The full-size luxury SUV segment is more stacked than it’s ever been. Products in this category need to be overflowing with style, refinement, and technology to stand out for consumer consideration.
With that in mind, the 2022 Lincoln Navigator has a fresh tech suite to fight off stiff competitors like the Cadillac Escalade and the new Range Rover. One of the hallmark features of the latest Navigator is the ActiveGlide driver assistance system, which is designed to make road trips in the car a more relaxing experience. I decided to try it out for myself over an 800-mile trek from Southern California to San Francisco.
Gallery: 2022 Lincoln Navigator: First Drive
What is Lincoln ActiveGlide?
ActiveGlide (Lincoln's name, not mine) is an SAE Level 2 driver assistance technology that allows for hands-free driving on specific stretches of highway. This same software is also included on Ford vehicles like the F-150 Lightning, Mach-E, and Expedition using the name BlueCruise.
Much like Super Cruise, which can be found in GM products, ActiveGlide (or BlueCruise) only functions on sections of road that Ford has satellite scanned. As Ford scans more highways, cars equipped with this tech will get over-the-air updates to expand their hands-free capabilities.
A hands-free level 2 system like ActiveGlide is an important building block as we get closer to autonomy, but remember: There are still no self-driving cars on sale today. This technology is a driver-assistance system and still requires the driver’s full attention. That latter piece of information was a constant reminder during my trip.
Using ActiveGlide on the Highway
Activating the ActiveGlide system is very easy. Make sure that each of the Navigator’s individual safety systems, like blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist are engaged. From there, it’s just a matter of turning on the adaptive cruise control via the steering wheel button and setting a speed. If ActiveGlide is available on that stretch of highway, it will turn on automatically. If not, it will tell you.
Once the system is up and running, you will see a huge blue steering wheel graphic take over the digital gauge cluster that reads “Hands-Free” in giant letters. There is also a strange animation next to it that looks like something out of the movie i, Robot. But as long as the graphic is present, you’re good to go.
When in use, ActiveGlide functions much like other active safety systems, monitoring traffic at all four corners of the vehicle. When traffic ahead slows down, ActiveGlide adjusts the speed to match other cars. It also adds steering angle to account for any curvature in the road and works to keep the car in the middle of the lane the best it can. As of now, ActiveGlide is not able to do lane changes on its own, but that feature will be coming with a future OTA update, according to Lincoln.
All of this outlines what ActiveGlide is supposed to do in theory, but as I experienced first-hand, not everything is as seamless as you’d hope.
Before addressing some clear drawbacks, I'll add that in a combined 10 hours of driving on the highway, ActiveGlide did its job well. Especially in traffic at lower speeds, the system would work for 20 minutes easily, without interruption.
This level 2 system functions like most others on the road today. I found that because the Navigator is such a big vehicle, that it often felt as though ActiveGlide was keeping it driving right up against the lane marker. In terms of speeding up and slowing down to match the speed of traffic, I have nothing to complain about there.
Honestly, when the road was straight and there wasn’t construction going on, ActiveGlide was a great experience. The problem was when ActiveGlide had to stop working, and the lack of warning that came with it.
A level 2 system implies that a driver needs to be ready to control the vehicle within one second of it disengaging. In the real world, that just isn’t enough time to do so safely – at least without feeling like you are going to potentially cause an accident.
This problem isn't specific to ActiveGlide, but rather every hands-free level 2 system available today. If the car finds that the conditions for hands-free driving aren't being met (such as around a turn, when faced with an obstacle, or if there's some disparity in lane markings) it will disengage and leave the driver scrambling to "catch," for lack of a better word, the steering wheel. And when a driver – even one whose eyes are on the road and hands are in their lap – is suddenly faced with a flashing message to get their hands back on the wheel, that can lead to the kind of sloppy inputs that will make an annoying situation downright bad.
The whole point of the ActiveGlide system is to make road trips a more relaxing experience, and for the majority of my time behind the wheel, it accomplished that goal.
Having driven a Super Cruise–equipped Escalade, I can say that Lincoln's rival does a better job of alerting the driver when the system disengages. The seat starts vibrating and the large color stripe on the steering wheel urgently changes from green to red. Lincoln’s ActiveGlide doesn’t provide a dramatic enough warning when the driver needs to put their hands back on the wheel, so even if you are completely focused on the road, it’s hard to take over smoothly.
The whole point of the ActiveGlide system is to make road trips a more relaxing experience, and for the majority of my time behind the wheel, it accomplished that goal. But there were enough heartbeat-skipping moments along the way to make me question the necessity of level 2 hands-free systems as a whole. For now, I really do think it's best that we keep our hands on the steering wheel, at least until level 3 cars start hitting the market.