There's a playbook for building a luxury vehicle in 2016.
Lincoln is in the early stages of an attempted comeback, and in its quest to match the offerings from class leaders like Audi and Mercedes, it's had some interesting ideas. Closets. Staircases. Wheels the size of Manhattan apartments.
It packed all of them and more into the Navigator Concept, which it showed off at the New York International Auto Show this week. And while this iteration of the humungo SUV that debuted in 1997 isn't production bound, it indicates where Lincoln's headed.
The answer, it seems, is everywhere. Ford's luxury arm has clearly studied the playbook for how to make a fancy vehicle in 2016, and has decided to run every single play.
"Connectivity" has transcended buzzword status within the auto industry to become a given. Even the cheapest econobox aimed at money-grubbing millennials pairs with a phone. But that's not enough when you're dropping close to (or more than) six figures on a ride, which is why the Navigator concept, like so many Audis, Bentleys, and even Buicks doubles as a WiFi hotspot so you never have to worry about hitting your mobile data cap on the road.
All that data will be piped into four iPad-sized screens built into the headrest of every seat. Check your Instagram feed, listen to Pandora, stream Netflix, even find a new lunch spot on Yelp. Just don't talk to the human next to you.
Make the car drive itself. A little.
We're still a few years away from luxury cars that can drive themselves on the highway (though Tesla's pushing it), but any car starting north of $30,000 had better offer at least a few of the active safety features that are bridging the way to autonomy.
In the Navigator's case, those include automatic braking to avoid hitting other cars and pedestrians (or at least hitting them really hard) and a lane-keeping system that will gently guide you back into your lane when you wander. Since you won't be able to anyone guiding you into a parking spot, Lincoln included four cameras that create an overhead image for parking purposes.
Go business class.
The concept boasts more interior space than any past Navigator, most of it swaddled in leather. That includes the six seats, which can be adjusted 30 different ways to fit a truly eclectic range of human bodies.
Teaming up with a high-end sound system company's a common move: Bentley and Naim. Land Rover and Meridian, Porsche and Burmeister. Lincoln works with Revel to create customized sound systems for its cars, a production Navigator would presumably get the same treatment.
Oh. About those doors...
Create an entrance.
Funky doors are usually the purview of swanky sports cars (or Tesla's Model X), but Lincoln's not leaving anything out in the quest to create "refinement that leapfrogs competitors." Though given the size of this thing (that's average human-sized Ford CEO Mark Fields in the driver's seat), I can't imagine it leapfrogging anything.
It's theoretically possible people won't see this yacht-sized SUV pulling up, but they'll sure as hell notice it when the gullwing doors swing open like an albatross taking off. For those who don't want to break an ankle jumping to the ground, Lincoln installed a deployable set of stairs we're willing to bet it stole from that guy making a full-size replica of the Titanic. As to those wheels, Lincoln didn't say how big they are, but they look like they're at least half as tall as Fields. Thirties, maybe?
Include at least one fully unnecessary, probably useless feature.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that a luxury car must have at least one option that makes you say, "WTF?" BMW added gesture control to the 7 series. Rolls-Royce offers a humidor in the glove box. Bentley has a picnic set with "the finest crockery and cutlery." And Tesla gave the Model X "falcon" doors.
Ford surveyed the landscape and decided that what the Lincoln really needs is a closet.
Oh sure, it calls it a "custom wardrobe management system." But it's a closet. And it's packed with everything you'd need for "a day on the water." But even if you never even see the sea, you are driving a yacht, so you may as well dress like it.
Hope it's all enough.
The luxury market is getting more crowded, and Ford's reboot of Lincoln, which kicked off in late 2012, hasn't been a huge success. But there's good reason to think a redesigned, full-size SUV like the Navigator will have plenty of fans.
Source: wired.com Photos: Ford