front, the message is conveyed by a gigantic chrome grille, said to be inspired by the Lincoln 'star' logo. It's certainly an imposing look, and it absolutely comes off better in-the-metal than it does in photos. That said, the motif is certainly controversial, particularly in light of the bumper-resident second grille (which integrates the foglamps). If Ford's 3-bar grille is garnering comparisons to a Gillete razor, then surely this is a double-screen Braun electric. All-in, the overall effect is something less than harmonious, but isn't likely to be confused for anything else. Complex multi-element headlamps afford the Navi a technologically advanced look, and the Powerdome adds even more visual heft. There's a lot going on here, but subtle it ain't.

(more commentary and tons of original and stock shots inside-and-out after the jump!)


Moving rearward, side cladding appears to be better integrated, and the rear taillamps wrap around to the vehicle's profile more than before. Out back, it becomes clear that the Zephyr's large, horizontally-oriented taillights make an encore in the two-piece rear hatch. Again, plenty of presence, perhaps not the most refined of executions.

As with the Expedition, the "all-new" five-link independent rear suspension attacked to a stiffer chassis should afford smooth travel and better transient responses. The driveline will likewise sound familiar to those who checked out the Expy's Houston debut. A 5.4L Triton V-8 (300 hp/ 365 ft.-lbs.) matched to a six-speed slushbox. Lincoln is claiming up to a 7-percent increase in highway fuel economy versus a typical 4-speed automatic. Uprated four-wheel discs with anti-lock control are standard, as is Advance Trac traction control and Roll Stability Control. For those hauling big toys, the Navigator can accommodate more than 1600 lbs. of cargo, or tow up to 9,100 lbs. (in standard-length 4x2 trim).

If we're being honest, initial interior impressions are underwhelming. Feature count, ergonomics and space all appear to be first-rate, but hands-on, the interior feels demonstrably less expensive than in the current Navigator. Button action on the center console HVAC and stereo controls is uncultivated, the glovebox falls open in an uncontrolled arc (it isn't that big, either), sun visors feel cheap, and plastichrome door handles doubly so. Material quality that feels appropriate on a vehicle of the Expedition's price class and stature offend here, particularly in light of the 2007 Cadillac Escalade's higher quality bits. Our man on the inside allows that the Blue Oval's initial commitment to "Wood, leather, or metal" wherever the customer's hand regularly falls in the Navigator has gone by the cost-cutting wayside, and it doesn't take long to register once inside.

At least owners will have a 600-watt THX II Certified stereo system to keep them occupied, and the kiddies can be anesthetized via rear-seat DVD player with 8" screen and wireless headphones. And out on the floor at the show, most journos appeared too busy angling for Magic's autographed miniballs (sourced from the cargo hold of the white 'L') to care.

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