VOL. 42 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 9, 2018
Luxury compared: Lincoln Navigator vs. Cadillac Escalade
By Mark Takahashi | Edmunds
Just a handful of automakers offer three-row luxury SUVs. If you want one with robust towing capabilities, your choices narrow even further. Within that group are two well-known domestic models: the 2018 Cadillac Escalade and 2018 Lincoln Navigator.
Both SUVs are capable of hauling up to eight people in royal comfort, towing just about any recreational toy you can think of, or a mix of both. But which one is better for you? Here’s how they stack up.
How they’re similar
Both the Escalade and Navigator are traditional SUVs with truck-based, body-on-frame construction. They are each available in extended-wheelbase versions – the Navigator L and the Escalade ESV – that have additional cargo capacity behind the third-row seats. They also come standard with advanced 10-speed automatic transmissions and offer both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive.
External measurements and curb weights are similar, and both can hold up to eight passengers if you opt for the second-row bench instead of the captain’s chairs.
The Cadillac starts around $74,000 and the Navigator starts around $72,000. Both can end up close to $100,000 when fully stocked with features. As far as ownership goes, each SUV is covered by four-year/50,000-mile basic and six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranties.
Differences favor the navigator
A key difference is newness. Lincoln has redesigned the Navigator for the 2018 model year, while the Escalade was last redesigned for the 2015 model year. A three-year advantage might not seem significant, but for cars, being the latest entry pays dividends.
The 2018 Lincoln Navigator pulls ahead with its turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, compared to the Cadillac Escalade’s 6.2-liter V8 and its 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This power advantage contributes to the Lincoln’s 8,700-pound maximum tow rating that outclasses the Cadillac’s by 400 pounds.
The Navigator’s V6 is also more fuel-efficient, returning an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in combined city and highway driving for a rear-wheel-drive model versus the Escalade’s 17 mpg. Over a year, that edge translates to hundreds of dollars in fuel savings for the Navigator.
On the inside, the Navigator provides more passenger space in almost every metric, with the most significant advantage an additional 11.3 inches for third-row legroom. Similarly, the Navigator is also more accommodating with regard to cargo space. Its 20.9-cubic-foot capacity behind the third row, 63.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and maximum of 103.3 cubic feet overshadow the Escalade’s 15.2 cubic feet, 51.6 cubic feet and 94.2 cubic feet, respectively.
Beyond the numbers
The 2018 Navigator’s advantage transcends the spec sheet. Comfort is paramount for any luxury vehicle, and the Lincoln takes an edge thanks to its more compliant ride quality and its option for 30-way adjustable front seats.
A softer ride typically results in more body roll when cornering, but the Navigator manages it well. You’ll feel the considerable weight while you’re driving either SUV, but the Navigator imparts a more agile feeling behind the wheel.
The Navigator also leads in technology. A large, 10-inch touchscreen sits atop the dash, right in the driver’s sightlines to reduce distraction. There’s also a slick, configurable LCD instrument display in place of traditional gauges.
By comparison, the Escalade’s touchscreen is only 8 inches and mounted lower on the dash. The Cadillac is further hampered with its capacitive touch buttons. They look great but are frustrating to use and require more attention than the Navigator’s traditional buttons.
Beyond the Navigator’s larger cargo volume, it’s also more convenient for everyday living. It features a flat load floor with a slight lip on the edge to prevent items from rolling out. There’s also a deployable panel that can be configured to keep items from being tossed around, to provide a split-level shelf, or to cover a trio of underfloor compartments.
On the other hand, the Escalade is hindered by a 3-inch step-up in the cargo area that is needed to house the third-row seats when stowed, making it noticeably harder to load bulkier items.
The clear winner, for now
It should be obvious that the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is superior to the 2018 Cadillac Escalade. It’s more comfortable, capable and advanced in nearly every way.
But it’s possible that Lincoln’s victory could be short-lived. Recent Escalade redesigns have followed the introductions of new Chevrolet Silverado trucks by about a year, and 2018 will indeed usher in a new line of Silverados.
Cadillac has the potential to meet or beat the Lincoln Navigator’s current dominance, but we’ll have to wait and see whether that potential is realized.
For now, the 2018 Lincoln Navigator holds a considerable advantage over the 2018 Escalade. Your move, Cadillac.
Mark Takahashi is a senior writer at Edmunds. Twitter: @mark_takahashi