Lincoln refreshes Navigator to announce it is still alive, challenge Escalade

Article by Christian A., on September 15, 2014

While executives at Lincoln say that the 2015 Navigator is a moderate refreshening, the full-sized luxury SUV is actually expected to retake the lead in a segment the brand pioneered in the 1990s but eventually lost to the Cadillac Escalade.

Lincoln is hoping that the 2015 Navigator would serve as a reminder that the brand is still one of the dominant names in the luxury car industry, preparing customers to the real deal after two or three years when Lincoln rolls out a redesigned Navigator.

While Lincoln executives won’t discuss future product plans, industry analysts expect the new Navigator to bear an aluminum body. Lincoln was credited with creating the full-size luxury truck-based SUV segment, rolling out the MY1997 Navigator in 1996.

Cadillac followed suit in 1997 with the Escalade. The Navigator topped the segment until 2001, when the Escalade managed to get pass its main rival and has not been challenged dutifully since then. For every three or four Escalades that Cadillac sells, only one Navigator is sold by Lincoln. Despite being proud of being the creator of the segment, Lincoln was not able to keep with rivals in the category.

This is simply because management at its parent Ford Motor Co. paid more attention to its luxury brands in Europe like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Lincoln somewhat helped to the Navigator’s fall after placing only little investment either in the vehicle itself or in supporting marketing.

In fact, the Navigator had its last refresh in the 2007 model year, when LInconl added a long-wheelbase version, an independent rear axle and a hydro-formed front end. Despite the lack of significant advertising, Lincoln was able to sell around 8,500 Navigators annually since 2009.

Navigator sales peaked at 43,859 in 1998. Now that Ford has divested its European brands, it has shifted its focus back into Lincoln, reinventing it as an American-style luxury brand that appeals to younger “culturally progressive” customers.

The already luxurious Lincoln Navigator has become more opulent inside for the 2015 model year, thanks to the availability of the new Reserve Package. This package bestows an updated cabin that wraps all three rows of seats – including the armrests, transmission shifter and center console – in ultra-luxurious leather. The instrument panel is also hand-wrapped in leather, with contrast stitching and leather glove box door. The Reserve Package also includes the Premium Ziricote wood trim, which is a luxurious natural-grain wood used as an accent in yachts.

As standard, the Lincoln Navigator is provided with the new Lincoln steering wheel that made its debut on the recently revealed MKC. Wrapped in Wollsdorf leather and trimmed in wood, this steering wheel offers a thicker grip and softer touch.

Lincoln designed the new Navigator to accommodate up to eight occupants, and offers the second to optionally feature two captain's chairs -- with or without a center console -- or a fold-flat bench. Thanks partly to Lincoln Navigator's patented independent rear suspension, true fold-flat, PowerFold third-row seats are standard. These seats allow both standard and extended wheelbase models to deliver a best-in-segment cargo volume.

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