2022 Lincoln Navigator First Drive Review: An Updated Land Yacht Coming for Cadillac’s Ass
Refreshed with sleeker styling, the 2022 Navigator’s big news is the addition of Lincoln’s hands-free driving mode. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty good.
As far as I’m concerned, there are only two American luxury automakers vying for the title of Greatest of All Time. In recent years, it’s been pretty back and forth between the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator, but ever since the former has been optioned with the world-class semi-autonomous driver-assistance system, Super Cruise, the Ford-backed Navi has had some catching up to do. But now that the 2022 Lincoln Navigator
will offer Dearborn’s version of hands-free driving—something rather unfortunately named ActiveGlide—it’s time to see if Lincoln can take back the crown.
Besides a mild facelift and some interior upgrades, Lincoln was smart not to mess with the current Navigator’s already-winning formula, just improved it where it could. It’s a fine line to walk, for sure, but the resulting Navigator is truly deserving of the phrase “refreshed.”
2022 Lincoln Navigator Specs
- Base price (Black Label as tested): $89,745 ($107,050)
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 | 10-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 440 @ 5,850 rpm
- Torque: 510 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
- Off-road angles: 22.3° approach | 22° departure | 21.3° breakover (SWB 4x2) 22.4° approach | 20.7° departure | 19.8° (LWB 4x4)
- Ground clearance: 9.6 to 9.7 inches
- Curb weight: 5,685 pounds to 6,056 pounds
- Cargo volume: 20.9 cubic feet (third row upright, SWB) | 36 cubic feet (third row upright, LWB)
- Towing capacity: 8,100 pounds to 8,700 pounds
- Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined (SWB 4x2) | 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined (SWB 4x4) | 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined (LWB 4x2) | 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined (LWB 4x4)
- Quick take: With a slightly sharpened-up exterior and the new availability of ActiveGlide, Lincoln didn’t mess with what already made the Navigator great. It just improved what was already there.
- Score: 8.5/10
Shaking off the old and stodgy image when the current, fourth-generation debuted at the end of 2017, the Lincoln Navigator emerged with contemporary looks, a sumptuous interior that’d give anything from across the pond a run for its money, and an ass-hauling engine and transmission combination that made it drive like a low-flying private jet.
New for the 2022 facelift is a larger, 13.2-inch high-definition center stack screen, a slightly reworked front grille shape, slimmer headlights, a simplified lower front facia, and new 3D taillights. I’d always thought the rear of the Navigator was its weakest design point and that’s been fixed with this refresh. What stays are the 10-speed automatic and the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that produces 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque—10 hp down from outgoing Navigator.
This is because, according to a company rep, Lincoln’s engineers added some extra powertrain technology (such as an electric grade booster). They also prioritized the car’s low-end torque, quietness, driveability, and increased efficiency. After making sure the car could do all that, the engine wound up producing slightly less hp than in the previous iteration. You can’t tell at all from the driver’s seat, though, so put it out of your mind.
Two new trims also join the Chalet and Yacht Club schemes you can get with your top-tier Black Label Navigator: Central Park (which comes with black walnut interior wood trim and green leather, à la the test vehicle) and Invitation (which comes with Khaya interior wood trim). Both wood trims feature very beautifully laser-etched detailing. The second-row seats can be optioned with dual entertainment monitors, as well as massage capabilities.
Finally, the 2022 Navigator will be the first Lincoln to come with ActiveGlide, the automaker’s hands-free, advanced adaptive cruise control. How is it different from the Blue Cruise technology you’d find in other Ford cars, you ask? It’s not. Someone just decided to give it a different name because apparently you gotta keep the Lincoln and Ford products distinct.
An Old Friend
Much of what I remember—and loved—about the Navigator from the week I spent with one in back in 2019 carries over to the facelift.
If you’ve never driven one, here’s the first thing you need to know. The Navigator weighs, like, three tons. It is goddamn massive. Nowhere will you ever escape that sensation of mass. And not only is the truck massive, but it is also tall. You feel imposing while driving it. It dwarfs passing crossovers; an Acura MDX’s beltline was even with my navel. This makes for wonderful forward visibility, though, like being a sentry atop a watchtower.
The second thing you need to know is everything else the Navigator is equipped with—its engine, brakes, transmission, steering, suspension—feel specially designed to handle that mass. Not just handle, but to minimize it, wield it in a powerful way.
In comfort mode, things are as palatially plush as anything this side of a Rolls. The ride is masterfully unruffled over even the worst of bumps. You barely hear the engine above the lowest revs. Gear changes come smoothly and seamlessly. The brakes never grab hard—gasp, can you even imagine grabby brakes—and operating them feels like a cushy push beneath your foot.
For the driver, the infotainment system is clear and easy to use, with hard buttons for radio volume and climate temperature. The new screen is noticeably improved in picture quality. The 30-way configurable driver’s seat—which, crucially, also includes pedal adjustments—brought me closer to my most optimal driving position than ever before. I was free to sit further back, my shins not brushing the underside of the steering column for once, and the steering wheel nice and far from my face because I could scoot the pedals toward me. There were a truly dizzying number of adjustments to be made; the only complaint I have is I wish the bottom seat cushion could shorten a bit more to accommodate my stubby femurs. But I’m probably an outlier here and it certainly didn’t make driving the car any less pleasant.
