In spite of a base manufacturer's suggested retail price of over $42,000 in 1998, the Navigator proved to be popular with nearly 44,000 sold in its first year. Competitors from General Motors like the Cadillac Escalade and the GMC Denali Series quickly followed to cash in on Lincoln's success with the Navigator. Much like the Cadillac Escalade would do, the Navigator found a niche with celebrities and the customized SUV scene.
For 2008 and newer vehicles, the EPA issued a new measurement standard for fuel efficiency to reflect more realistic consumption numbers. Under this new standard, a two-wheel drive 2008 Navigator achieves fuel efficiency ratings of 12miles per US gallon (20L/100km; 14mpg-imp) in city driving and 18miles per US gallon (13L/100km; 22mpg-imp) on the highway. Ratings for other model year Navigators, if not the same, are similar, differing by one to two miles per gallon.
The 1998 Navigator was introduced in August 1997 as Lincoln's first sport utility vehicle (SUV) with seating for up to eight people. The Navigator was based directly on the Ford Expedition, which was introduced the year before, but was positioned to be a new luxury choice in the then-growing full-size SUV market segment, with more features and an upscale design. Though the Navigator's exterior bears resemblance to its Expedition cousin at a glance, it differs in a number of ways, including different front and rear fascias with unique headlights and taillights, a chrome "waterfall" style grille, a unique hood, different style wheels, unique wheel arches, a different roof rack, and different door handles. Inside, the Navigator's humble truck roots could be more easily spotted as it had the same dashboard layout as the Expedition and F-150. However, the Navigator's interior featured upscale additions including standard leather seating surfaces, fine wood inserts, extensive carpeting, and greater sound deadening.
In terms of other features, Navigators were equipped with things such as dual front-side airbags, four wheel anti-lock disc brakes, a four-speaker premium audio system with AM/FM-cassette radio, automatic climate control, a wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel with redundant audio and climate controls, "captain's chair" front bucket seating, power driver and passenger seats, first- and second-row floor consoles, an overhead console (with map lighting and electronic information displays), power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, illuminated running boards, automatic headlights, foglights, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Upscale options included a power moonroof, a universal garage door opener, an electrochromic rearview mirror (which filters out headlight glare from other vehicles behind the Navigator), a seven speaker, 290-Watt audio system with a six-disc front console-mounted CD-changer, rear seat audio controls, and 17-inch alloy wheels.