2015 Lincoln Navigator: Pricing and Competition

A few months ago, in the wake of the 2014 Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows, Lincoln unveiled the redesigned Lincoln Navigator full-size luxury SUV. Although still based on the previous generation’s platform, it rolls into a pretty conservative yet flashy segment where the Cadillac Escalade remains the one to beat, and where imports (German as well as Japanese) keep making gains – in those circumstances, journalists wondered how a facelift, however significant, would fare against this strong competition.

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Now, Lincoln has released the pricing of its 2015 Navigator and it reveals the brand’s strategy: knowing that the Navigator’s packaging is for all intents and purposes 7 years old, and knowing that the Cadillac Escalade (as well as its Chevrolet and GMC twins) are new from the ground up, Lincoln bets on a much lower access price. For the company, it makes economic sense because the tooling for the Navigator’s platform has been paid for by strong sales of the previous generation as well as its Ford Expedition stablemate.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator:

For 2015, the Lincoln Navigator will start at just over 62.000$, in Select trim featuring rear-wheel-drive and the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine. This brings the promise of equal performance and improved fuel efficiency, thanks to 380hp and a new six-speed automatic transmission with available manual operation (thanks to the SelectShift technology found on other products from the Ford Motor Company).

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In top-spec Reserve trim, the Navigator comes with an all-premium leather interior.

A 7.500$ premium grants access to the Reserve package and standard Lincoln Drive Control. This technology (first introduced in 2013 on the MKZ, MKS and MKT – and now offered on the MKC and Navigator) offers continously controlled damping which adjusts the suspension several times a second to match the driver’s style and maximise comfort and/or performance. It is mated with 22-inch wheels, Ziricote wood inserts and a full-leather interior trimmed in Premium hide.

Opting for AWD will cost a 3.700$ extra, on either Select or Reserve packages, but brings Lincoln Drive Control if it wasn’t already ordered, as well as Hill Descent Control. For those still wishing for extra room, an upgrade to the Navigator L long-wheelbase model is possible for about 2000$.

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For 2015, the Lincoln Navigator bets on a twin-turbo, direct-injected 3.5L V6 pumping out 380hp – that’s 70hp more than the outgoing and massive 5.4L V8!

Compared to the outgoing navigator, it represents overall a 6.000$ increase, which may seem like a lot but is countered by an all-new and more fuel efficient drivetrain, more technology and much improved exterior and interior styling.

The Competition:

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First of all, let’s get the closest competitor out of the way: the also-new for 2015 Ford Expedition. Also based on last-year’s platform, it does feature the same EcoBoost engine but makes-do with nearly identical styling and a much less luxurious interior. Pricing has not been announced just yet but a 2014 Expedition starts at over 41.000$, and it is expected that a fully-loaded 2015 Platinum version (the only one shown off by Ford so far) will run right into base Navigator territory. In that case, this makes the value of stepping up to the Lincoln nameplate all the more obvious.

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Second closest competitor is the Cadillac Escalade, which is all new for 2015 but carries over the very same recipe as its 2014 predecessor. Indeed, the ‘Lade, as it is sometimes known, starts at a whopping 72.690$ and is equipped with a massive 6.2L V8 producing 420hp and offering an estimated EPA rating of 15 City and 21 Highway – Lincoln has not released its own EPA ratings just yet but said during the model’s presentation that they were aiming for a best-in-class award with the EcoBoost Navigator. The Escalade is also only available with the controversial CUE touch-screen system which centralises all functions but has been highly criticised by the press for its complexity, slow response time and touch-sensitive buttons on the center stack. The Navigator, on the other hand, is available with the tried MyLincoln Touch system which may be less impressive technologically speaking but more reliable and attached to physical controls on the dashboard as well as a standard and class-exclusive THX II stereo system with 600 watts of power and 14 speakers.

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Now, the only GM offering to match the Lincoln’s pricing strategy is the all-new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali, which starts just under 63.000$. That being said, this SUV shares its body panels, dashboard and engine with the much more plebeian Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, which command the same prices at the current Expedition. As such, its luxury cachet cannot rival the Navigator’s, and Lincoln’s bet on value and access price makes it an even more sensible choice.

The Outsiders:

The market for full-size, luxury, body-on-frame SUVs is rather small and basically limited to the vehicles mentioned above. Still, prospects could be tempted to cross shop a full-size, luxury crossover instead as the market is full of choice. In the Lincoln line-up, it would have been the place of the MTK three-row crossover but it is at the end of its career and unlikely to steal sales from the well-packaged 2015 Navigator.

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For comparison’s sake, we can take a look at the GM “Delta” crossovers: the front-wheel-drive, car-based GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. Now, these do not represent frontal competition for the Navigator, since they are less spacious (even though they do offer three rows of seating on paper), offer less towing capacity, less luxurious appointments and most importantly underwhelming engines. For reference, the GMC Acadia Denali starts a little under 47.000$ with a 3.6L V6 offering only 288hp. The Buick Encore starts at almost 39.000$ with the same engine.

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When it comes to Japanese imports, Acura does not even field a real full-size SUV and its MDX plays in a totally different category. From Infiniti, the very… controversially styled QX80 does match the Navigator’s customer target and starts at 63.000$ but is stuck with the 5.6L V8 engine which delivers a fuel economy rating of 14 city/20 highway. At Lexus, two models cover the market: the 4.6L V8 GX starts at 50.000$ but offers less space and features, while the 5.7L V8 LX starts at an incredible 82.000$, and both come with a very unfortunate “spindle” grille since last year’s redesigns.

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From Germany, the Navigator faces the Mercedes-Benz GL, which starts at 64.550 with a 4.6L V8 but, as usual, much less features than the Navigator and there is a full 20.000$ gap between the base gasoline model GL450 and the upscale (but not top-of-the-line) GL550! As of today, BMW does not offer competition for the Lincoln, but rumours of an upcoming X7 could come and change that. At Audi, the Q7 is quite popular among upscale buyers and starts at 47.700$, but goes as high as 60.900$ in Prestige trim and before any options are added (and it is customary with German cars to have to pay extra for things such as premium leather, premium audio, premium infotainment, etc.). It is also only available with a 3.0L V6 delivering 333hp.

Conclusion: Right on Target

An overview of the market reveals a solid advantage for the Navigator. Its pricing puts it in a very competitive place, where its luxury cachet and the value of the nameplate will no doubt weigh a lot against mainstream fulls-size competitors or smaller, less equipped luxury offerings. If sold with enthusiasm by the Lincoln dealer network, it could be the best compromise between price and features, at the time of buying as much as during the time of ownership: its twin-turbo V6 engine should return best-in-class fuel economy and maybe even convert families and upscale buyers usually turned off by the fear of fuel costs.

All in all, Lincoln seems to have made the right choice with a redesign rather than an all-new vehicle pursuing the race to ever bigger engines and platforms. By controlling investments, they are able to adopt a very aggressive pricing strategy, and by making unique bets on useful technology (such as Lincoln Drive Control and EcoBoost) they address the problems inherent to the full-size luxury SUV class: while reassuring the existing customer base, they should be able to bring more conquest buyers into the fold.

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