After debuting at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, the fourth-generation Lincoln Navigator has done much to restore the Lincoln brand to its glory days. In the past three years, sales have significantly increased, market expansion in China is underway, and Lincoln recently introduced a two-tone Black Label Special Edition model. The Michigan-born (and Kentucky-built) three-row also earned first place on our best full-size luxury SUV rankings, beating the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and newcomer BMW X7. So naturally, next on the order of business is a face-off with one of its competitors.
At first glance, this pairing may seem a bit strange, but let us explain. The BMW X7 is the newest kid on the block, and if it’s going to join the three-row luxury SUV club, it has to face a veteran like the Navigator. Until recently, BMW trailed Mercedes-Benz in the market for years. Similarly, the Navigator is yet to reach the sales records held by the Escalade. The underdog status of both the X7 and the Navigator makes it the perfect match.
Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Price Tags and Size
As tested, the Lincoln Navigator Black Label stickers for $98,850, and closely behind the BMW X7 xDrive40i checks out at $96,895. Although the difference between these two luxury SUVs is a mere $1,955, the X7 price includes $22,000 in options alone, whereas the Navigator Black Label comes fully loaded as standard and is priced accordingly. It’s worth noting that the base Navigator 4×4 is $18,700 less than the Black Label trim. In other words, Lincoln bundles everything together in one package, whereas BMW makes you buy options separately. Among the big-ticket items on the X7 are the Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($3,400), Dynamic Handling package ($3,850), and Executive package ($4,100), the latter of which adds an LED roof, gesture control, and heated/cooled cupholders, none of which the Navigator has.
Both SUVs seat seven passengers—unless you opt for the captain’s chairs in the X7, which replace the second-row bench seat and reduces seating to six. We should point out that the Black Label comes standard with captain’s chairs, and BMW charges $850 for them. There is no question which of these two luxe behemoths offers the most legroom and best third row; that would be the Navigator. While they share similar headroom in all three rows, the Black Label provides 43.9/41.1/42.3 inches of legroom (front/middle/rear) compared to the X7’s 39.8/37.6/33.3 inches. The fact that the 6.7-inch longer Lincoln offers a cumulative 16.6 inches more legroom speaks to the degree to which passenger space is prioritized in the Navigator. For those who enjoy spending time in remote environs with a camper trailer attached, the Navigator has a towing capacity of 8,300 pounds. The X7, on the other hand, can haul up to 7,500 pounds.
Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Fancy Interiors
“I forgot how nice the Navigator was,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “It’s one of those luxury vehicles where you open the door and immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a private luxury chalet. The interior design harkens back to a bygone era of automobiles (and homes), and despite modern necessities like screens, it really feels like Lincoln has forged its own path.”
The gorgeously appointed Black Label features the Chalet theme, which combines Alpine Venetian leather, wood trim, and chrome accents. As soon as you find a comfortable seating position in the 30-way adjustable driver’s seat, you can feel the value of your money. The premium interior accommodates all passengers aboard and resembles a mini penthouse on wheels. Heated captain’s chairs and a center console with multimedia controls in the second row are standard, though you can also choose the pass-through option.
There is so much to like about the ergonomically designed cabin. A floating center console provides several storage compartments for sunglasses, beverages, snacks, and small bags. The majority of folks will appreciate the clean dashboard layout and ease of access to climate, volume, and seat controls. Oh, and the user-friendly touchscreen infotainment and spectacular Revel Ultima sound system are sure to get the party started on a family road trip.
Now let’s talk about that near-flawless BMW X7 interior. Where to begin? Our tester arrived in the Coffee Extended Merino leather (one of several $2,450 upholstery upgrades). The massaging seats in the X7 are among the best we have ever experienced; they take care of you from the rump up to your shoulders. It is also neat how many massage styles are available, and the comprehensive ambient lighting is just fabulous.
Unlike the Navigator’s clutter-free cabin, the X7’s is a tad on the condensed side, and sections like the center console control panel feel busy. Despite that, the beautiful diamond-cut glass gear lever and sophisticated infotainment controller are welcome novelties. And like most advanced technology features in modern luxury vehicles, there is a learning curve to the touchscreen, which may challenge some and upset others. Also worth mentioning, third-row passengers get their own sunroof, climate zone, mood light, cupholders, and heated seats. Not a terrible place to be, and the kids will undoubtedly agree.
