From the June 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
If you’ve never heard of an NFT, allow us to enlighten you. The term stands for non-fungible token, and it’s a means of commodifying digital property. Instead of buying, say, a Michael Jordan baseball card, you could buy a digital image of a Michael Jordan baseball card, or of a Princess Beanie Baby, or perhaps of your favorite Dutch tulip, and it would be all yours. Maybe you’d buy Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet for $2.9 million, or pick up a drawing of a cartoon ape for $2.3 million, or spend $69 million for a digital mosaic from an artist named Beeple. These are not hypothetical examples, in case you’re wondering. Rich people are evidently running out of things to spend money on. Luckily for them, we have some suggestions.
Since we’re always on the bleeding edge of hot trends in crypto or blockchain or the metaverse, we figured we’d create a new category of NFT: the Nice F—ing Truck. Like a seven-figure Bored Ape, these body-on-frame behemoths embody a certain brand of conspicuous consumption. But unlike an NFT of LeBron dunking (which sold for a mere $208,000), a big luxury SUV actually, you know, does stuff. You can drive it around and go places. You can tow heavy trailers. Maybe it’ll give you a massage while you’re towing a heavy trailer. Try getting a Beeple to do that. You don’t even need the blockchain to prove ownership. Lance down in the finance office will get you all set up with that—just let him know you already agreed to the undercoating.
To qualify as an NFT, we submit that a vehicle needs three rows of seating, four driven wheels, body-on-frame construction, and the kind of badge that says “I’ll sponsor you at the country club if you don’t tell the town that my guesthouse violates the setbacks.” From Cadillac, we have the Escalade, redesigned last year and armed with air springs and GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driver-assistance system. After a 31-year hiatus, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer is back for 2022 in all its V-8-powered glory. Lexus also has a fresh model for 2022, the LX600, the upmarket counterpart to the Toyota Land Cruiser that U.S. dealerships no longer get. And Lincoln’s refreshed Navigator is as plush as ever, now featuring a version of Ford’s hands-free cruise control dubbed ActiveGlide.
But which of these NFTs best justifies a withdrawal of your hard-earned dogecoin? We rounded up all four and headed to Kentucky horse country, where we logged hundreds of miles, won $8 on a gelding named Baby Yoda, and minted some conclusions. But if this doesn’t help you make a decision, feel free to buy more than one. Hey, it’s only money.
2022 Lexus LX600 F Sport
Highs: Good fuel economy (relatively), supple ride, legit off-road chops.
Lows: Ahoy-matey body roll, dearth of luxe features, tight rear seats.
Verdict: This would make a great Toyota Land Cruiser.
Had this shootout taken place entirely off-road, we bet the Lexus would have won. As the upscale offshoot of the Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX600 F Sport has the goods for overlanding excellence: a four-wheel-drive system with low range, a limited-slip rear differential, and a clever display that shows you what’s underneath the vehicle by recording the path ahead and then transposing it to a see-through overhead view. Everyone loves glass-bottom-boat mode.
But as the Lexus Land Cruiser, there’s also a lot of standard-issue Toyota on display for a vehicle that costs $107,585 as tested. When you stop for fuel, you pull a flimsy plastic flap to open the filler door and then unscrew an actual gas cap. The running boards are fixed, not power-operated like the others in this test. There’s no hands-free cruise control, no massaging seats, no panoramic roof. Some of our phones wouldn’t fit on the wireless charger unless we removed the case. The rear seat is a bench rather than captain’s chairs, yet the LX600 isn’t an eight-seater—its third row seats only two, and those unfortunates will be staring at their knees and ruing the live rear axle bounding around below. Do you remember how the LX570 had a fun drop-down tailgate you could sit on? They got rid of that.
However, there’s still plenty to recommend about the LX600. Everyone loved its front seats, which are somehow both supportive and buttery soft. It returned the highest observed fuel economy (17 mpg), and its ride epitomizes the Lexus glide. It even tied for highest skidpad number—0.75 g, accompanied by extravagant body roll—and, somewhat hilariously, highest top speed. It’s the quietest at idle, and under throttle its twin-turbo 3.4-liter V-6 issues agreeable forced-induction huffs rather than V-6 exhaust blat.
In the Lexus cinematic universe, the LX is closer in spirit to the rolling-anesthesia ES350 rather than the more involving LC or IS500, no matter how many F Sport badges it wears. That aloof mien is appropriate for this genre. But Lexus can squeeze only so much luxury into the 112.2-inch wheelbase, which hasn’t changed since the 1991 Land Cruiser. That’s about six inches shorter than the wheelbase of a Hyundai Ioniq 5, to give you some idea of what an outlier the Lexus is in this gargantuan crowd.
