Destination Rosemont, Illinois: Only in America in the Lincoln Navigator

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Jul 05, 2018

Some people claim it’s baseball, others football (not the European style currently on display on a world stage with all its kicking and flopping). No, the sport that best reflects our American culture is undoubtedly WWE Wrestling. What captures our national zeitgeist more honestly than an over-the-top spectacle of steroid enhanced, extravagantly costumed men and women following scripts based on the age-old morality play of good versus evil, with evil often coming out on top, while death metal screams from a towering wall of speakers whipping an already amped up crowd into a blood-thirsty frenzy?

If that doesn’t describe America, I don’t know what does.

I grew up in Detroit in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s watching the stars of Big Time Wrestling, Dick the Bruiser, The Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Haystacks Calhoun, Pampero Firpo, Gorilla Monsoon, and so many others ply their trade on WXYZ TV every weekend. Even as an eight-year-old boy I knew this was fake but fun. By my early teens, my interest in the sport had waned and I never really entertained the idea of watching wrestling again. I survived the ‘80s without seeing Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Rowdy Roddy Piper wrestle. To me The Rock and André the Giant are more recognizable from their appearances on the silver screen than the ring. So when my wrestling-loving, 30-year-old son announced he had acquired ringside seats for us to the WWE NXT Chicago Takeover at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois on Father’s Day weekend, I agreed to join him and renew my acquaintance with the sport.

The drive from Madison to Rosemont is both an easy and boring 134 miles of Interstate (most of it toll roads) so what better vehicle to secure for the trip to see the spectacle of WWE wrestling than that most American of vehicles, a spectacular full-size, body-on-frame luxury SUV. The once and current king of this crowd is the fourth generation Lincoln Navigator. Perfectly suited to the task of carrying father and son comfortably across long swaths of midwest prairie to an arena where modern day gladiators would spill their blood (fake or otherwise) for our entertainment, the Navigator is the very definition of large and in charge.

This is a big vehicle. It’s 210 inches in overall length and weighs in at just under 3 tons (a foot longer and several hundred pounds heavier if you opt for the extended wheelbase L version). There’s plenty of room inside for eight passengers. Even the third row can accommodate full-size adults which is why it’s now a favorite of black car companies across the country. Like most people who actually own Navigators, however, we weren’t too concerned with the capaciousness of the vehicle behind the front seats. It’s rare to see every seat occupied when you spot a Navigator in the wild. That didn’t stop us from appreciating its luxury, comfort, and ride – all of which are exemplary.

Our four-wheel-drive, Burgundy Velvet Navigator was decked out in Reserve trim with a second-row power folding bench seat. The Ebony leather interior included Lincoln’s “Perfect Position” front seats which were both heated and cooled with massage. Introduced two years ago on the new Continental, these seats take adjustability to the next level offering 30 possible settings. According to Lincoln’s literature, there are six ways to adjust the track, four ways to adjust the headrest, four ways to adjust the cushion extension, four ways to adjust thigh support, four ways to adjust lumbar support, two ways to recline, two ways to adjust the lower back bolster, two ways to adjust the upper back bolsters, and two ways to adjust the cushion bolster. My fear was that all these possible adjustments would have me tweaking things endlessly. The reality was I quickly went through all the settings and within minutes had my seat where I liked it for the entire week. Even on the longish drive to Rosemont, other than turning on the massage function, I never touched the seat controls.

Other interior highlights include wood inlays that so warm and expansive they could double as paneling in a Manhattan Men’s Club, slick electronic screens with graphics so elegantly minimalist they’d bring Steve Jobs to tears, and the Revel premium audio system that makes Carnegie Hall sound like a roadhouse. The center console is so wide it resembles a coffee table with cavernous bin capable of holding an iPad or two, a few sizable handbags, and enough food to provision a small army. Because the electronic transmission is engaged by pressing one of four piano keys on the dash just below the vent openings, there’s no shift lever which provided Lincoln interior designers the opportunity to create a second open storage area below the center console just in case you want to bring the rest of your worldly possessions.

Driving the Navigator is exactly what you’d expect only better. Even with 22-inch wheels bolted to the fully independent front and rear suspension, the ride is quiet, supple, and compliant. It fairly steamrolls over bumps and cracks in the pavement, flattening out all but the most egregious imperfections. While you won’t confuse the Navigator for a sports SUV like a BMW X4, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, or Jaguar F Pace, it gets around corners with very little drama. Body roll is kept to a minimum given its considerable heft and high center of gravity. Steering is direct but doesn’t provide much feel even in “Excite” mode which honestly isn’t very exciting.