“I’m not a fan of BMW’s current interior design language, but there’s no denying the success of the X7,” Seabaugh said. “I love the quilted brown leather (complete with an interesting waveform pattern on the upper portion and spine of the seat) and the choice of walnut, satin metallic, and black trim to offset it; really looks great.”
In terms of advanced safety features, both the X7 and Navigator come generously equipped, with standard lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, parking assistance, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: MT Testing
Under the hood, the four-wheel-drive Lincoln Navigator Black Label packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque on tap coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This combo helped the Navigator accomplish 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 95.8 mph. On our figure-eight skidpad test, a course that evaluates braking, acceleration, and cornering, a complete loop took 27.8 seconds at 0.62 average g.
On the Bimmer front, our test vehicle came equipped with the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six making 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic. (BMW offers a V-8 for an extra 25 grand in the X7 xDrive50i variant.) The X7 reached 60 mph from a standstill in 5.6 seconds and performed the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 96.8 mph. Its run through the figure eight happened in 26.3 seconds at 0.67 average g.
Of the X7’s braking performance, road test editor Chris Walton noted: “Medium-firm pedal, modest dive, but the brakes are exceedingly strong, and the tires are grippy. Braking distances in order: 110, 112, 110, 112 feet.” The X7 braking results outperformed the Navigator, which came in at 131, 125, 127, 125 feet.
Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Driving Impressions
The Navigator drives enjoyably, considering it’s a massive body-on-frame SUV. However, it can give off a good rattling on rougher roads and controls itself better on smoother surfaces. That is likely because the coil springs and adjustable dampers on the Navigator struggle to manage the unsprung mass of the 22-inch wheels. On the other hand, the BMW air-spring/adjustable damper suspension handles the same-sized wheels better. Still, the standard adaptive suspension on the Navigator does a decent enough job. “Surprisingly capable handler,” Seabaugh said. “Body roll is fairly well-controlled, there’s plenty of grip, and steering is light but precise. This isn’t the barge you’d think it would be.”
If you take on a sharp turn too quickly, be prepared to stomp on those brakes, as it takes a great deal of braking input to slow down. When accelerating, the ‘Gator will surprise you and deliver quite the performance despite its size and three-ton curb weight. Shifting is smooth, and steering is impressively light. The ride quality and comfort can persuade you to pack your bags and take the family on an extended vacation in the majestic American Southwest.
How does the all-wheel-drive BMW X7 stack up? The softly padded and well-designed steering wheel feels perfect in your hands. In Sport mode, driving the X7 becomes more engaging, and on the throttle, it does not hesitate to climb up a curving road. And for those split-second moments when you need to bring a 5,530-pound SUV to a halt, the potent M Sport brakes (included in the Dynamic Handling package) have your back. Still, we wish for more astute damping. “The body control is just disappointing, especially for a BMW,” features editor Scott Evans said. “The body is always moving around, side to side, diagonally, front, and back.”
Indeed, the X7 has a less powerful engine than the Navigator; however, for how most consumers will drive it, 335 horsepower is adequate and should provide a fun driving experience, so long as just a single occupant is on board. The ZF-sourced automatic transmission shifts seamlessly, and although the 22-inch wheels can upset the ride quality, the air suspension with adaptive dampers handles rough patches quite well.
Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Which Is the Better Buy?
A full-size luxury SUV with a third row should accommodate every passenger aboard, from the driver to the teenager tucked away in the rear corner seat. If available legroom in the third row is limited to short passengers, it can be a deal-breaker. Safety equipment and warranties are also essential, especially for a vehicle used primarily to transport a family. Interior design, high-quality materials, advanced technology features, and cargo space are important in a luxury SUV and can easily push the window sticker north of $100,000.
The Lincoln Navigator Black Label comes with unlimited roadside assistance, a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, and exclusive service amenities such as a premium maintenance plan, remote service pickup and delivery, anytime car wash, and annual vehicle detailing. Customers can also earn points to use toward vehicle maintenance and more through the Lincoln Access Rewards program. The EPA-rated fuel economy for the Navigator Black Label is 16/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined.
In comparison, BMW X7 limits roadside assistance to four years, but with unlimited miles. It also falls short in the powertrain coverage by offering a lesser four-year/50,000-mile warranty, and there are no complimentary membership services. The X7 does, however, offer slightly better fuel economy at an EPA-rated 20/25/22 mpg. Even though the 2020 BMW xDrive40i has a lot going for it, the 2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label has more interior space, a better warranty, a higher towing limit, and exclusive membership privileges. And between these two full-size luxury SUVs, the Black Label gets our vote.
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