Long ago, Cadillac won the hearts of customizers by aspiring to a high-end look, which prompted some jaded enthusiasts to search for an alternative that would make them stand out from the crowd of Caddy clips. But wouldn't you know it, just as people started putting Navigator clips on their trucks and SUVs, Lincoln had to redesign that vehicle-and its front end-for the '07 model year. Gone was the wide, elegantly styled grille that was marked by its vertical lines. The new, more assertive grille looks skinnier and has a more prominent horizontal style. "Wariness" characterized the first impression of that grille for some of our staff members, although a couple have reported that the design has come to grow on them.

Sharing a platform with the redesigned Ford Expedition and Ford Expedition EL, the new Lincoln Navigator and its "L" stretched version share a lot of the technical characteristics of the Expedition that we have covered before. The Ford Expedition won our SUV of the Year, and we are driving an EL model for a long-term evaluation. We have to admit, we like the Expedition's maxed-out trim level, but the Lincoln Navigator manages to differentiate itself with distinctive interior styling and cushy leather seats. The dash of the Navigator exhibits a concavity in front of the driver and passenger, which is anchored by a flat center stack for an analog clock, navigation unit, HVAC controls, and etc. The dash's strong vertical presentation definitely caught our eye, as did the almost old-skool horizontal arrangement of some of the gauges in the instrument cluster, though they tend to be difficult to read quickly.

Really, this is not an understated vehicle. It does not aspire to the European ideal of understated elegance, nor adhere to the Japanese approach of luxurious blandness. It's not garish, but it does try for a bolder statement that is in line with Ford's interpretation of American styling that is distinctive from Cadillacs.

We liked the white chocolate body paint and stone-colored interior. The powered lift gate and powered fold-flat seats-both shared with the Expedition-are great conveniences for luxury-minded users whose arms are full of over-laden shopping bags from a spree on Rodeo Drive; or even for editors muscling a couple of boxes of brakes into the rear cargo area. Unfortunately, an aesthetically imposing, blocky, silver-colored rearseat DVD component hangs from the ceiling, and is begging to be hidden somehow behind the headliner. Some of the underwhelming buttons and switches looked like what they were...silver-colored plastic. The Navigator's stiff steering and long brake pedal travel work fine, but they left something to be desired, and the 5.4L hardly felt sporty, although the Pirelli Scorpions did sharpen the vehicle's attitude somewhat. The cabin sounded quiet when the vehicle was up to speed, except for some noticeable-but not necessarily distracting-wind noise at the A-pillars. Overall, the SUV rode like a stately yacht that handled best on auto pilot. Going on a road trip? Just point it straight down the freeway, turn on cruise control, and pass the caviar.

Price (as tested)
$58,095 without destination (base $50,655, options $7,440)
4-year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty
6-year, 70,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and roadside assistance

Engine
5.4L Triton V-8

Horsepower
300 at 5,000 rpm SAE

Torque (lb-ft)
365 at 3,750 rpm

Transmission
Six-speed automatic

Drivetrain
4WD

Axle Ratio
3.73

Suspension
Independent, double-wishbone, short- and long-arms design with coilover shocks, stabilizer bar (front); Independent, multi-link design with coilover shocks, stabilizer bar (rear)

Brakes
350mm rotor (front), 342mm rotor (rear), 4-wheel ABS, traction/stability control with rollover mitigation

Wheelbase
119 in

Turning (Curb-to-Curb)
40.83 ft

Height
78.3 in

Width
78.8 in

Approach Angle
22.4 deg

Departure Angle
21.7 deg

Ramp-Over Angle
19.2 deg

Minimum Ground Clearance
9 in

Curb Weight
6,070 lb

Max Trailer Weight
8,750 lb

Payload
1,650 lb

Interior Cargo
103.5 cu-ft behind the 1st row, with the 2nd and 3rd rows folded; 54.5 cu-ft behind the 2nd row, with the 3rd row folded; and 18.2 cu-ft behind the 3rd row.

