2005 Lincoln Navigator
    MSRP
    $50,325 - $56,975
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    2005 Lincoln Navigator Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    New powertrain, new looks for 2005.

    Introduction

    The 2005 Lincoln Navigator benefits from a new engine, a new transmission and fresh styling. The changes for 2005 result in a much-improved vehicle. 

    The Navigator is smooth and luxurious. It offers a silky ride and surprisingly nimble handling given its size. It's also big and brawny, capable of carrying up to eight passengers and a lot of gear, and towing up to 8600 pounds. The smooth ride is due partly to the Navigator's independent rear suspension, an unusual refinement for a large sport utility. 

    A new six-speed automatic transmission for 2005 replaces last year's four-speed automatic, resulting in smoother operation. It responds well to varying driving situations and contributes to the satisfying driving experience. A new 5.4-liter V8 engine with three valves per cylinder reduces emissions and delivers a little more power. AdvanceTrac stability control with Roll Stability Control is standard equipment and can help the driver in an emergency handling situation. 

    The cabin is attractive and comfortable. Even the third-row seats are relatively comfortable for adults. When it's time to haul cargo, simply press a button on the keyless remote and the power liftgate raises, then walk up to the rear of the vehicle and press a pair of buttons and the third-row seats glide down to reveal a perfectly flat cargo area. 

    The Navigator gets a significant makeover for 2005. New styling gives it a kinder, gentler appearance, making it look more like a luxury vehicle, less like a truck. Under this new skin is a thoroughly modern full-size sport utility: Navigator was totally re-designed and re-engineered just two years ago (for 2003). 

    Lineup

    The Lincoln Navigator is available with two-wheel drive ($49,790) or all-wheel-drive ($53,340). 

    All Navigators come with the new 300-horsepower 5.4-liter V8 engine and the new six-speed automatic transmission. All have three rows of seats, leather upholstery in the first two rows, a fully independent suspension with load-leveling at all four corners, rear park assist, and nearly every luxury you would expect in a premium vehicle. 

    Safety features include AdvanceTrac stability control with Roll Stability Control and a Safety Canopy airbag system designed to provide head protection in side impacts and rollovers. 

    The popular Ultimate Preferred Equipment Package ($3,100) adds a power glass sunroof, power liftgate, heated and cooled front seats, and a power folding function for the third-row seat. 

    Options include a 300-watt, nine-speaker THX audio system with voice-activated DVD navigation ($2,995), power retractable running boards ($1,095), rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,415), HID headlamps ($495), Class III/IV trailer tow package ($350), chrome wheels ($495-695), and a monochrome appearance package ($995). The sunroof is available as a stand-alone option ($1,595). To achieve eight-passenger seating, a 40/20/40 split bench second-row seat is available in place of the standard second-row bucket seats at no charge. 

    Walkaround

    The 2005 Lincoln Navigator has a commanding presence, but effuses a softer, more sophisticated look than other large SUVs. Navigator was completely re-engineered for 2003, but the visual changes made then were subtle, especially on the outside, and it took a reasonably keen eye to distinguish a 2003-04 Navigator from a first-generation (1997-2002) model. 

    For 2005, the Navigator gets a significant facelift that results in a cleaner, more upscale appearance. New side cladding dispenses with the fussy, double-layered look and integrates better with the restyled running boards. Similarly, the front fascia has traded the stubbly jawed suggestion of a brush bar for a clean, boldly horizontal lower air intake. A straight black band across the bottom of the fascia reduces the visual mass of the blocker bar designed to improve the safety of people in other cars in a collision. 

    The changes give the Navigator a richer and more substantial look. It looks more like a Lincoln. For the past 70 years (at least) Lincoln's most memorable designs have also been its most pure and clean, while the Lincolns we'd like most to forget appear to have resulted from occasional, unrestrained impulses to try to out bling-bling Cadillac. 

    Power-retractable running boards are available on all Navigators. When a door is opened, the running boards quietly extend out by four inches to allow easier access to the vehicle. When the doors are closed the running boards automatically retract under the rocker panels. 

    The large door mirrors fold in to the body at the touch of a button for tight quarters, such as the entrance to your garage or in crowded parking spaces. Auxiliary turn signals are incorporated into the lower edges of the mirrors. An approach lamp housed in the mirrors illuminates the ground alongside the vehicle when the key fob unlock button is activated, a nice feature on stormy nights, or in dark public garages; and especially helpful when you drop something. 

    Interior

    The Navigator's interior has a modern, elegant feel, with luxury touches you might expect from a sedan, yet it does not look like a sedan interior. The interior was redesigned for 2003, and it has been upgraded for 2005 with a new shifter and a new Camel interior color that's a little darker than before. 

    Lincoln says the symmetrical instrument panel was inspired by the twin-cowl design of the 1961 Lincoln Continental. It certainly works well in the Navigator, enhancing the spaciousness of the interior as it curves up from the wide center console across the top of the instrument pod on one side, and across the glove box on the other. The surface is grained with a pebble texture. American walnut burl trim on the dashboard and door trim looks rich and warms the interior. The center dash and other interior surfaces are finished in a low-luster satin-nickel color that matches the rest of the trim nicely. 

    The center stack is dominated by a satin-nickel panel that hides the navigation system and audio controls. Closing the panel cleans up the interior nicely, leaving only the climate controls exposed. The panel lid is a bit fussy as you can't simply press it down, you have to grasp it between thumb and finger and close it, but it quickly becomes instinctive. At the top of the dash is an elegant analog clock that's easy to set and useful. 