As one logbook entry put it, “Toyota obviously thinks this will capture the orphan Land Cruiser customers. Some of them, maybe. But there were about 3500 people every year who specifically didn’t want this.” So, hey, we’ve got an idea. Hear us out: LX600, but with a lower price, a smaller grille, and maybe some smaller wheels with all-terrain tires. We don’t know what they’d call such a thing, but we bet we’d like it.
2022 Lincoln Navigator Black Label 4×4
Highs: Opulent interior, tastefully gaudy exterior, quickest of the bunch.
Lows: Shuddering structure, flinty ride, ActiveGlide feels half baked.
Verdict: Does Lincoln proud, but needs a more compelling refresh.
The Navigator was the quickest of our quartet, and everyone agreed it has the most special-feeling interior—when your second-row seats have a massage function, you’re not skimping on the N in NFT. Second-row passengers also get their own climate controls and buttons to commandeer the shade for the panoramic roof. Lincoln has christened our test truck’s new-for-2022 interior theme Central Park, possibly because it’s large enough for Rollerblading. Even the third-row seats get power recline. And the Lincoln’s exterior is the best at announcing that you’ve spent a lot of money and are not ashamed to show it. The Lincoln badge in the grille lights up at night, so even in darkness, your Black Label will never be mistaken for a Ford Expedition.
But this isn’t just a chauffeur special built to cater to the bigwigs or junior tyrants in back. The Navigator is fun to drive, in the manner of a big Bentley—an opulent living room thrown by a trebuchet every time you flatten the accelerator. With its turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 cranking out 440 horsepower and a best-in-test 510 pound-feet of torque, this 6078-pound Lincoln flings itself to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, narrowly outracing the Grand Wagoneer and its 6.4-liter V-8. The Navigator also ties the Lexus for highest skidpad grip, although one editor described its steering as “gooey,” and the driving experience is definitely the most trucklike. “You feel more body-on-frame jiggles through the steering wheel here than on any of the others,” read one logbook entry. Another driver opined that the “flinty ride and creaky structure might benefit from another semester at Chassis Tuning U.”
The Lincoln was the only vehicle besides the Cadillac to offer hands-free cruise control, which Lincoln calls ActiveGlide. When it works, ActiveGlide effectively keeps the big Gator centered in its lane, but the key qualifier here is “when it works,” which is best described as intermittently. Assuming you’re on a limited-access highway that’s part of ActiveGlide’s roughly 130,000 miles of available roads, the system might engage for 10 seconds, quit for 10 seconds, and then come back online again. One driver commented, “If ActiveGlide were any more on-again, off-again, they’d call it Bennifer.” But the hardware is there, so we presume that Lincoln will keep improving it, the same way GM has.
So, you read that right: The quickest truck with the nicest interior gets third place. It’s tough out there for an NFT. This generation of Navigator debuted in 2018, making it the oldest here, and that might be part of the problem. If you’re going to part with your precious bitcoin, oftentimes the latest ape is the greatest ape.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series II Obsidian
Highs: Supreme interior space, really quick, tows 9850 pounds.
Lows: Guzzles fuel, some uninspired interior materials, brutalist exterior styling.
Verdict: The beauty is on the inside.
Speaking of great apes, get a load of this gorilla. The Grand Wagoneer is rolling hyperbole: biggest, heaviest, most powerful, highest tow rating. But also: worst fuel economy, longest stop from 70 mph, most challenging exterior design. We don’t have a number on that last one, but the best anyone could muster on the Grand Wagoneer’s styling is, “You’d probably get used to it.”
The Grand Wagoneer looks as if different teams designed its front and rear halves and the one that worked on the back thought they were creating a shipping container until an hour before the project was due. The B- and C-pillars evoke an Atari logo erupting out of the doors, and the D-pillars sweep up at the bottom in homage to . . . the Jeep Compass? Somehow, the Grand Wagoneer’s slab-sided body makes 22-inch wheels look tiny. It’s Brink’s-truck chic, we’ll give it that.
