Detroit 2018: How Lincoln goes large in luxury

15 January 2018 | by Chris Maillard

The Lincoln Navigator  may be the most pure example of American premium motoring around at the moment. Though to European eyes it looks super-sized and slightly daunting, it makes perfect sense on the wide interstates and impressively spacious driveways of the USA. And it’s sumptuously equipped, if not downright luxurious, in an unashamed way that many brands couldn't hope to emulate. A passing Peter Horbury, of Volvo and Geely fame, was impressed. “I love my Range Rover,” he said, “but if I lived in America I’d definitely have one of those.” It must be doing something right – the Navigator’s just won the coveted Truck of the Year trophy.

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David Woodhouse, the brand’s Design Director (and also now Global Strategic Design Director for Ford) explained a little more about the Navigator’s premium appeal. It’s not only about the interior trim (though that’s important) but some other subtle details – like the ride. “It floats; not enough to be upsetting or affect the handling, but there’s definitely a feeling of wafting along,” he said.

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The interiors are a case study in upmarket American taste. The all-burgundy ‘Destination’ version of the top-spec Black Label version is rather retro, but its gentlemen’s club brandy-and-cigars ambience is leavened by some perforated leather and a nice mix of materials. “No velour, though,” insisted David. “It’s not quite that retro.”

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There are a couple of lighter and more modern Black Label options available, though, known as Chalet and Yacht Club (can you tell what their target demographic is?) which use, respectively, very light grey/beige leather slightly reminiscent of some of Volvo’s recent interiors, and a slightly darker, more minimal blueish theme.

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All are fitted with spectacularly adjustable 30-way seats, and an absolutely top-spec Harman Kardon sound system. “That’s what our research proved that people want in an upmarket vehicle,” explained David. “Very comfortable seats and a great audio system.” 

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Other touches, like the automatic running board/step that descends in a dignified fashion when you open the doors, are perfectly aimed at the potential customer – probably older, wealthy, and quite status-conscious. Not always, though. “Quite a few of the earlier versions made it to Britain through the grey import route,” David explained. “And quite a few of them ended up being owned by Premier League footballers. I’d love to see this on some famous player’s drive...”

Meanwhile, what’s next? Nothing even bigger, thankfully. David was distinctly secretive about the details, but the New York show a little later this Spring may well see some further iterations of the brand – and they’ll be named, like the recent Nautilus, rather than the time-worn and rather characterless 'MkV/MkX’ style of previous Lincolns. 

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Detroit 2018