Ford had been a primary mover and shaker in the world of full-size SUVs since the 1970s, when they injected a healthy dose of steroids into the miniscule Bronco off-roader and created the big bodied trucks of the same name that would dominate the Ford lineup for almost the next 20 years. As the 90's dawned, the company moved into producing SUV's that offered greater and greater amounts of passenger comfort as buyers gradually began to seek out full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles as daily drivers.
Sensing that there was perhaps an opportunity to capitalize on a brand new class of buyer, someone with not only the desire to drive something large and ostentatious but also be pampered in the lap of luxury, Ford turned to their Lincoln division to investigate the possibility of creating a luxury SUV, something that had never before been done. While there were of course aftermarket conversion companies which could outfit trucks with all manner of extra features, no automaker had ever come up with an SUV that was built to a high standard of comfort right out of the box.
By taking advantage of Ford's pre-existing platform for the large Expedition SUV, Lincoln was able to release the Navigator to great fanfare in 1997. With a tall greenhouse, imposing front grille and striking muscular posture, the Navigator was a sales monster, and it became the must-have accessory for young moneyed entertainers, musicians and other public figures. This in turn gave the vehicle a cachet that helped it to attract thousands of everyday buyers hoping that a little of the glam and glitz would brush off onto them.
The Lincoln Navigator triggered a stampede of luxury suvs as other car makers rushed to bring their own versions of the high-feature truck to market. Cadillac's Escalade, BMW's X5 and Mercedes-Benz's M-Class would crowd buyers with a plethora of appealing choices, and after a few years the Navigator found itself fighting to stay ahead of the pack in a field that it had almost single-handedly created. This lead to several refreshes of both the Navigator's exterior sheet metal and overall design, done in a desperate attempt to maintain consumer interest.
This article focuses on the second generation of the Navigator as the best used suv ever produced by Lincoln, a truck which can tow and haul a ton, all while providing some of the most opulent passenger accommodations available anywhere.
2003 - 2006 Lincoln Navigator
Despite the fact that the original Navigator was the proverbial face that launched a thousand ships - or at least, a thousand copycat luxury SUV's - after 6 years on the market it was clear that some changes had to be made in order to remain competitive. One of the best ways to attract attention in a marketplace dominated by large competitors is to go even bigger, and the 2003 - 2006 Lincoln Navigator accomplishes that quite well: thicker body cladding, a more pronounced bumper and grille and just a smidgen more height and length help to visually bolster the vehicle without giving in to caricature. The exterior was softened further in 2005 when a host of small changes were made to its appearance.
A lot of work has been done under the skin as well. The chassis of the second generation Navigator has been almost completely re-worked, helping the truck lose the feeling of extra girth it used to have when negotiating a tighter corner or quick lane change. The much tighter suspension manages to shrink the behind-the-wheel footprint of the Navigator considerably, improving the overall driving experience. In terms of motivation, a 5.4-liter V-8 engine that produces 300 horsepower and a generous 355 lb-ft of torque is provided. Originally only available with a 4-speed auto, from 2005-onwards the truck comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission, along with a different edition of the 5.4-liter engine that adds an extra 10 lb-ft of torque. The Navigator has a towing capacity of up to 8,600 lbs, enough to move a small mountain, and the SUV can also be ordered with or without four-wheel drive.
The inside of the 2003 - 2006 Lincoln Navigator has also felt the effects of a re-design. Lincoln upgraded the feel of the Navigator's passenger compartment in order to reflect a simpler, classier design. A new dash and center console help to make the Navigator seem even more expansive inside than it already is, an impressive feat given the fact that the SUV can seat up to 7 passengers. Beautifully surfaced leather, dual climate controls and a power folding third row of seats highlight some of the interior conveniences that help to set the Navigator apart from run of the mill sport-utility vehicles.
The 2003 - 2006 Lincoln Navigator has been gone over with a fine tooth comb, making it an excellent option for used full-size SUV buyers unwilling to compromise on features, performance or quality.