Lincoln Navigator (left) and Cadillac Escalade
Lincoln Navigator (left) and Cadillac Escalade. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Luxury Heavyweights

Rising fuel prices and a general greening of our collective consciousness has made the mega luxury SUV a kind of vehiculum non grata — it is hardly the aspirational ride it once was. Yet for those who need to haul people, stuff, tow a big boat, and want do so in sybaritic splendour, these brutes are the way to go.

The Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have a longstanding rivalry and are the top American dogs in this category.

So fuel economy be damned! As a service to our readers, we have spent altogether too much time at the gas pumps and braved the slings and arrows of the finger-wagging socially conscientious in order to ride these titans to a meaningful conclusion.

You’re welcome.

2012 Lincoln Navigator Limited 4×4

Lincoln is currently in the proccess of sprucing up its image, making a big push towards reestablishing the brand’s mojo and losing its longstanding rep as a maker of gussied-up-Fords-for-old-folks.

Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln Navigator. Click image to enlarge

After a week behind the wheel of a 2012 Navigator, I’m pretty certain this rig is not part of Lincoln’s new forward vision. This SUV saw its last refresh in 2007, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was 1987 by the interior. I have nothing against nostalgia, but if blocky retro 80s dashes are cool again, I didn’t get the memo. And don’t get me started on the wood.

The Navigator rides on 20-inch wheels and cuts a conserative yet elegant profile. The only option on this tester was the lovely White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat paint ($500). Senior Editor Yarkony had this to say about its snout: “Did the Navigator’s grille get shinier? It’s not helping…”

Lincoln is letting the body-on-frame Navi live out its golden years unencumbered by many of the modern features and safety tech you’d expect in a luxury vehicle listing at $73,500 — like proximity key and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot detection. Okay, it has little convex inserts in the side mirrors. The fact that the steering wheel only tilts and doesn’t telescope is a bit of a shocker, but the pedals are power adjustable.

Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln Navigator. Click image to enlarge

Power comes from Ford’s venerable three-valve 5.4L V8 making 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. This is a proven engine, although dated, underpowered when looking at the competition and not particularly efficient. You won’t find this bent-eight anymore in the Ford F-150 pickup, but it soldiers on here.

Mated to a six-speed auto, the 5.4L makes for smooth progress and a lusty exhaust note. Official fuel mileage is 16.4 L/100 km city and 11.4 L/100 km highway. I averaged 17 L/100 km for the week. The Navi also gets hit with a $2,000 Green Levy gas-guzzler tax.

Speaking of smooth, this SUV glides down the road in the finest of Lincoln traditions. It’s like a big comfy couch. The standard heated and ventilated front seats are trimmed in buttery leather and coddle your backside over the long haul. The ride is cushy, the interior quiet and the standard THX audio sounds very good.

I’m happy to report the Navigator comes with standard navigation. How could it not?

It’s a bright and airy cabin, with a low belt line and good sightlines. Despite its girth, the Navigator is reasonably easy to manoeuvre thanks to standard backup camera and a tight turning circle.

You certainly couldn’t call the Navigator a sharp handler — it lazily floats along, discouraging abrupt inputs or enthusiastic cornering. But neither does it wallow excessively or list like a torpedoed freighter. Most will be buying the Navi for its utility, and here it shines.

With standard self-levelling suspension and heavy-duty tow package, this ute will pull up to 3,946 kg, although online reports say the V8 works hard for its keep. This tester was fitted with a no-charge three-seat 60/40 split rear bench that makes it an eight passenger vehicle in a pinch. Both the second and third row chairs recline, and access to the the back is reasonably painless. The power folding third row and easily dropped manual second row opened up a huge, flat cargo area.

The 2012 Navigator is all about utility and passenger comfort, but how comfortable will it be facing its archrival, the Cadillac Escalade?

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