Lincoln Navigator proves amazingly agile SUV; Nissan Murano loaded with features

While most owners of a Lincoln Navigator are not likely to do a great deal of off-roading, we found this full-size SUV to perform admirably while traversing a variety of rugged roads near Mt. Rainier recently.

With a 119.0-inch wheelbase (the L model is 131.0) and 207.4 length, the Navigator 4x4 unit we tested had 22-inch BSW tires mounted on 22-inch polished aluminum, 20-spoke wheels that provided exceptional traction and height capacity. And the turning radius was surprisingly tight in conjunction with the Navigator’s variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering system. Most large SUVs can be problematic when attempting turnarounds on narrow mountain roads with steep drop-offs, but the Navigator performed well.

Adding to the superb ride characteristics are the Navigator’s front independent short-and-long arm suspension system with coil-over shocks and stabilizer bar, and multilink rear system with the coil-overs and stabilizer bar. Add to that an AdvanceTrac traction control system with Roll Stability Control plus Hill Start Assist and Hill Decent Control and this is a genuinely reliable off-roader.

Powered by a beefy 3.5-L V-6 EcoBoost engine with twin turbos and direct injection, the Navigator provided excellent power for climbing steep hills and uneven, washed out roadways. It creates 380-HP at 5,250 RPM and, more importantly for rough off-roading, offers 460 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,750 RPM. Its six-speed auto transmission with SelectShift, combined with the EcoBoost engine, made this big beast feel like much smaller SUV. The package is also ideal for the best-in-class towing capacity (8,600 pounds) and trailer sway control.

When it comes to creature comforts, very little has been overlooked on the Navigator, from leather accents to wood ingrains, but, then again, our tester priced out at $72,400 with $7,345 in two option packages. Our particular likes included power running boards (very handy due to the height), heated and cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, power third-row split seats (put down one or both with a touch of a button), power liftgate, plentiful passenger space, a viable dual-zone climate control system, voice-activated navigation system, wondrous THX II Certified 5.1 surround sound system, power/heated/folding outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert. Plus, up to 103.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats for extraordinary hauling capacity.

Additionally, the Lincoln Drive Control, a three-mode operating system (Comfort, Normal, or Sport) provides continuously controlled damping sensors to detect body motion, steering and braking dynamics, and uses the electric power-assisted steering to help control changing driving conditions.

While it may be a luxury SUV, we found the Navigator to also be  a suitable off-road vehicle, though fuel economy was 17 MPG overall.


Nissan Murano also provides exceptional off-road capabilities

     The space-age designed 2015 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD unit we tested immediately after the Navigator also provided us with some exciting features and very capable off-road attributes on some challenging gravel, dirt, and rocky roads.

There was nothing we did not like on this mid-size SUV, but it did have something that tops our list for 2015. Murano’s Around View Monitor for backing up uses four cameras that provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle. Using an eight-inch selectable split screen, a back-up camera offers a general rear-view camera shot on the left side of the screen, plus a Moving Object Detection system (front, rear, curbside) on the right to detect any moving object that may impair the backing-up process. We used this system more than a dozen times on tight, narrow, and uneven logging and Forest Service roads and it worked perfectly, providing a uniquely safe and efficient method of turning around in small spaces with dangerous drop-offs.

Beyond this system, we loved the Murano’s loaded standard features from 20-inch wheels and tires (good height for off-roading) to its remote engine start and its Bose premium audio system with nine speakers. Not to mention leather-appointed seats that were heated and cooled (front; heated rear), NissanConnect Navigation system, fog lamps, power liftgate, heated outside mirrors, Blind Spot Warning, rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Hill Start Assist, Traction Control System, Vehicle Dynamic Control, and exceptional LED high beam head lamps, just to name a few of the four-dozen standard features.

Also likeable on this Intuitive All-Wheel-Drive unit was the 3.5-L DOHC, 24-valve V-6 engine that was mated to a smooth-shifting Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The combination allowed for generous horsepower and torque, plus the fuel economy is rated at 21 MPG/city and 28 MPG/highway or 24 MPG overall (very close to what we experienced in our weeklong drive).

With a MSRP of $40,600, our tested Murano had one option package (panoramic power moonroof, Intelligent Cruise Control, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and Forward Emergency Braking system) for $2,260 for a final price of $42,860. For what this SUV offers, the price in our view is worth every nickel.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.