The second-row captain’s chairs offered good legroom and massage capabilities. The optional rear-seat Fire TV entertainment was like wizardry to me—I still remember being floored at the ceiling-mounted DVD player in the family Lexus RX 330 from 2003—but if you’re like me and you suffer from motion sickness, it might be more difficult to benefit from. Finally, the third-row of seats were roomy considering they were third-row seats. But the Navigator’s boxy profile means no weird interior slopes those passengers have to contort themselves around.
Put the truck into sport mode, though—here called Excite—and it turns into one that merely gets to it quickly to one that fuckin’ mobs. If you’ve never been gapped by one of these modern Lincolns, you have no idea. The engine gets louder, the throttle becomes more responsive, the shifts come faster, and the Navigator reaches into the blessed torquiness of its twin-turbocharged V6.
Suddenly at your command are 510 reasons to floor it—the truck whams forward like an incoherent cannonball. But at speed and along Arizona’s sweeping and wide highways, the Navigator never felt like it was hurtling out of control. It handled the momentum smoothly, and though there was body roll, it wasn’t the out-of-control rollicking kind. You’re just aware you’re driving something very big and all-powerful that also needs to corner once in a while.
One thing I wish Lincoln had addressed in the 2022 Navigator is the steering. It was vague and floaty the last time and it’s vague and floaty this time, too. In normal mode, it felt inconsistently weighted, especially in the turns. Only during sport mode did it feel properly weighted and most consistent.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the mode I used during most of my drive. My gas mileage was probably terrible but why use a hammer when I do the same job with a sledgehammer?
Hey! I'm Gliding Here!
It took all of my concentration not to slip up (heh) and call the car’s advanced driver-assist system “Astroglide” instead of “ActiveGlide” to the Lincoln reps’ faces, but I managed not to, and that’s what matters. Not a fan of the name, though, it must be said!
Much like General Motors’ Super Cruise, ActiveGlide uses a front-facing camera for the road and a driver-monitoring camera (mounted on top of the steering column) to make sure the driver is watching the road in order to provide hands-free driving. The system is available as standard on all Black Label Navigators.
I was only able to spend about 20 minutes on a highway outside of Phoenix, Arizona, while using ActiveGlide and I can report that it ain’t bad. The way it braked and accelerated felt natural and progressive and it maintained lane-centering well. I got cut off by cars in front a couple of times but I had set the follow distance far enough that the Navigator wasn’t forced to do any panic-braking. It can handle stop-and-go traffic, but once the car comes to a complete stop, you have to nudge the throttle to get it moving again. The system takes it from there after that.
But as compared to Super Cruise, this current iteration of ActiveGlide is still a bit lacking.
In those 20 minutes, it shut off about half a dozen times, necessitating me to put my hands back on the wheel. In the hour I spent with Super Cruise on a highway in North Carolina, it didn’t turn off once. Lincoln says ActiveGlide has mapped more than 130,000 miles of North American highways for its compatible, hands-free “Blue Zones.” Meanwhile, Cadillac says it has mapped over 200,000 Super Cruiseable miles in the United States and Canada as of this writing. Finally, unlike Super Cruise, ActiveGlide cannot yet change lanes for you.
But these should be only very fixable bumps in the road. As time goes on, Ford/Lincoln will map more and more highways for ActiveGlide to use. A Lincoln rep confirmed that lane-change capabilities are coming. Both of these things can probably be easily addressed via an over-the-air software update.
For now, even in places that aren’t ActiveGlide-enabled, the car’s existing advanced, adaptive, hands-on cruise control cuts it just fine. The only time the system freaked and shut off without warning was on a 45-mph road and the truck was met with a very sharp bend.
Otherwise, I highly recommend keeping it on for long highway cruises with the massage seats going. It feels almost illegally decadent.
It seems silly to consider something like the Navigator through the lens of sustainability, but Lincoln has made noise about launching an all-electric one at some point in the future, which would be extremely cool. There’s already barely any engine to hear and an electric Navigator would keep that furious power while removing the sensation of gearshifts. Give it a skateboard design, open up the front as a massive trunk, and you’ve got one luxury EV on your hands. Plus, seeing as Lincoln celebrates 2022 as the 100th anniversary of joining the Ford family, you know something future-focused and battery-electric is probably on the way.
I do wish the current Navigator made use of the Aviator's very excellent hybrid system, though. It would have added even more weight and complexity but the power bump alone would have been worth it.
Value and Verdict
Base Navigators, with an MSRP of $89,745, come with the 10-speed automatic and twin-turbo V6, its power output unchanged when you move up in trims. Other standard features include the pixel projector headlights, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and a suite of safety features. You can equip your Navigator with ActiveGlide and the optional rear-seat entertainment and massage capabilities if you'd like. From there, the price only increases as you option up through different Black Label trims. The Black Label Central Park test car came out to $107,050 MSRP.
You don’t need my expert opinion to see that the Ford Expedition-platform-sharing Lincoln Navigator is pretty expensive. But how is a luxury car that costs more than $100,000 supposed to drive? That’s hard to quantify, but if I could, the new Navi certainly comes close. Being in one is to exist in your own private suite and its powertrain is both modern and awe-inspiring—something I could not say of the Grand Wagoneer. Nothing about the Navigator was lazy.
True, ActiveGlide can use some light updating to get it closer in capability to Super Cruise. But the possibility is there. And this tech combined with what the Lincoln already offered brings the Navigator back to being neck and neck with the Escalade.
What’s next? The Escalade V-Series I guess!
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