- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

The Lincoln Navigator made large luxury sport utility vehicles acceptable, at least to the folks who stampeded to buy them.
Although the rest of us may swear at them whenever they are traveling in front of us on the highway, these vehicles serve a very good purpose for buyers who want the ultimate in room and comfort.
For the 2003 model year, Lincoln has added features that make the Navigator a more accommodating and comfortable vehicle. The one feature that makes the largest improvement, yet will probably go unnoticed, is the porthole-in-frame design that allowed Lincoln engineers to use an independent rear suspension (IRS), a first in the full-sized SUV market. (The 2003 Ford Expedition uses the same system.)
Using the IRS combined with the new frame design allows the vehicle to sit lower on the road, improving handling, which translates to better highway manners. Although this lowers the Navigator about 1 inch, the results are much more noticeable.
An added benefit to this engineering feat is that it allows the rear floor to be lowered for better leg position for those seated in the third seat. Lowering the leg position, just slightly, lowers the knees and making it far more comfortable. While I may not want to be the one seated in the third seat for a trip across the state, it was reasonably comfortable for a trip to the shopping mall.
Being a luxury vehicle, the Navigator must continue to supply its owners with the latest and coolest features available. The new Navigator has power folding third-row seats that are controlled by a dual set of controls. One set is located just inside the left rear door, the other is on the right side of the rear cargo area. Each set allows the rear seat to fold or unfold with just a flick of the switch.
Continuing with the latest features, the Navigator has dual running boards that automatically deploy when the door handle is activated. If this isn't enough to satisfy your need for the latest, maybe the power rear lift gate will do the trick.
If there is a weak link in the new Navigator it could be said that the carryover V-8 engine might be it. This has been an able power source, but as the competitors raise the bar ever so quickly, it doesn't pay to sit still. The 5.4-liter V-8 develops an able 300 horsepower and 355 foot-pounds of torque, yet with the Cadillac Escalade producing 345 horsepower, Lincoln needs to bring more power to the table.
Lincoln engineers paid great attention to the ride, handling and the reduction of noise and vibration intruding into the passenger compartment. Make no mistake, the Navigator isn't going to equal the Town Car, but it sure does a good job of coming close.
The jury is still out on the interior design. Taking styling cues from the 1960s Continental, the dash is a double wing design with a flat, somewhat austere center. The flat, brushed metal look of this area is also reminiscent of 1960s-era Lincolns. But is it a bit too much for the 21st century? I found it unique, yet wasn't so sure how committed I was to the style.
The Lincoln Navigator has been a major force in the large, luxury SUV surge. It will, no doubt, continue in this quest as it improves and changes. The 2003 model is evidence of this and will continue the Navigator's popularity.


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