2023 Lincoln Navigator Review: Bringing a Sense of Occasion Wherever You Go

In the “large body-on-frame luxury SUV” segment, there are relatively few competitors. It’s a niche, one that has only expanded so far in the past twenty years as potential rivals elected to take the unibody approach to construction. “Luxotrucks, party of four?” would ring out at a restaurant as the host found space for the 2023 Lincoln Navigator and its friends, the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, and Lexus LX 600.

Lincoln was first to the game when the Navigator launched in 1998. The formula was simple: take a Ford Expedition, itself a Ford F-150 pickup truck with independent rear suspension, bed cap and third row of seats, and add luxury touches. Lincoln’s money printer went brrrr and General Motors had a little panic, releasing the first Cadillac Escalade one year later as a hastily-upfitted GMC Yukon Denali.

2023 Lincoln Navigator front

In the decades that have passed, both vehicles have evolved significantly but still retain their Expedition and Yukon roots with every passing generation. The Escalade has ultimately become more of a pop-culture icon than the Navigator; it’s somehow cooler to more people. I like it just fine – especially in wow this is stupid and delightful Escalade V form – but the Navigator makes me feel some kind of way.

(Disclaimer: the Navigator I actually drove was a 2022, but Lincoln’s only changes for 2023 involved a few Black Label colorway updates and a somewhat-significant price hike)

2023 Lincoln Navigator rear

I grew up in some semblance of a Ford family, undoubtedly influencing my preferences a bit even now. The only Lincoln I remember belonged to my four-foot-eleven grandma, a 1994 Town Car with a blue landau roof and matching navy blue leather seats. It was her last in a string of Town Cars, Lincoln’s flagship sedan that she and so many other successful Realtors of the era loved for its space and comfort. My dad has memories of them all, starting somewhere around his college days, and he mostly talks about how damn big they were, how floaty the ride was, and how awful they were to maneuver and park.

“Space and comfort” remain the themes of the 2023 Lincoln Navigator, now the brand’s flagship as sedans are somewhat passé. My tester was a short-wheelbase Navigator, actually coming in at “just” 210 inches in overall length, nearly nine inches shorter than Grandma’s Town Car. But, there was plenty of space inside with seating for seven. Lincoln’s Perfect Position front seats offer a dizzying variety of adjustment – ultimately resulting in a comfortable seating position but after many rounds of imperfect positioning first. Remember to set your seat memory after you figure everything out just so. Second row passengers don’t suffer, either, with heated and ventilated massaging captains’ chairs.

2023 Lincoln Navigator dashboard

Comfort isn’t served only through the seats. Lincoln’s suspension setup includes a camera reading the road ahead of you, constantly adjusting the adaptive shocks to match road conditions. I liked the suspension on the highway, but it was a bit pogo-stick-y in the city, allowing the body to pitch front to back over rough sections of some streets. There’s no “float,” but body control could be a touch better in some cases.

Under-hood, power and torque come from the High Output variant of Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, making 440 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. A ten-speed automatic funnels engine output to all four wheels, distributed by a full-time all-wheel drive system with open differentials. It’s a lot of power and torque, yes, but delivered in a way that prioritizes effortless, quiet acceleration over outright speed runs. The EcoBoost is unobtrusive until you put your foot in it, at which point it’ll shove the big Lincoln to 60 miles per hour in a quick 5.3 seconds. Cynetta’s Signature Series could never.

2023 Lincoln Navigator engine

At highway speed, Lincoln’s latest technology comes into play, again focused on the notion of comfort. ActiveGlide, recently renamed to BlueCruise, is a true hands-free driver assistance suite. Similar to SuperCruise offered in Cadillac’s Escalade, BlueCruise relies on GPS mapping of multi-lane highways, on top of radar and cameras, to guide the Navigator down the highway with your hands in your lap. A camera on the steering column monitors your face to make sure you’re staying off of The Apps and have your eyes on the road ahead.

BlueCruise worked well enough in my testing, though it wasn’t as easy to identify when I could use the system as GM’s SuperCruise. And unlike SuperCruise, there’s no vibrating seat or light on the steering wheel to quickly inform the driver of the need to take control. Lincoln (and Ford)’s commitment to the “blue” bit makes the gauge screen and associated BlueCruise messages and icons tough to see at first glance, and “take control back” sort of messaging doesn’t come early enough. I was caught off-guard repeatedly as the system disengaged on un-mapped parts of highways.

Details aside, I generally enjoyed cruising in the Navigator. The hood, while not quite as mile-long as the old Town Cars, is still similarly squared-off and imposing. Visibility is good, with low dash and belt lines. The mile-long feeling moreso hits when you turn around and notice just how long the Navigator is. It can be intimidating to start, but various cameras, parking sensors, and blind spot monitors make the big SUV easy to manage on the highway and, truly, even in the city thanks to a steering rack with plenty of angle and a slow-ish ratio.

2023 Lincoln Navigator interior

We do, of course, have to talk a little more about the Escalade-sized elephant in the room. Cadillac’s SuperCruise is – right now – the better driver assistance suite. And their Magnetic Ride Control does a bit better over rough stuff than Lincoln’s road previewing shocks. But the Navigator still has my heart in a way that the Escalade just doesn’t.

Cadillac has been on this long journey of mixing luxury and performance, and it’s working for them. Lincoln, however, doubled down on the luxury part in recent years, and it’s also working out quite well. There’s plenty of power and torque on offer, but you won’t drive a Navigator at full throttle. The shocks are adaptive, but do you really want to take a corner that quickly? “Let’s just waft,” says Lincoln.

The Navigator may not be quite as polished in some ways, but the styling and overall experience come with this sense of occasion that many new cars just do not have. Every drive in the 2023 Lincoln Navigator felt like a bit of an event, and for that, I look back on our time together just as fondly as I looked back every time I parked.

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