Like many of Ford’s four-wheel-drive-having products, the all-new, 2018 Lincoln Navigator has pre-programmed drive modes that can be selected on-the-fly to optimize everything from the Electronic Stability Control, to the throttle mapping, to the steering in order to suit different road and terrain conditions. Yet unlike most four-wheel-drive Ford products, the Lincoln Navigator’s system benefits from obsessive, expert design sensibilities and a high-concept theme.
That theme was “Navigation through the Stars,” and to quickly communicate to the driver what sort of experience each drive mode is optimized for, Lincoln’s designers came up with seven distinct animated globes that cycle through as each of the seven drive modes is selected. The Lincoln Navigator‘s drive modes are: Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions, Slow Climb, and Deep Sand. The latter four all deal with adverse weather or terrain, while the former three are all designed for use on dry pavement.
“As a reference in our research [for the animated globes], we looked at… [nebulae], Northern Lights and various atmospheric types of conditions,” says Lincoln Digital Experience Design Manager Craig Sandvig. “We wanted to pay homage to the Earth.”
Sandvig says he and his team considered “hundreds and hundreds” of different globe designs, “studying everything from where each cloud would come in and how it would separate from the atmosphere.” The seven designs they ended up with are mesmerizing. Should the driver select the Normal drive mode, a nebula surrounded by stars will appear on the digital instrument panel. For Conserve, it’s an image of planet Earth enshrouded by clouds, while Excite – the 2018 Lincoln Navigator’s version of a “Sport” mode – brings up a pair of taillights zipping through the dark. Slippery brings up an image of an icy road with snow falling from the top of the globe, while Deep Conditions, Slow Climb, and Deep Sand are each depicted by a closeup of a spinning wheel, trudging through deep snow, up a rocky incline, or over sand, respectively.
“It’s amazing to see how much went into the development of Slippery mode – we wanted to show the snowflakes going from the front of the globe to the back,” Sandvig says. “We went through several trials for this mode to make sure clients could see the road, so we included dashed lines with certain reflections to give that icy road feel.”
Plenty of thought went into each of the other designs, too. Sandvig and his team obsessed over the placement and movement of each star, cloud, snowflake, and puff of sediment to create gorgeous, intricately-detailed animations fit for an award-winning luxury vehicle like the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.
“The digital space allows us to change and animate things that are not possible within the physical world,” Sandvig says. “We were able to create anything we wanted – the modes aren’t required to be static – and we feel that it’s much more rewarding to our clients.”