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For new Navigator, Lincoln dials down the thirst

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In a throwback to its success in the late ‘90s as a purveyor of luxury full-size SUVs, Lincoln pulled the wraps off an updated 2015 Navigator SUV on 23 January.

Reaching the North American market in an era of cheap gasoline and a wholesale rejection of the station wagon, the original Navigator was a sales sensation for the Ford luxury subsidiary, a status that it ultimately could not sustain in the face of Cadillac’s Escalade and entries by Japanese and German luxury brands.

Can the Navigator’s old glories be rekindled? No one knows for certain, but Lincoln is nevertheless rolling out a new Navigator that looks, well, quite a lot like the Navigator has always looked. A revised split-wing grille and full-width taillights recall classic Lincoln designs, but are really the only significant evolutions of a shape that has resisted change for over 15 years.

The news is under the hood, where in place of the stupendously thirsty 5.4-litre V8 engine that has always made the Navigator a lush even among its hard-drinking cohort, is a more powerful version of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 used to good effect in other Ford products such as the Flex, Edge and Explorer.

Lincoln says the new power plant generates at least 370 horsepower and a trailer-hauling 430 pound-feet of torque. That’s 68 more horsepower and 152lb-ft more torque than the slightly larger 3.7-litre EcoBoost found in the Ford F-150 pickup truck. It is also a 60hp and 65lb-ft edge over the Navigator’s current 5.4-litre V8. Lincoln, however, did not disclose fuel-economy estimates.

Alas, amid the three rows of leather seats and Ziricote natural-grain wood trim (of the sort Lincoln says is used as an accent on the yachts of captains of industry), the Navigator is decidedly less ambitious than the new Ford F-150 pickup truck, with its weight-saving aluminium bodywork.

The Navigator is clearly not the turnaround product Lincoln desperately needs, but it could buoy the brand if it enjoys even modest success while the company readies other models.

Pricing will be announced closer to the Navigator’s fall 2014 arrival in North American showrooms.