The Lincoln Aviator Returns
In 2015, Lincoln revived its historic Continental sedan. It was a statement of intent as much as it was product launch. Bringing back one of the most historic sedans in automotive history, and making it modern and compelling was a big achievement. But it was only the first step in an entirely new era of Lincoln design. Since then, the rest of the lineup has been redeveloped with the same modern design cues and attention to detail. And now, it’s finally time to revive another great vehicle: Lincoln has formally announced the return of the Aviator.
What is the Aviator?
A great film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett – what a duo! The Aviator is also a midsize SUV offered by Lincoln from 2002 to 2005. Stylistically, the Aviator was essentially a smaller Lincoln Navigator. And that’s a very good thing – despite the fact that the Navigator of the early 2000s wasn’t the best looking version in the model’s history. But, despite good styling and the popularity of SUVs, Lincoln half-heartedly replaced the Aviator with the MKX in 2005.
I say half-heartedly because the MKX abandoned RWD, the V8 engine, and the geometric design. The only thing they really shared in common was that they were both three-row SUVs. Since then, drivers who love the Navigator’s style and power, but can’t stomach its price or size, haven’t had much choice in the Lincoln lineup (no, we’re not going to talk about the MKT). But that’s all about to change with the return of the Aviator.
The Lincoln Aviator Concept
On March 28th, at the New York International Auto Show, Lincoln revealed the new Lincoln Aviator. The three-row SUV is smaller than the Navigator but packs most of its swagger and charm. Notice the smooth arches, angry glare, and surfeit of chrome. The design is simple, but it’s executed well and the signature Lincoln grille arguably fits the Aviator better than any other vehicle in the lineup. Lincoln describes the Aviator’s style thus:
The emphasis of graceful lines pulling downward toward the rear – a cue to Aviator’s rear-wheel-drive platform – is what Woodhouse describes as an in-flight gesture. “If you look at a bird or plane in flight, the wing is always at an angle to the air and falling downward toward the rear,” he says. “You see that in the main bodyline of Aviator. From the headlight to the taillight, there’s a beautiful undercut feature varying in depth that connotes poise and grace.”
Back when it was introduced, Lincoln cited first-class air travel as an inspiration for the Navigator’s interior. The same is clearly the case for the Aviator with its stylish Perfect Position seats, Revel speakers, and ample passenger space. The center console is quite large but it’s clean and practical. The same goes for the dash which is pleasant but free from the Rococo excess that other automakers confuse for luxury.
In a highly competitive segment, good looks are not enough. Rest assured, the Lincoln Aviator is equally willing to distinguish itself with performance. Lincoln is using a brand new RWD platform which will excite most enthusiasts before they even get to the powertrain. The primary engine will be a twin-turbo V6, probably the 3.5L EcoBoost. Excitingly, Lincoln will also offer a plug-in hybrid option which will significantly boost fuel economy.
The new Lincoln Aviator is technologically advanced, too. It will introduce standard Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, and more. Even more impressively, the Aviator will debut Suspension Preview Technology. A forward-facing camera scans the road in front of you and relays information to the adaptive suspension which prepares for imperfections in the road. The system allows you to glide over potholes and enjoy a pristinely smooth road feel.
Although the Lincoln Aviator is technically a concept vehicle, don’t expect much to change when it arrives next year. The Continental and Navigator concepts were (gull-wing doors aside) mostly unaltered when they hit production. But if you can’t wait until 2019 for the real thing, you can still pass your time with the new Nautilus.