2020 Lincoln Navigator positioned to succeed, poised for new competition

2020 Lincoln Navigator

2020 Lincoln Navigator

What changes will make the Lincoln Navigator different?

Little of significance as Lincoln’s flagship SUV girds for the expected model-year 2021 redesign of its archrival, the Cadillac Escalade. Expect the 2020 Navigator to continue cruising on the success of its model-year-2018 redesign.

Restructured, restyled, and reinvigorated with new luxuries, the first all-new Navigator in a decade has been a showroom smash, almost doubling initial demand over its immediate predecessor.

Its next notable change is slated for model-year 2022, when it’ll get freshened looks and become available with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. But Lincoln is probably plotting some move to counter the highly anticipated model-year-’21 remake of the Escalade, still America’s premium-full-size-SUV sales leader. That likely leaves the ’20 Navigator in a holding pattern.

Why should I wait for the 2020?

To let demand cool and with it, transaction prices. Dealers were getting an average of $3,000 over manufacturer’s suggested retail for new Navigators in short supply. That’s understandable. The 2018 redesign restored this SUV’s plus-size prestige in a market stoked by economic enthusiasm and manageable gas prices.

The ’20 should ride that wave, reprising a 2019 lineup that featured Navigators in regular and extended lengths, both with seating for seven or eight. It should also continue to offer each length in Select, Reserve, and Black Label trim grades, with the regular-length returning a base-level Premier, as well. Every ’20 Navigator will again come with the choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) and offer just one engine, a 450-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6.

And just as Cadillac’s Escalade is basically a gussied-up version of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban (and GMC Yukon), the 2020 Navigator will continue as a more expensive, more powerful, more luxurious version of the Ford Expedition.

Should I buy a 2019 model instead?

If you can get one at a price you can live with. You’ll enjoy driving a still-hot new SUV. And while you may need to haggle hard with your dealer, you’ll at least avoid Lincoln’s inevitable price increase for what will be an essentially unchanged 2020 Navigator.

As was the very first Navigator in 1998, today’s fourth-generation is a traditional SUV, its body riding a Ford F-Series pickup-truck frame. The big Ford, Lincoln, and General Motors SUVs are among the final body-on-frame holdouts. While this makes them heavier than crossover SUVs, which use car-type, unified body-and-frame construction, it gives them greater hauling and towing abilities. These old-school SUVs are among the largest passenger vehicles on the road. The regular-length Navigator is 6 inches longer than the Escalade; the 12-inch-longer Navigator L is 2 inches shorter than the extended-length Escalade ESV.

Will the styling be different?

Not beyond a possible new color choice or two. The ’20 Navigator will wear the sleeker but-still imposing look that came on line with the model-year-’18 redesign. The revamp stretched the SUV’s wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) slightly and replaced the steel body with one made mostly of weight-saving aluminum.

Many of the body panels are shared with the Expedition, but the Navigator gets a distinct front-end appearance thanks primarily to its own grille, which features mesh openings shaped like the Lincoln emblem. On Reserve and Black Label models, the grille’s Lincoln star illuminates as you approach the vehicle and a Lincoln-logo “welcome mat” is projected below each body side. Navigator also gets its own wheel designs, with 20-inch alloys standard on the Premier and 22s on the other models in styles specific to each grade.

Ford’s corporate decision makers wisely gave the Lincoln a more upscale interior than the Expedition. It has its own dashboard, center console, switchgear, and materials. Transmission gear selection is via a row of elegant dashboard buttons – Lincoln calls them piano keys — rather than the Ford’s console-mounted rotary dial. Real wood trim is standard on every Navigator, as is leather upholstery that becomes plusher as you ascend the model ladder. Festooned with chrome-bright metal and plastic, burnished veneers, and soft-touch panels, Navigator’s cabin décor is opulent and dazzling, even if materials quality is not quite up to Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, even Lexus standards. Still, minimalists need not apply.

Room and comfort are maxi, too. Heated power front buckets will again be standard. Ventilated 30-way-adjustable massaging seats should remain optional starting with Select models, though we’d urge Lincoln to simplify their multifarious door-mounted controls or at least identify them less cryptically. In the second row, two heated power-folding captain’s chairs will again be standard; standard on Reserve and above and optional otherwise is a second-row center console that eliminates the center pass-through to the third row.

