DETROIT — Lincoln is crafting a new identity that just might lift it from the ranks of second-tier luxury brands.

We test-drove the 2019 Lincoln L Navigator Black Label and were duly impressed. The question is not whether it was good, but how good it was. Where to begin?

From the distinctive honeycombed grille with the Lincoln badge in the center, which is now the face of the brand, to the family of powerful V6 engines that propel Lincolns down the road, the brand has taken some impressive steps.

A close inspection of the grille revealed the honeycombs to be outlines of Lincoln’s rectangular badge. The body on frame constructed Navigator was loaded with little details like that that illuminate a step up in thinking on the part of the brand’s engineers and designers.

First of all, the 2019 Lincoln Navigator L was big. The wheelbase was 131.6 inches, compared to a regular Navigator at 122.5 inches. Overall length was 221.9 inches compared to a regular Navigator at 210 inches. But let’s be clear, the Navigator has left the realm of regular.

The Navigator L 4X4 weighed three tons, 6,056 lbs. to be exact. It takes a lot of brute force to move that much weight. But Lincoln put the Navigator’s power in a velvet glove. Under the hood was a twin-turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 that made 450 horsepower and a diesel-like 510 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 RPMs. The engine was mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and it could tow up 8,100 lbs.

This powertrain moved the Navigator L with little or no effort. I never heard the engine. The vehicle had that force of personality that changes the natural inclination of the driver. There wasn’t much hard acceleration or powering through curves. It was quiet, the suspension certainly smoothed out the road, and there were drive modes to deal with all sorts of road conditions and the V6 when idling sounded like a V8.

With a sharp turn of the wheel, we could feel the girth of the Navigator L and also feel that it was a very sumptuous sport utility sitting on a truck platform. But other than that there was nothing to indicate its weight or the chassis it rode on. The engine could and did move the Navigator with ease.

Lincoln has created a luxurious trim line. It is called Black Label. On the Navigator there are three choices: the test vehicle was chalet. It was a combination of Espresso and Alpine Venetian leathers and deep Silverwood appliques. Not only is Black Label Lincoln’s top trim level, it also comes with a personal service membership.

Privileges include personalized shopping with dedicated personnel on the showroom floor, online or remotely – in locales convenient to Black Label customers. Extended premium service and maintenance coverage, anytime car washes, annual detailing and a culinary collection membership with access to select restaurants nationwide is also part of the deal.

There is a travel collection with an invitation-only Avis President’s Club membership. A four-year/50,000 mile premium maintenance plan with all recommended service and wear item is also part of Lincoln Black Label. It features complimentary pickup and delivery within a 50-mile radius. And they keep adding stuff.

A Lincoln designer told me years ago that the place stylists convey luxury is in the interior of a vehicle. And Lincoln has done an outstanding job with the interior of the Navigator. The sumptuousness of the vehicle hit us as soon as we opened the door.

It was awash in cream colored leather with black piping. The dash and trim were a coffee color. Once the sight of all that quilted leather sunk in there was the pier that functioned as the center console.

The 2019 Lincoln Navigator had a push button gear selector and that freed up a lot space on the console. In fact, it looked like a small table finished with wood applique. Cupholders were behind one popup door and two USB plugs and the phone charger were behind another. In total, there were six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets and a 110-volt plug.

As we approached the 2019 Lincoln Navigator L Black Label with the key fob, the running board automatically deployed and the door unlocked as we grabbed the handle. Any of the four handles will unlock the door. And of course push button start and stop is implicit with this technology.

And looking at the heft of the Lincoln Navigator, it is easy to forget that the body is made out of an aluminum alloy and it is 200 lbs. lighter. It had speed-dependent adaptive lighting that provided a wider spread of light at lower speeds for increased visibility. As the vehicle accelerated, the beam of light narrowed to help eliminate the glare off signs or other distractions.

The 30-way heated and cooled power front seats, yes 30-way, featured power head rests, separate seat extenders for the left and right leg and a massage feature that can be set for your bottom or your back or both.

There was a floating infotainment touch screen, much like we’ve seen in other vehicles. But where the Navigator set itself apart from the pack was the TFT instrument screen. In other applications, this type of screen is made to look like analogue instruments. Not in the Navigator.

This TFT screen breaks new ground. It is black with white lettering reversed out. It gives you time, temp, and the sppedometer had a faint zero on one side and an equally faint 140 mph on the other. The needle didn’t glide over numbers, there was a faint arc and your speed numeral would increase with acceleration. The screen showed the range, lane alert, fuel gauge but none of this was in the typical alignment.

The heads up display had much of the same information. During the sunny weather, we were impressed to be able to see the information while wearing polarized sunglasses. These types of eye shades can’t be used with most HUDs, they wash the lettering away. It is the little stuff like this that can set you apart from the pack.

There were captain’s chairs in the second row which had its own set of climate controls. These seats were covered by the panoramic roof. There was a pass through to the third row seats or the second row seats folded for access. The third row seats were surprisingly spacious, there was plenty of heard room and they were set up for three people to sit abreast.

This Navigator was equipped with active park assist, adaptive cruise control, an adaptive suspension, a 20-speaker premium audio system, blind spot warning, forward collision control, a 4G modem with Wi-Fi capability, drive modes, remote start, and voice controls.

Of course there was lane departure warning, satellite radio and heated second row seats. On the safety side, there was automatic emergency braking, a forward and reverse sensing system, pedestrian detection, a 360 degree camera with overhead view, a rear camera, power liftgate with hands free activation and power adjustable pedals.

We thought the distance gauge with warning system when you are following the vehicle ahead too closely in the HUD particularly helpful. Again, it is the little stuff that separates the good from the really good.

This 2019 Lincoln Navigator L Black Label 4X4 had a lot of equipment as expected in any vehicle with a sticker of $101,560.

Frank S. Washington is editor of

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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