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2003 Navigator

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Having endured a 2002 model year that saw a dated Navigator pitted against Cadillac’s
all-new Escalade, Lincoln has returned with an extensively redesigned Navigator for 2003
that offers an all-new interior as well as cleaner appearance, more amenities, better
handling and more safety features than its predecessor. Mechanically, the biggest news on
the 2003 Navigator is an all-new independent rear suspension (IRS) that gives the Navigator
four-wheel independent suspension bragging rights in the full-size luxury SUV segment. In
addition to better ride and handling, the new IRS system adds the benefit of increased
interior volume and best-in-class third-row leg room, because there is no longer a need for
a rear frame and floor pan “kick-up” to clear the solid rear axle. The new system also
provides better ground clearance and wheel travel, improves lateral stiffness and reduces
unsprung weight by roughly 100 pounds over the previous solid axle rear setup.
Cast-aluminum upper and lower control arms, load-leveling air springs, mono-tube shock
absorbers, a stabilizer bar and rubber-isolated torque arm make up the system’s core
components. The Navigator’s independent front suspension, meanwhile, now utilizes
cast-aluminum lower arms with air springs and mono-tube shock absorbers across the board,
as opposed to stamped steel arms with coil springs (two-wheel-drive models) or cast iron
arms with torsion bars (four-wheel-drive models). New speed-sensitive rack and pinion
steering rounds out the front end improvements. Roughly two-thirds of the Navigator’s frame
rails are made from hydroformed steel, making the frame 70 percent stiffer torsionally and
67 percent stiffer in vertical bending than before. Only the front and rear frame horns are
conventional steel channels, in part so they can be replaced in the event of a collision,
according to Lincoln. The Navigator’s brakes have been updated as well. Thirteen-inch
vented rotors up front are 7 percent larger, and use twin-piston calipers that are 100
percent stiffer torsionally for improved pedal feel. The rear rotors are 3 percent larger
at 13.5 inches and use single-piston calipers. Electronic Brakeforce Distribution optimizes
front-to-rear brake bias, and according to Lincoln, “effectively raises the threshold for
ABS engagement.” The 5.4-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 32 valve V-8 carries over essentially
unchanged in 2003 with 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 355 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm.
The engine is mated to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission with
adaptive shifting and a final drive ratio of 3.73:1. The 4×4 models (which account for more
than 60 percent of Navigator sales) have seen a tow capacity increase to 8,300 pounds from
8,000 pounds, while the 4×2’s rating has been lowered from 8,800 pounds to 8,500 pounds.
Hydraulic engine mounts and a natural rubber transmission mount were employed to reduce
noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels. Though it may not be readily apparent to the
casual observer, most of the 2003 Navigator’s body panels are new — in fact, only the
front doors and roof are carryover items. The most noteworthy of these changes can be found
at the front and rear of the vehicle; the leading edge of the composite hood has been
raised four inches, while the bumper beam has been lowered two inches to improve
“car-to-truck crash compatibility,” according to Lincoln. Quad beam halogen headlights are
40 percent brighter than the previous model’s dual-beam eyes, and a high-intensity
discharge (HID) headlamp system is optional. Out back, a new aluminum lift gate is
available with power activation, which also provides power assist if the lift gate is
opened or closed manually. Eighteen-inch wheels are now standard, although the chrome
eight-spoke models are optional. The 4WD Navigators are equipped with the division’s
electronic Control Trac system, and both the 4WD and the 2WD versions can be equipped with
Lincoln’s Advance Trac stability control system, which this year employs a roll sensor
mounted under the front console. If the system detects a potential roll-over situation, it
signals the ABS system to brake the outside wheels to induce a mild skid, shifting the
weight to the inside of the turn. If an accident does take place, front-seat occupants will
be protected by dual-stage air bags as well as what Lincoln calls a Safety Canopy. In a
side-impact collision, the Safety Canopy deploys from the headliner to cover approximately
65 percent of the window area in the first two rows. In a roll-over event, the system
offers head protection and reduces the risk of occupant ejection. Unlike front air bags
that deflate almost immediately after impact, the Safety Canopy is designed to remain
inflated for up to six seconds. A completely redesigned interior mixes design cues from the
1961 Lincoln Continental with modern finishes and a host of luxury features. Leather and
walnut burl are used throughout, while other interior surfaces including the center
console, controls and switches are painted a low-luster satin nickel color. More than 120
white LED’s replace incandescent bulbs, and are designed to last for more than 10,000 hours
— more than three times the life of standard bulbs. Functionally, the second row is
available with either two seats and a console or a three-passenger rear seat that is
divided into two 40-percent outboard sections and a 20-percent center section that can
slide forward up to 11 inches. Cargo capacity with the second- and third-row seats folded
is a best-in-class 104.7 cubic feet on eight-passenger models. The Navigator is available
in three trim levels: Luxury, Premium and Ultimate. All include standard features,
including dual-zone electronic climate control (plus an auxiliary climate-control system
for second- and third-row passengers); two memory settings for the driver’s seat; heated
power side mirrors; adjustable brake and accelerator pedals; a tire-pressure monitoring
system (late availability) and an AM/FM sound system with in-dash six-disc compact-disc
changer. AdvanceTrac, heated/cooled seats and a rear seat DVD entertainment system are
among the many options. With this new, more-comfortable and well-equipped Navigator, it
appears that Lincoln has leveled the luxury SUV playing field.

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