If you want eight-passenger seating, a 40/20/40 split/folding power reclining second-row bench — with a sliding center portion and heated outboard positions — should return as optional at no extra charge. All ’20 Navigators will also be back with a three-passenger power folding third-row bench.

Escalade generally paces Navigator for luxury and matches it for first- and second-row spaciousness. But it can’t touch the Lincoln’s third-row accommodations. Blame the bulky sold-rear-axle design the Cadillac shares with its GM cousins. It necessitates a raised floor that forces rearmost passengers into a knees-up posture. Expedition and Navigator by contrast have a more sophisticated and space-efficient independent rear suspension that allows a lower floor and far more comfortable chair-like carriage. Expect the next-generation Escalade to adopt a similar design.

The Navigator L model has no more seating space than the regular-length Navigator, its extra length devoted instead to additional cargo volume. Both have plenty of it, though the regular length’s 19.3 cubic feet behind the third-row likely means you’ll need a rooftop carrier for full-capacity family vacations. The L has 34.3 cubic feet behind its third row. With the third row folded, the regular-length has 57.5 cubic feet of cargo volume (the L has 73.3) and with both rear rows stowed it has 103.3 (the L has 120.2).

All ’20 Navigators will again come with a foot-kick activated hands-free power liftgate, and while the luggage-floor liftover isn’t extraordinarily tall for a big body-on-frame SUV, the high step-in to the interior is likely to challenge folks who are less then fully mobile. Most everyone will make regular use of the sturdy grab handles when climbing aboard, as well as the standard running boards, which, on all but the Premier, are illuminated and power-deploy automatically.

Lincoln will continue to fit the Navigator with child-seat latches in every second-row seating position and in the outboard third-row positions, for a total of up to five.

Any mechanical changes?

Nothing expected until the gas-electric-hybrid powertrain option arrives with the model-year 2022 freshening. Until then, all Navigators will use the most powerful version of the corporate 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, dubbed the EcoBoost in Fords but unbranded here. It should return for 2020 with 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. The same engine in the Expedition is rated at 375 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, or 400 and 480, respectively, in the flagship Expedition Platinum models. (Escalade has a V-8 with 420 horsepower and 460-pound-feet of torque.) Like the Ford, the Lincoln will continue to employ a 10-speed automatic transmission developed with GM and also used by the Escalade.

Gutsy and smooth, devoid of perceptible turbo lag, it’s difficult to fault Navigator’s powertrain. At around 5.5 seconds 0-60-mph, acceleration is tops in its competitive set. Special credit is due the quick-shifting, state-of-the-art transmission, even if the standard steering-wheel paddles don’t actually afford much manual-type gear control. Towing capacity is also an asset, at up to 8,700 pounds on rear-drive models and 8,300 with AWD. Optional again will be a tow package that includes Ford’s trailer-backup-assist system with a dashboard knob that automatically coordinates steering when reversing.

Most Navigator buyers will continue to choose all-wheel drive, which should remain standard on the Reserve and Black Label grades and optional at around $2,700 on the other trims. It features a console control to optimize the powertrain on slippery surfaces. Similarly, Navigator will again come with driver-selectable modes that tailor transmission and steering calibrations within settings Lincoln calls Normal, Excite, and fuel-saving Conserve. Select and above trims should again come with an adaptive suspension, which is also recalibrated by the mode selection.

The modes have a perceptible effect on driving feel and although even Excite won’t transform this 18-plus-foot-long, 6-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide, 3-ton truck into a sports sedan, Navigator is rewardingly responsive to steering inputs, refreshingly maneuverable around town, locomotive-stable on the highway, and stays surprisingly flat in turns. Ride quality is best with the 20-inch wheels and tires. Even with the adaptive suspension working to counteract road imperfections, models with the 22-inch wheels suffer some impact harshness over lane-wide tar strips and expansion joins

Will fuel economy improve?

Not likely — not that many Navigators buyers appear to care. Though the L model outweighs the regular-length version by some 200 pounds, they share nearly the same EPA ratings and should continue to do so for model-year 2020. With rear wheel drive, expect the ’20 Navigator to again rate a sobering 16/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined with rear wheel drive and the L to rate 16/22/18. Both should continue at 16/21/18 with AWD.

