FINALLY! Up until the 2003 Lincoln Navigator was introduced to dealerships in June... buyers wanting a big domestic luxury suv either could choose the seriously aging last generation Lincoln Navigator or the greatly improved 2002 Caddilac Escalade. Back then the Caddilac was the obvious choice. Now with the 03 Gator that choice has been made much more difficult.
As a car nut I could immediately identify the new styling of the 03 Navigator. However the average buyer would definitely have a much tougher time differentiating an 02 from an 03. Some differences include a bigger front grille with a bumper closer to the ground to improve crash compatibility in a collision with a smaller car. The back has cleaned up tailights, and pretty much everything else except the front doors and roof are new in 03. Once you step inside the 03 is another story... the changes are quite significant! Lincoln finally has abandoned the Ford parts bin and has chosen some classy and elegant pieces for the interior.. more on that later.... but first after a lengthy test drive.. I will inform you about....
Acceleration: WHY??? Why couldn't Lincoln have either given the buyer a new engine or at least some more horsepower or torque. With 300 hp most people will think the 5.4 liter v-8 is very powerful.. but after the 02 Escalade was introduced with 345 hp...the engine is merely adequate.. especially when it is hauling as much mass as the new Lincoln. 0-60 has been clocked at barely under 10 seconds.. not horrible.. but just adequate...while the Escalades engine is fabulous... Not helping the situation any more is the harsh power delivery from the v-8.. it is not nearly as silky as the v-8 from Lexus..or even the v-8 from Caddilac... If Lincoln could provide another 60 horsepower and 40 more pound ft. of torque...they would have a clear winner on their hands...
Handling: Thankfully Lincoln improved the old Navigator's horrible steering. The old car felt unstable in many driving situations. However with its new rack and pinion steering the 03 handles much better... with a tighter and more controlled driving feel. it certainly beats the Escalade's overly light steering.
Braking/ Safety: With many new safety features such as Brake Assist... the braking power and feel has been much improved with the 03 Navigator. The new 03 Navigator also has safety features such as a stability control system, side airbags..and the especially noteworthy airbags that inflate for about six seconds in the case that the vehicle rolls over..and the passengers happen to get tossed about the cabin.
Interior: It's about time! The Navigator finally has a very luxurious cabin. The previous generation interior was pitiful...looking almost indentical to the cheaper Ford Expediton's unclassy interior. The new 03 has REAL wood trim, nice looking metal look trim, comfortable leather seats..that are actually supportive for long drives... (finally an American car with really comfortable seats for long drives)... The instruments ( ie buttons) do not look like they were taken from other ford products..and they add more elegance and class to the interior.. However there are a few flaws... first... the silver trim.. is painted on..and after owning the car for a few years... i am concerned that it might chip or fade.... second... in the third row seat materials that were excellent in the first two rows ..now are hard and cheap.. sure this is not a big deal but an obvious sign of cost cutting.. third in the center console there is a silver screen with the word Navigator that covers many important controls.. however because of this screen ( which feels cheap when touched) the buttons behind are recessed which makes it a bit harder for the drivr to reach... not a big deal just a little annoying.
Gadgets: In this category Lincoln has every other suv or car for that matter beat. Some noteworthy features include the useful and clever power folding third row seat...which folds into the floor at the touch of a button.. very clever and handy... A power liftgate.. which at the press of a button can either automatically open or close the tail gate.. also clever even if it is a tad noisy in operation... power running boards which extend when a door is opened and retract when the door is closed.. cool to watch... but definitely a $1,000 gimmick. The optional navigation system is expensive at $2,000 and is not one of the best systems in the industry .. it is hard to use.. and not nearly as good as systems offered in Lexus...or Acura products
Ride: The ride of the 03 Gator was certainly much better then the previous version which tended to be way to floaty. However the ride in the 03 is not as great as I would have liked. It is a little rough..and potholes or bumps on the freeway seem to upset the suspension. Both the Escalade and Lexus Lx470 have better rides.
Room: Tons of cargo space... WOW!!! the only things bigger would be either a Suburban or Ford's own Excursion... Second row legroom is adequate lacking the space in an Escalade perhaps... However the Navigator has every Suv beat in thrid row comfort... This is because of the 03's new Independant Rear Suspension...which allowed Lincoln to give third row rider a lot more room.. most noteworthy is the low floor.. so passengers don't have to sit with their knees up to their chests.
* One added oversight.. If you order the optional Dvd player.. I noticed when driving.. is that if it is lowered it obstructs vision out of the rear view mirror.. not good
* I don't even have to mention this... you know the fuel economy is horrible..enough said
Value: For a base model at around $50,000 the Navigator represents a pretty good value.. However at around $60,000
for a fully loaded Ultimate model.. it is a bit of a rip off... The Lexus Lx470 for about the same price is a superior car...At the $50,000 range it is another story... I would prefer a base 4/4 model to a closely priced Escalade... i love the escalades power... but the 03 navigator's superior interior and handling win me over.
I perosnally would wait a year to buy one.. letting Lincoln work the bugs out.. and also dealers in a year will most likely give you a better deal then they would give you now.
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Test Model: 2003 Ultimate