The 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6 offers plenty of power and torque to overcome Navigator’s inertia. If for some reason you feel the need to bury the throttle from a dead stop, 60 miles per hour comes up in about five and a half seconds. The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and at all the right moments both up and down. It’ll tow 8,100 pounds. Mileage numbers are good for a vehicle this big, 16 city and 21 highway, but you’ll have to use premium unleaded to take advantage of all its power and torque, so gas stops can get costly filling the Navigator’s 23-gallon tank.

On our drive to Rosemont, we averaged nearly 20 miles per gallon by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the Hyatt Place Hotel adjacent to the Allstate Arena. Thanks to the Spot Hero app, we were able to secure parking that was a couple bucks cheaper than the arena parking and offered easier in and out which turned out to be a big advantage after the show.

After a short walk across the arena parking lot on that unseasonably warm mid-June evening, we entered the arena and with 30 minutes until showtime found our seats on the floor just two rows from the corner of the ring. (Pro tip: the corner posts and turnbuckles do obscure the view a bit. If you happen to attend a wrestling match get tickets between the corners.) The NXT tour began as WWE’s development league to build awareness of up and coming stars for its two bigger properties, RAW and SmackDown, but after 8 years has developed its own following. Our event dubbed “NXT Takeover: Chicago II” with an undercard that included six matches culminating in the main event, a Chicago Street Fight between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano.

The author and his son cheering on the action during the tag team championship bout.

What followed was an exhibition of storytelling and theatrics. While the basic scripts from the wrestling of my youth haven’t changed much – one wrestler is good, the other a heel and there’s the predictable ebb and flow of a match with each wrestler gaining a seemingly insurmountable upper hand in the match at one time or another – the athleticism and production values have. The tag team match between The Mighty and War Raiders set the tone for the evening with action occurring inside and out of the ring. That was taken to another level when Ricochet and Velveteen Dream began their bout. It felt like both fighters spent half their time in the air, with Ricochet eventually winning by performing his signature move, a 630º Senton, from the top ropes of the turnbuckle.

The final match, a no disqualifications and falls count anywhere (inside the ring or out), between Chicago’s own Johnny “Wrestling” Gargano and Ciampa was the culmination of a year’s worth of bad blood between the two men. A pre-match video brought those of us who aren’t fans of the series up to speed, recapping Ciampa’s various attacks on Gargano and his wife, Canadian wrestler Candice LeRae. Former tag team partners, a year ago Ciampa turned on Gargano after a losing effort to become one of NXT’s bad guys. The street fight format meant the action included a number of props – garbage cans, chairs, handcuffs, etc. – and took place both in the ring and the stands. At one point Gargano leaped from the top of a stack of production crates landing on Ciampa who was lying helpless on a folding table. Paramedics put Ciampa in a neck brace, lifted him onto a gurney, and the match appeared finished until Gargano let his rage overcome him. Bent on revenge, he pushed the doctors and security men out of the way and attacked a helpless Ciampa. Of course, Ciampa miraculously recovered to win the bout in a result that left Gargano’s hometown crowd stunned and disappointed.

An event like this WWE match – played out before a sold-out crowd of 11,000 people – demonstrates that too much is never enough for many Americans. The Lincoln Navigator operates under a similar philosophy with room, power, luxury, and style that redefines the top end of the American full-size SUV market. Thanks to all that luxury, our two-hour ride home was serene and relaxing. Something I greatly appreciated after all the madness and mayhem I’d just witnessed.

2018 Lincoln Navigator 4×4 Reserve
Four-door, eight-passenger, full-size luxury SUV
Base price: $81,205
Price as tested: $88,875
Optional equipment: Burgundy Velvet paint ($695), Single CD player ($225), Revel Ultima audio with 20 speakers ($995), Technology package ($2,640), Perfect position seats ($1,500), Cargo system ($420), destination and delivery ($1,195)
Engine: 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6
Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual mode
Power: 450 HP @ 5,500 RPM
Torque: 510 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 RPM
Curb weight: 5,855 lbs.
0-60 MPH: 5.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 16 city/21 highway/18 combined

Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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