That degree of consumption is common for the premium full-size-SUV and crossover class, although Navigator’s slightly lighter and less powerful Expedition sibling rates 1-2 mpg better across the board. Note that Lincoln stresses Navigator’s full horsepower and torque output was achieved using 93-octane premium gas, the EPA ratings were calculated using lesser octane regular gas.

The twin-turbo V-6 is fitted with a stop/start system that shuts it down when the Navigator is stopped (allowing accessories to remain running) and automatically restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal. It undoubtedly saves some fuel and is skillfully integrated to operate imperceptibly.

Will it have new features?

Probably not. Already brimming with luxury and convenience features, there’s little to add. However, we’d advocate for a more democratic approach to safety equipment. That may be one way for Lincoln to throw some shade on the coming all-new Escalade.

Every 2020 Navigator model will again come with blind-spot detection. But it’s unconscionable for a brand that positions itself as premium to charge buyers of 2019 Navigator Select models – models with $80,000-plus base prices — extra for a full suite of safety equipment that’s standard on vehicles costing far less. Worse still, these safety features — which include autonomous emergency braking – were not even available on the 2019 Navigator Premier trim, despite its $73,000-plus starting price.

The safety features in question include autonomous emergency braking that can automatically stop the SUV to prevent a frontal collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. Also included: adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead and brake and accelerate in stop-and-go traffic; lane-maintaining automatic steering; a head-up display that projects key information onto the windshield; and hands-free automatic parking into and out of a space. On the 2019 Navigator, these features were standard on Reserve and Black Label models but were available on Select trims only in the $2,640 Technology Package option. They were unavailable on the 2019 Premier.

Less critical than liberalizing its approach to safety tech, Lincoln might shuffle some features for 2020, by making the towing package available with the base Premiere trim, for example. Otherwise, the too-long-to-list roster of equipment standard on every Navigator will continue to include such items as imbedded navigation and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen screen mounted tablet-like on the dashboard.

Also standard: power-adjustable pedals and tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote engine start, tri-zone automatic climate control, and power folding heated mirrors. Of note as well: standard adaptive LED headlamps that are speed sensitive, casting a long beam at high speeds and a wider beam at slower speeds and augmented by automatic highbeams. Six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets, and Apple and Android connectivity will also return, with all but Premiere likely to continue with wireless phone charging standard.

A massive panoramic sunroof should again be standard on the Reserve, Black Label, and Select L models and an option at around $2,000 on the regular-length Select. Expect the 30-way seats, standard on Black Label, to again cost around $1,500; the 20-speaker Revel-brand audio upgrade around $1,200; and the rear entertainment system with dual front seatback-mounted screens about $2,000.

Black Label buyers will continue to be offered even-more sybaritic accommodations in the form of special interior themes Lincoln calls Destination, Chalet, and Yacht Club, each with its own unique upholsteries and appliques.

How will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll increase, meaning it’ll be even easier to push the sticker price of a Black Label Navigator beyond $100,000. Indeed, that threshold isn’t unusual in this segment, with low-six-figure base prices for top-trim versions of such rivals as the Escalade, Range Rover, and Mercedes GLS.

Estimated base prices here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which should remain around $1,300 for the ’20 Navigator. For the regular-length models, expect base prices of around $75,500 for the Premier and $79,500 for the Select; add around $2,700 for AWD. With AWD again standard, anticipate base prices of around $85,000 for the Select and $97,300 for the Black Label.

Estimated base prices for 2020 Navigator L models are $83,000 for the Select ($85,700 with AWD) and $87,000 and $100,200, respectively, for the AWD-standard Reserve and Black Label.

Lincoln will likely continue to provide every Navigator with roadside assistance for life, plus personalized customer care in which a valet picks up your SUV for any service needed, at any location, provides you with a complimentary Lincoln loaner vehicle, and returns your washed Nav when service is complete. Similarly, if you buy or lease a Black Label you’ll again qualify for a range services, including assistance from personal vehicle shoppers at your home, in the showroom, or online; lifetime complimentary car washes; and membership in the Avis President’s Club with complimentary rentals in select locations.

When will it come out?

Look for a release date for the 2020 Navigator during the third quarter of 2019.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]