    The Navigator navigates very well indeed when equipped with the optional navigation system. We found it easy to set destinations and the maps are easy to see on the screen. Setting the volume for voice commands requires going into a menu, however, and discerning the distance to the next turn can be a challenge at speed. And it's pricy. But we can't imagine purchasing a Navigator without the navigation system. It's executed well, easy to learn, and quickly recalculated routes and through maze of roads in the coastal hills of Palos Verdes without making any mistakes. 

    Finding switches at night is easy. LEDs (120 of them) are used throughout the cabin to illuminate buttons and controls. The label for each control is laser etched into the satin nickel surface so that it appears black in daylight yet illuminates at night with a nice white glow. The driver and front-seat passengers get his and hers controls for the climate control system. Passengers in the second row of seats get their own climate controls. 

    All seats are finished in leather with a milled pebble finish. The power controls are on the sides of the seat and are easy to find and operate. A two-position memory for the driver's seat includes the mirrors and the power-adjustable pedals. The front seats are heated and cooled and the buttons to do perform this comfortable feat are easy to find and operate. 

    The center console is fairly large, but not as convenient as that in the Ford Expedition. Worse, the window switches are located immediately ahead of the center console, which seems less convenient and more distracting than having them on the doors. 

    Second-row bucket seats are standard and they are roomy and comfortable, though wiring was visible under the driver's seat on our test vehicle. A large center console between the rear bucket seats provides storage for second-row passengers. A second-row bench seat is available to increase the seating capacity from seven to eight. But it's much more than just a bench seat: it's split 40/20/40, with a narrow center section that can slide forward 11 inches to position a child seat conveniently close to the driver or front-seat passenger. 

    The third-row seat is relatively comfortable, even for adults. The independent rear suspension (introduced on the 2003 model) allowed the engineers to lower the floor in the back, freeing up more room for a more comfortable seating position. The third-row bench seat is split 60/40 and can hold three people. On paper, the Navigator's third row provides slightly more legroom than the GMC Yukon XL or Cadi. 

    Driving Impression

    Considering its size, the Lincoln Navigator is remarkably agile. It's easy to manage and is pleasant to drive even on winding roads. There's little body lean and it's possible to drive fairly quickly without upsetting your passengers. Power rack-and-pinion steering is at least partly responsible for the Navigator's handling dynamics. Lincoln worked hard on the steering system, and the Navigator turns in quickly for corners, moving almost instantly once the steering wheel starts to turn. 

    Anybody who enjoys driving a European car would be happy with the steering on the Navigator. On the other hand, we can imagine some loyal Lincoln buyers having a little difficulty adapting to a steering system that reacts to a driver's input with such immediacy. Meanwhile, the independent rear suspension keeps the wheels firmly on the ground, with no axle tramping over bumps or undulations. 

    With such great handling, one expects outstanding acceleration as well, but in this regard we've found past Navigators lacking when compared to the 345-horsepower Cadillac Escalade. But Navigator has a new engine for 2005, with single overhead camshafts and an unusual three valves per cylinder instead of the twin cams and four valves used previously. 

    Displacement is unchanged at 5.4 liters, and horsepower is still pegged at 300. Peak torque is up only slightly, from 355 to 365 pound-feet, with peaking speed slipping from a nice, low 2750 rpm up to a more fussy 3750. So on paper, Navigator still looks a little weak compared to Escalade's 380 pound-feet of torque (albeit at an even peakier 4000 rpm). We found the responsiveness from the 2005 Navigator smooth and responsive, though it lacks the sharpness of the Escalade or Infiniti QX56. Lincoln designed its new V8 to produce strong torque across the entire operating range, and it does, making the Navigator a good vehicle for towing. The new engine is a few pounds lighter as well, with a new and stiffer iron block that reduces noise and vibration. Lincoln says the three-valve design helps reduce emissions. Navigator requires premium gasoline, and a 2WD Navigator is rated 13/18 mpg. 

    Behind this new engine is a new six-speed automatic transmission from ZF of Germany, the first of its kind in a full-size SUV. It's the same transmission that Jaguar installs in its flagship XJ sedan. Having more gears makes it possible to keep the engine operating near optimal rpm more of the time, while a wider span of ratios allows quicker launches and more relaxed cruising. We found the new automatic worked very well. It performed exactly how we wanted it to, neither downshifting nor upshifting inappropriately. It would hold a gear when going downhill, for example, and on one descent it provided enough engine braking to eliminate the need to use the brakes. 

    Now standard on all Navigators, AdvanceTrac stability control monitors factors such as yaw rate and steering wheel position to determine whether the Navigator is turning as its driver intended. The system can reduce engine power or selectively apply the brakes at individual wheels (something no driver can do) to correct a skid almost before it starts. Roll Stability Control monitors body roll and takes corrective action to reduce the chance of rolling over. Neither system can violate the laws of physics, but in many cases they can prevent a moment's inattention from turning to disaster. 

    Summary

    The 2005 Lincoln Navigator combines the towing and hauling capabilities you'd expect from a full-size SUV with the smooth and pleasant driving experience you'd want in a luxury sedan. Its interior is modern and stylish and it has comfortable third-row seating space. That should make Navigator exactly the right choice for a large number of buyers. 

    Model Lineup

    Lincoln Navigator 2WD ($49,790); AWD ($53,340). 

    Assembled In

    Wayne, Michigan. 

    Options As Tested

    Ultimate Package ($3,100) includes power glass sunroof, heated/cooled front seats, power liftgate, power-folding third row seats; HID headlamps ($495); power deployable running boards ($1,095); navigation system ($2,995) includes 300-watt, nine-speaker THX audio; 18x8 inch chromed aluminum wheels ($695). 

    Model Tested

    Lincoln Navigator AWD ($53,340). 

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