Black Label — Opulent 2018 Lincoln Navigator is first in its class

By Jim Prueter

(September 6, 2018) Earlier this year we drove and reviewed the all-new, completely redesigned Lincoln Navigator and came away with rave reviews and enthusiastic plaudits to the designers and engineers at Lincoln. It is an outstanding vehicle that we placed at the top in its competitor segment.

Recently, the folks at Lincoln sent us another Navigator, the Black Label edition for evaluation. In this review, we’ll detail our experience with that trim level after a week of test driving and how it differs from our previously tested Reserve trim level Navigator.

There’s no question that Lincoln has an absolute hit on its hands with the new Navigator. Sales are up more than 200 percent, with the opulent full-size SUV flying off dealer lots. There’s no shortage of buyers willing to write a check for $100k to get one, and Ford can’t make them fast enough to satisfy the demand.

Navigator is offered in four trim levels: Premier, Select, Reserve and Black Label. On the Select and above buyers also get the option of a long wheelbase version called the Navigator L, a vehicle that’s not unlike the Cadillac Escalade’s longer ESV model.

Our Black Label trim level came in a gorgeous color that Lincoln calls chroma molten gold, a $1,750 upgrade. There’s a choice of three different interior color schemes: the mahogany red leather Destination; the icy blue Yacht Club; and our tester, Chalet Alpine Venetian leather with a repeated perforated Lincoln-star logo pattern on the seating surfaces, accented with espresso colored trim, floor mats, steering wheel and seat piping. While we prefer the Destination color offering, the Chalet looked spectacular with the chroma molten gold exterior color.

Navigator stands out, particularly the Black Label trim level whose lighted emblem in the center of the massive patterned chrome grille glows at night. Slip behind the wheel and you’ll be blown away by the plush opulence starting with Lincoln’s 30-way heating-cooling and massaging seats. There’s even seat-bottom thigh extensions that adjust independently. With all the possible adjustments it will take you a bit of time to find your sweet spot, but once you do, you’ll find the seats more supportive and comfortable than any you’ve ever experienced. The seats are one of our favorite features of the vehicle.

Second-row seats manually recline, but third-row passengers get power-reclining seats. The large panoramic sunroof makes the spacious cabin feel even larger. The heated, leather-trimmed second-row captain's chairs in seven-passenger configurations have power-folding functionality. The optional second-row center console includes cupholders, radio controls, a 4.0-inch LCD screen, and storage cubbies. The second-row seats also feature a one-touch tilt-and-slide function, which makes it easier for passengers to enter or exit the third row. You can choose a second row bench seat with a sliding feature instead of the captain’s chairs to maximize eight-passenger seating.

The cockpit has the feel of a private jet, with incredible luxury, and a dizzying array of technology and occupant amenities. Opting for the Black Label adds features like an adaptive cruise control with stop/go capability, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, a self-parking system, a head-up display, a driver impairment monitor, a CD player in the center console, the top 20-speaker Revel Ultima audio system, a trailer back up assist system, Black Label floormats, and illuminated “Black Label” door sills.

A 14-speaker Revel audio system is standard in Navigator, but, the Black Label trim upgrades it to a 20-speaker Revel Ultima surround-sound system and features a huge subwoofer, and three listening modes: standard stereo, surround-sound Audience mode, and an Onstage mode that arranges individual instruments and sounds throughout the cabin. However, this sound system was a huge disappointment and lacked the premium sound and output quality we’ve enjoyed with other systems used in luxury vehicles like Range Rover’s Meridian sound system, Bentley’s Naim, Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins and Mercedes-Benz’s Burmester Surround system.

I realize personal listening tastes are wide and varied, but after numerous attempts and adjusting the Revel system, I failed to find a satisfactory sound for my taste.

Our Black Label tester came equipped with the $2,000 optional rear entertainment system that consists of two 10.0-inch adjustable screens (not touchscreen) mounted on the back of the front seats. Each screen has its own remote and can play media via SD card, HDMI input, or one of the USB ports. Slingbox users can even play TV channels or on-demand services through the monitors.

The Navigator’s instrument panel is completely digital with a large, sharp 12-inch display. There’s also a 10-inch table-like touchscreen interface with Sync 3, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Amazon Alexa services, and a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to 10 devices. If multiple drivers are navigating your Lincoln, the Personal Profile system uses the key fob to recall individual settings, such as seat positioning, mirror and pedal positions, temperature, and infotainment settings.

Regardless of trim level, all Navigators are powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 with 450-horsepower, which is taken directly from Ford’s powerful F-150 Raptor model. And even though Navigator made the switch to steel to a body, made mostly of aluminum, saving more 200 pounds of weight, the power is more than adequate for the large, heavy Navigator. There’s ample performance for highway passing, when loaded with gear, or pulling a boat, camper or trailer up to 8,300 lbs. The standard 10-speed automatic transmission is operated via push buttons on the lower center stack. Shifts are smooth, linear and a perfect match to the V-6 engine.

The Black Label rides on 22-inch wheels, but we were less impressed with the ride and handling. Even with the continuously adjustable suspension, the big Navigator exhibited a lot of body lean back and forth in curves and when cornering. While the cabin is extremely quiet, the ride was less composed on uneven pavement, potholes and pavement expansion joints. It’s not a deal breaker but we would have expected better ride and handling.

Cargo space is abundant and there’s a standard power rear liftgate that can be opened and closed with a kicking motion under the rear bumper.

In addition to the aforementioned special Black Label interior trim options and other features, for Black Label members, there’s a private area at Lincoln dealerships with a dedicated, staffed studio waiting area, similar to what you would find with club membership at a major airport. Or, if you prefer a mobile showroom, the manufacturer’s warranty is extended to a four-year/50,000-mile premium maintenance plan with complimentary pickup and delivery within a 50-mile radius. It also includes complimentary anytime car washes as well as annual vehicle detailing, and a complimentary one-year CLEAR travel membership that lets you skip security lines at the airport. 

Bottom line: The Navigator Black Label is a gorgeous, luxurious and impressive SUV that delivers both comfort and performance that jumps it to the top of the large luxury SUV category. But we think the lesser Select and Reserve trim levels are equally impressive and outstanding choices that deliver most everything the Black Label has without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money. 

Vital Stats
Base Price: $93,705
Price as Tested: $100,315
Powerplant: 3.5-Liter Twin-turbocharged 450-horsepower V6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 16-MPG City – 21-MPG Highway 18-MPG Combined
Seating: 7 or 8

Crash Test Results: Highest possible 5-star from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Final Assembly Plant: Louisville, Kentucky

Competes With:
Cadillac Escalade
Infiniti QX80
Land Rover Range Rover
Lexus LX
Mercedes-Benz GLS

Fab Features
Opulent, quiet, spacious interior
Smooth, powerful engine
Advanced technology and driver assistance features