Seating
2/3/3

MPG
13 as tested

Standard Features and Options
Exterior:
18-inch aluminum wheelsHID headlightsPower/heated/signal/memory mirrorIntegrated running boardsLuggage roof rackChrome exhaust tip

Interior:
Satin, nickel, and wood accent10-way power, leather, heated and cooled front seatsDual-zone electronic auto-climate controlRear auxiliary climate controlLeather power tilt wheel with audio, speed, and climate controlsElectronic message centerPower-fold 3rd row seatsPower liftgate

Functional:
Reverse sensing systemVariable assist power steeringPower adjustable pedalsAuto dim rearview mirrorRemote keyless with keypadClass III towing4WD

Safety and Security:
Side air curtains for all rows
Thorax side air bag for first row
Securilock anti-theft
Tire pressure monitoring
Lower anchors and tethers

Options:
Second row 40/20/40 split-bench leather seat
Power moonroof
Class IV towing
Entertainment Package
Exterior Color: White Chocolate Tri-coatP275/55420 All-season tires
20-inch chromed aluminum wheels
Elite Package (Premium Appearance Package, Entertainment Package, power-deployed running board, electrochromic rearview mirror with microphone, navigation radio with THX, rearseat entertainment)
Sirius Satellite Radio with a six-month subscription

2006 Dodge Ram 2500
SLT Mega Cab 4x4
Driving a massive amount of truck down the road instills the driver with a sense of over confidence and a general air of cockiness. You can call it a superiority-or even inferiority-complex; depending upon which side of the argument you want to be on. There was no denying that sliding behind the wheel of the '06 Dodge Ram Mega Cab 4x4 made me feel like I owned the road. The meek shall bow to the mayor.

But really, getting behind the wheel of the Dodge makes everyone feel small. The truck's interior layout is spacious and comfortable. The top end interior package consisting of heated leather and suede-trimmed seats matches the faux-wood dash panels, and I almost get the sense that I was in a luxury vehicle and not a truck. It takes a bit of acclimation while peering out over the hood, awaiting for the realization that I was about to embark into public with nearly four tons of vehicle. Now get out of my way, you little commuter cars!

I have been a truck guy my whole life, and the Mega Cab is just the ticket for me. I have never been a fan of Dodge trucks. Sure, I have seen many that looked cool, but I never cared to own one. This truck changed my whole view with a mere twist of the ignition and a quick ride. I was not one of the first to drive the truck, but I did manage to do some back-seat testing while my other editorial brethren were taking turns behind the wheel for eight-week stints. I stand in at 6'3'' tall, and a couple of the guys- whom I loosely call my friends-are near that and taller. Sitting in the rear seat of the Mega Cab is a joy. No more calling "shotgun" to be in the front to be comfortable. Now, I would rather sit in the back with the truck's seat reclined and watch a movie or play a game on the optionally included overhead LCD screen. That is traveling in style.

But, alas, I also had to drive, but managed to keep the doldrums at bay by the truck's decent-sounding stereo. Six-discs in the changer and a Sirius satellite as back up will surely make any drive more than bearable. I entertained myself behind the wheel doing the route to and fro for work, and mixed that with a couple of truck trips. I piled the family in for a run to Northern California to enjoy Thanksgiving with some family there, and even managed to get in a winter off-road driving session at Hungry Valley OHV in Gorman, California. Snow was falling and I was looking for it, but as you can tell from the photo accompanying this story, there wasn't much to play in. So much for testing my snowman manufacturing skills.

All in all, the Dodge Mega Cab offers a serious amount of room for either work or play. The family and your employees will be more than happy to ride in your truck. And, with the killer Cummins under the hood you can tow, haul, or go to the mall with nary a complaint. You're supposed to get better fuel economy from a diesel powerplant, but, in my case, a lead foot equals piss-poor mileage. Don't be worried about other traffic, though. The menacing grille dimension will send lesser vehicles scurrying out of your way like a bear surprising diminutive woodland creatures. Try not to let it go to your head.

This was the fifth installment of our long-term coverage of the Dodge Ram Mega Cab 2500. Total miles driven during this period was 4,546 and the overall MPG has been 13.72.

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