Fortunately for the Jeep, it’s supremely well adapted to the mission of an NFT—shuttling around seven or eight people in utter comfort. Its third row is by far the most habitable, with plenty of legroom, power-reclining seatbacks, and its own skylight. Third-row denizens also get dedicated HVAC vents and USB-A and USB-C outlets. The second row’s 10.1-inch entertainment screens feature Amazon Fire TV. Even the front passenger gets an entertainment screen that’s polarized so the driver can’t peek at The Wheel of Time while you’re rolling. Everybody ought to be happy in this pleasure palace, including the driver.
That part surprised us a bit, given that the Grand Wagoneer doesn’t look like it wants to hustle. Its 471-hp 6.4-liter V-8 might not feel as energetic here as it does in a Dodge Durango SRT 392, but it still hucks this big galoot to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. And although nobody’s going to try to slay a twisty Kentucky back road in one of these, we did anyway—for science. And the giant Jeep is sneakily fun to drive. “It’s wallowy, leading you to believe there isn’t much there, but then you lean on it and it takes a set and hangs in there,” read one logbook comment. The big V-8 makes the best noises of the bunch, and despite the long stopping distance at the test track, the brakes offer excellent bite on the street. And, of course, when you’re clicking off highway miles, the Grand Wagoneer is really in its element. Its 66-decibel interior hum at 70 mph tied the Escalade for best in the test.
But, impressive as it is, there were enough caveats to keep the Grand Wagoneer out of first place. Its 14-mpg observed fuel economy gets expensive. Its interior, while artfully designed, includes a lot of piano-black plastic and rubber. And there’s the styling, such a rare misfire from Stellantis that it prompted comments like “Even the Chrysler 200 looked good.” And hey, we know NFTs don’t always have to be pretty. But it sure helps.
2022 Cadillac Escalade Sport Platinum 4WD
Highs: Chassis-tuning magic, Super Cruise, exterior style.
Lows: Not as quick as the others, highest price, some cut-rate interior bits.
Verdict: The NFT that cares about the driver more than the passengers.
NFTs—the digital kind—are all about believing in the future, inasmuch as their value depends upon future humans ascribing desirability to digital ownership of photos or videos or tweets. The Escalade, too, embodies optimism in technology, offering features that are either rare or nonexistent in its competitors: Super Cruise, magnetorheological dampers, augmented-reality navigation, a curved OLED dash display, an optional diesel engine that earns a 27-mpg EPA estimate on the highway. Our test vehicle’s pushrod 6.2-liter V-8 felt incongruently old-school, coexisting as it is with so many harbingers of the SUV future. But hey, 420 horsepower is 420 horsepower.
And when you care to summon those horses, the Escalade reveals itself as the truck you want to drive. The moment you lay hands on the steering wheel, you feel a connection between this SUV and the Blackwing sedans. It’s not that the Escalade is sporty, exactly—the upcoming Escalade V will take care of that—but it delivers feedback in a way the others don’t. Run over a manhole cover that’s flush with the pavement and you might not feel it through the seat, but you will through the wheel. The brakes are the strongest, the body control impeccable. Thanks to those crafty dampers, the air springs, and independent front and rear suspension, the Escalade’s ride can morph from serene to taut in the moment it takes you to turn in for a corner. And yes, this GM SUV still has an intrusive stability-control system, but it’s unlikely to interfere during street driving. As one tester noted, “This might as well be a Corvette compared with the Navigator. Feels 1000 pounds lighter than the Lincoln.” Another wrote, “The best handling here by a long shot.”
And it has Super Cruise, which feels years ahead of any other system, probably because it is. While the Lincoln’s ActiveGlide struggles simply to remain engaged (and the Lexus and Jeep don’t enable hands-free driving at all), the Caddy can automatically pull into the left lane to pass slower traffic. Better yet, it also moves back over as soon as it has a chance. If only humans would do the same.
Yes, you still have to pay attention and keep your eyes on the road, but Super Cruise is good enough to actually reduce driver fatigue during long highway stints. It’s a luxury more valuable than impeccably crafted switchgear. Which is fortunate, because the Escalade doesn’t have that. Noting the mediocre quality of the window switches and shifter, one driver said, “Well, GM gonna GM.” But everything from the console up looks gorgeous—brushed metal, wood, leather, those OLED screens—worthy of the Escalade’s $114,865 price.
Which is, as of this writing, about two and a half bitcoins. By the time you read this, it might be one bitcoin. Or 10, or 114,865 of them. That’s the thing about crypto, and non-fungible tokens, and the metaverse—it’s all fluid, and it’s hard to predict what will last. But this Cadillac right here, all 6098 pounds of it, is real as it gets. You want an NFT you can believe in, get a Nice F—ing Truck.
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