Lincoln Navigator SUV concept dazzles at New York Auto Show

Lincoln unveiled its Navigator Concept at the New York Auto show this week, suggesting the Lincoln brand renaissance may actually stick this time. 

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
A Lincoln Navigator concept vehicle is displayed on the eve of the 2016 New York International Auto Show in New York City March 21, 2016.

We've heard the whole Lincoln brand renaissance story before, but with the forthcoming Continental and the Navigator concept that Lincoln unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, the idea seems to be sticking this time.

Lincoln says it is reinventing the brand through quiet luxury, with the focus on warm, human, personalized experiences. That means the brand experience will extend past the vehicle to the dealer interaction.

But the products have to deliver first, and this concept vehicle appears to point to a more luxurious future for Lincoln's behemoth SUV. The most striking aspects of the Navigator concept are the gullwing doors and the three "concertina" steps that lead to the cabin. Neither will make it to production but they are there to show off the nautical-themed interior. The new corporate grille, first previewed on the Continental concept, will certainly be a production element.

With a color and design inspired by yachts and high-end sailboats, the interior plays off the exterior's Storm Blue paint. Cool details include the teak trim and the gear selector buttons that look like piano keys. The concertina steps deploy automatically to provide access to the 30-way power adjustable front seats that rest on pedestals. Four head restraint monitors provide Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing passengers to share content and play games, while the driver gets a large center screen as well as a screen in the instrument panel. Other notable interior features include the brand's Revel audio system and a custom wardrobe management system.

Lincoln wouldn't talk about the platform, but reports have said the next-generation Navigator will get an all-new body-on-frame architecture with an aluminum body like the closely related Ford F-150. The engine in the concept is a new version of the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 making more than 400 horsepower. Lincoln says smart new technologies will make the SUV more sure-footed on different road surfaces and in changing weather conditions. We take that to mean that the Navigator will get a version of the Ford Explorer's Terrain Management system, though likely without all the off-road settings. 

To enhance the driving character, the Navigator concept has several drive modes that adjust the steering, suspension and noise levels. Each mode features a different digital animation in the instrument cluster.

Also included are pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, a 360-degree camera, an enhanced park assist system that can also guide drivers out of parking spots, and a lane-keeping system. The production Navigator hasn't offered any of these features.

A new Navigator will arrive late next year, probably as a 2018 model. Expect much of the look and many of the features from the concept to make it to the production vehicle. And if it has a lightweight aluminum body and the luxury of the concept, Lincoln's renaissance will be in full swing.

For more from the New York Auto Show, head to our dedicated hub.

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