Lincoln created a new genre of sport utility when it introduced the Navigator in 1998. At the time, many thought it was crazy for the company to introduce an SUV that clearly was not meant to be driven off-road, even though it was technically capable of handling moderate dirt. Years later, Lincoln has found new life, in part because of the Navigator's success, and it was time to give the Navigator a redesign. What would Lincoln do to keep this vehicle competitive in a genre it created, one that now has a surprising amount of contenders? Lincoln's answer: more luxury, more technology, and a new design with cleaner lines. The '03 Navigator has a new front end, redesigned rear end, new wheels, and an interior that could easily be considered the best in the industry.
The Navigator we tested was powered by a 5.4L four-valve DOHC V-8 engine and a four-speed automatic. This engine/transmission combination operated smoothly, and the judges were happy with how responsive and powerful the engine was. In addition, they loved the quiet purr the Navigator had at idle, as well as the throaty sound of the exhaust at speed. Some judges were disappointed that the engine required the added cost of 91 octane fuel without the payoff of supercharged power, but nevertheless this drivetrain was very popular with the testers. Lincoln made the Navigator's ride especially smooth with a fully independent suspension and air springs in the front and rear.
As good as the ride and power were, what really made the Navigator shine was its interior. Upon climbing into the cabin, we could tell we were in for a treat. Lincoln introduced a new innovation for this vehicle for 2003: power side steps. When any door is opened, the side step on that side of the vehicle automatically drops down, easing entry for more petite passengers. When the door is closed, the step retracts. While the judges were impressed by this feature, many thought the steps were in the way, and were glad the power steps could be turned off with controls inside the vehicle.
Once we spent some time testing out the interior, all of the judges were impressed by the new look of the Navigator's cabin. Ours had Light Parchment leather, with satin metal and American Walnut Burl accents. It also uses white interior lighting, a subtle but welcome touch. The design is clean and retro-modern, with crisp new styling cues that are inspired by classic lines from Lincoln's past. The interior is more than just good-looking, though. There is a lot included in the cabin of this vehicle, providing all of the luxury you would expect in a $60,000 vehicle. Seat, side mirror, and pedal location can all be adjusted to fit the needs of the driver, with memory controls to make sure that once the driver gets everything perfect, the position can always be configured that way. All three rows of seats were covered by very soft leather, which the testers loved. While sitting in comfort, front and rear passengers can enjoy the premium AM/FM/CD system. Even though it is located up front, there are separate audio controls in the rear. This vehicle also had a power moonroof, and the front seats had their own climate control, meaning that the driver and front passenger can be warmed or cooled by the seats as needed. Another popular feature of the Navigator's interior was the ease of use of the cargo area. The Navigator had power-folding rear seats, which folded completely flat with the push of a button.
Overall, the judges were both stunned by the price tag on this SUV and spoiled by the amenities the money provided the Navigator's passengers. It's a lot of vehicle for the money, but it is a lot of money for the vehicle. All we know is if you can afford a new Navigator, you will definitely not be disappointed. We certainly weren't.
Base Price: $54,210
Price As Tested: $61,335
Engine: 5.4L DOHC V-8
Horsepower: 300 hp at 5,000 rpm
Torque: 355 lb-ft at 2,750 rpm
Suspension: Independent SLA with air springs (front & rear)
Brakes: ABS disc (front & rear)
4WD/Transmission: Control Trac 4WD/4R100 four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 118.8 in
Length: 206.0 in
Width: 80.2 in
Height: 77.8 in
Curb Weight: 5,994 lb
Towing Capacity: 8,300 lb
Fuel Economy (city/highway): 11/16 mpg