I finally did it: I'm a dad. The funny thing is, I've always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I'm a father, the '74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car.
I remember how much rap used to piss off my dad when I was in high school. A federal government employees with a family, he was basically "The Man" the music seemed to be railing against. To an old white guy living in the suburbs, those young dudes with their gold chains and flashy cars must've been terrifying to him. (Plus, he hated it when my best friend drove up to our house in his beat-up '85 Chevy Celebrity station wagon thundering Wu-Tang through twin 15-inch subwoofers.) But as a teenager, I loved rappers specifically for their flamboyance and don't-give-a-fuck attitudes. The things they said, those cars they drove—it was all fantastic.
When I saw the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator for the first time, all periwinkle blue and shiny silver with those giant wheels, I didn't think of the top-hatted industrialists who drove Lincolns back when that shade of cerulean was a popular color in Detroit's paint catalog. I thought of rappers. I could've sworn I even heard a beat drop when I put the new Navigator in drive for the first time.
The interior on my Black Label trim tester was even better—not all gold everything, but all blue everything, which did the trick. I felt invincible swaggering around the city in this monster; I'm also pretty sure the guy sitting in the bulletproof cashier's booth at the gas station thought I was a gangster. But I forgot which gas station attendant might have gotten that impression, there were so many I had to stop at: at nearly 6,000 pounds and packing a 450-horsepower engine, the Navigator is a thirsty ride. The EPA says it gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, but I guess I was having too much fun, because I never managed to top 15 mpg. I could hear the whoosh of my kid's college fund blowing away every time I hit the accelerator.
Yet as much as I loved the bigness and blueness of the Navigator, it was just too much cool for me. I'm not a rapper; hell, I don't even wear a rapper's clothes. Like my father before me, I'm just a schlub. (There's nothing worse than a normal schlub who tries to act as cool as a rapper. It never ends well for him, unless he's Will Ferrell.) Assuming I had the money to buy an $85,000 SUV, I would still—like most people do—worry what the other parents would think when I rolled up to my son's soccer practice in it.
No, scratch that. If I had the money, I probably would drive something ridiculous like a Lincoln Navigator. I'd probably wear furry hats and pink sunglasses, too, though and live my best Will Ferrell-movie-character existence. But since I've always been more of a boring-car-kind-of-guy anyway, the new Ford Expedition—which is essentially the same vehicle as the Navigator, just minus much of the fancy frippery—is more my speed.
The Expedtition is big and pleasant like its Lincoln sibling, but also doesn't have the ostentation cranked up to 11. (It's more like a seven or eight, which is perfectly acceptable). There was plenty of room for a car seat, a stroller, a suitcase full of toys, a disassembled swing-set, a spare engine for my other car...seriously, the Expedition is huge. Even with the rear seats up, the Ford had enough space in the back for the baby's crap and the several bags of laundry I needed to take to my parents' house to wash. (Being a dad hasn't changed me that much.) It also was fun to drive, in that "move over or I'll crush your tiny car with this massive truck" sort of way, and was a great way to take my entire family—wife, son, parents, brother, sister-in-law—out on the town all at once.
Will I buy one of these big Ford vehicles? No. I'm a journalist, and make beat-up 1980s-era Chevy Suburban money at best. But driving these two was a nice way to think back upon my misspent youth, and all of the aggravation it brought up my dad. As I pulled huge Ikea bags full of laundry from the Expedition and handed them to my mother, I thought of all the things my own son will someday do to irritate me. Life's a beautiful circle, no?
The 2018 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, By the Numbers
Price as Tested: $81,590 (Ford Expedition Platinum); $98,320 (Lincoln Navigator Black Label)
Powertrain: EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, 400 horsepower, 470 pound-feet (Expedition); 450 horsepower, 510 pound-feet (Navigator); 10-speed automatic; four-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway (EPA)
0-60 MPH: 5.9 seconds (Expedition), 5.5 seconds (Navigator)
Top Speed: 115 mph
Random fact of your choosing: At 5,692 and 5,922 pounds, the Expedition and Navigator are among the heaviest vehicles still legally allowed to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.