Back-to-back test drives of Ford’s Expedition and Lincoln’s Navigator proved both are extremely comfortable, luxurious large sport-utility trucks, but also highlighted the folly of marketing.
These were close to identical trucks, both loaded with technology and luxury touches, the Ford being the near top-end King Ranch edition. Only an Expedition Platinum exceeds it in price and goodies.
The Lincoln comes in but one trim, but starts about where the King Ranch edition stops for price. The prior week’s Expedition was $64 grand, and the Lincoln started at $65,055 with a $995 delivery fee, about $200 more than the Ford’s delivery fee. Both are made in the same Louisville, Ky., factory.
Here’s the folly, to me, of two brands offering the same vehicle under different name plates. Since the King Ranch and Platinum models cost as much as the entry-priced Lincoln there’s too much overlap, not enough differentiation. Once the Lincoln added a few options, such as a $995 sunroof, and $6,550 package that included larger tires and wheels (which the King Ranch had) and the fancy Lincoln Drive Control, it hit $73,895.
To me that’s almost $10 grand more, for the same truck, except the sunroof and Lincoln Drive Control. That feature uses sensors to allow the suspension, electric power steering and other vehicle dynamics to interact and create a comfortable ride. It also includes noise dampening, which helped keep the cabin quiet. But then the Expedition was no slouch in those areas either.
Pricing aside, the Navigator, like the Expedition is a fine truck that’s comfortable for 8 passengers and, when not filled to passenger capacity will haul a major load in its cargo area that stretches to 54.4 cubic feet with the power split rear seats folded flat.
For those unfamiliar with large luxury trucks, the Expedition/Navigator are similarly sized and priced to the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Both also come in L or lengthened models to compete with Chevrolet’s Suburban. The L model of Navigator is about 14 inches longer than the tested standard model, which is about 2.4 inches longer overall than the Expedition. Both ride on the same chassis with the same 119-inch wheelbase in standard size and 131-inch wheelbase for the L versions. These are big!
Like the GM trucks, the Navigator/Expedition are body-on-frame design, like other trucks, such as pickups.
Navigator, like Expedition, also will tow bigtime, this one, which had 4-wheel-drive, is rated to pull 8,700 lbs.
Driving both is easy. Steering effort from the electric power steering is fairly light and easy, but there’s a bit of vagueness to the wheel. However, it firms up at highway speeds and feels more responsive on the highway.
Ride is stellar as far as comfort. Bumps and potholes and pavement cracks are easily handled with little effect on passengers. However, despite the multi-link rear suspension and LDC, there was more bounce over bumps in the Navigator vs. the Expedition. This one weighs a bit more too, so the rebound over bumps was a bit of a surprise.
As mentioned in the Expedition review, power this year comes from Ford’s 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 designed to improve gas mileage. It didn’t seem to help with the Expedition, but I got a more reasonable (for this size truck)16.5 mpg with Navigator. Weather was a tad warmer and I had closer to a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. Expedition had netted me just 14.9 mpg and both are rated 15 mpg city, 20 highway.
Power is excellent from the 356-horse turbo V6 though. There’s more low-end power to pull away from stoplights and that also helps when towing heavy loads. For the record the V6 increases both torque and horsepower by 55 compared with the former V8.
The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly too and the four-wheel disc brakes do a nice job stopping the big beast. Traction control, hill descent control and a 4-wheel-drive system are standard, but a 2-wheel rear-drive model is available, for about $3,500 less.
Comfort inside this extremely quiet ute is excellent. Like the Expedition, seats are fairly flat and swaddled in leather that allows passengers to slide into the seats easily. The test Navigator was a dark metallic brown (Java Metallic), with brown over tan leather dash and seats. This brown has a fair amount of gray in it too, which gives it a rich hue.
Trim on the doors and console is a medium brown fake wood with a slightly sparkly matte black trim on the steering wheel hub and center stack. Chrome is used on door release handles and trim around the console-mounted shifter and cup holders. That can create a lot of glare on sunny days.
Still, the interior is attractive, but I found the Expedition’s buttons and controls on the center stack more user friendly than the slim chrome strips that suffice as buttons in Navigator. Granted these look more modern and stylish, just not as easy to find and press with authority while driving as those knobs and buttons in the Ford.
Yet the comfort level is high. As in the Ford, the front seats are heated and cooled (three settings) and the second row seats have two heat levels. The third row is fairly roomy and folds flat into the floor automatically via power buttons in the cargo area. Likewise, the hatch is powered, but the button to lower it is located inside the cargo bay, so best to press it and step back quickly. The key fob also has a button to activate the hatch.
Sadly there was no heated steering wheel, but the Lincoln’s front seats are powered and feature two memory buttons for the driver’s seat and a power lumbar adjustment. I also like that the steering wheel is power tilt/telescope and includes a button on the steering column to adjust the power pedals. The wheel also powers up and away once the ignition is off.
The Ford/Lincoln touchscreen works well and is broken into four quadrants for radio, navigation and other controls. The Synch system is available for the digital radio, this one a THX system that sounds great. Other tech items include a rearview camera, blind-spot warning system in the outside rearview mirrors, power folding side mirrors, sunroof and, like the Expedition, much-needed power deploying running boards.
These fold neatly into the rocker panel on each side of the truck when doors are closed, but lower quickly as soon as a door is opened. I wonder how great these will work when slush and snow gets frozen on them in winter, but likely if you’re buying a Lincoln, you’ll keep it tucked in a warm garage each night.
I also like the dual sun visors for driver and passenger, and big soft leather-covered armrest/storage box between the front seats. A great feature at night is puddle lamps in the exterior mirrors that light the pavement where you first step out of the truck. To spiff that up a bit, the light reflects a Lincoln logo on the ground, sort of like the Bat signal projected on clouds in a Batman show.
Pricing for the 2-wheel-drive model starts at $62,475 and the test truck hit nearly $74 grand. I consider the Ford models better buys, but you may prefer the Lincoln’s looks. In any case, moving up to the L models will cost another $3,000-$3,500.
But whether you’d choose the Ford or Lincoln you and seven others will ride in luxury, comfort and quiet, while pulling a good sized trailer. These are comfy bigtime haulers.
FAST Stats: 2015 Lincoln Navigator 4X4
Hits: Like its Expedition cousin, excellent ride quality and power for towing. Mucho cargo room, with third seat down, and can carry 8 passengers. Power hatch, power deploy running board, heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats, power lowering third row seats, flat comfy seating, rearview camera and blind-spot warning, dual sun visors and sunroof.
Misses: Modest gas mileage and vague steering, plus power hatch button awkwardly located inside cargo area. This one had more bounce over bumps than last week’s Expedition too.
Made in: Louisville, Ky.
Engine: 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, 365 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 6,069 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.0 in.
Length: 208.4 in.
Cargo: 18.1 cu.ft, (54.4 cu.ft. rear seats down, 103.3 cu.ft. 2nd/3rd row seats down)
Tow: 8,700 lbs.
MPG: 15/20 (EPA)
MPG: 16.5 (tested)
Base Price: $65,055
Dealer’s Price: $62,798 (includes delivery)
Equipment group 101A (R22 all-season tires, 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, Lincoln Drive Control and reserve equipment group), $6,550
Power moonroof, $995
Test vehicle: $73,895
Sources: Lincoln, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage