Remember the Lincoln Aviator? You know, the short-lived, classy brother to Ford’s Explorer? Probably not, as only a handful of people bought them and it disappeared after the 2005 model year. Well it’s back, weeks ago, and Lincoln really needs it to take off.
Lincoln showed us the Nautilus concept a few months back, an attractive and eloquent name slapped onto the back of some crossover thing (why?). Now we’re getting a preview of what will most likely be their newest entrant in the luxury sport utility club.
To be honest, Lincoln could use a tad bit of help. Their flagship Continental I think is easiest one of the best looking cars out on the market and I constantly find myself drooling profusely every single time I see one on the road. I blame the chrome belt line that incorporates the door handles into it. It’s a whole lot of gorgeous inside and out for just $45,000 (starting MSRP). There are even rumors that a pair of will make a reappearance soon. But the caveat with the Continental . To date Lincoln’s only sold 2,405 of them, trailing behind its competition. Its first year on sale, the new Continental went home to only 12,012 (probably very content) owners. This is a shame because I still seriously have high hopes for this gorgeous American luxury yacht on 20-inch wheels. I mean, look at this ad shot below for their Rhapsody Blue flavor you can get with Lincoln’s top-tier Black Label customization program. Everything about it screams class. That’s the Lincoln George Gershwin would want to buy. That’s the Lincoln I want to buy.
Months ago a few of us in the magazine office went out to lunch with one of our contributing writers who used to be a design big wig at Ford and Shelby. I was riding in the backseat of the newest full-size Navigator, that was completely redesigned inside and out recently. Everything felt perfect and noticeably classy from that h second row captain’s chair and I was very impressed. The black Navigator’s ride so smooth and quiet, I kept mistaking myself for sitting in a penthouse suite onboard some vintage luxurious Holland America ocean liner that ends in -dam. When we parked for lunch, I sat there for a few brief seconds waiting for a white-gloved butler named Alexander or Robert to open my door. That didn’t happen. The gear selector buttons on the center console below the _ however, may appear sleek and reign in a bit of nostalgic posh but I think it’s an over-engineered disaster waiting to happen. All that nitpicking aside, the Navigator is a wonderfully comfortable vehicle that still carries some of that old-school big American swagger. It’s not quite ready to join the high-tech, high-class luxury SUV boys’s club alongside it’s German and Japanese companions but it’s close. It’s also expensive, starting at a few digits over $72,000.
When the Aviator lands, it’ll be the fourth non traditional car vehicle in Lincoln’s, excuse me, The Lincoln Motor Company’s lineup alongside the MKC, MKX, and big daddy Navigator. If the Nautilus for sure gets the okay for the open sea, that’ll make it five.
That’s where the new Aviator swoops in to save the day, and I think this is what Lincoln really needs to soar high and win. Debuting at the recent New York Auto Show, Lincoln calls it a concept but what we saw will most likely be nearly the exact model you’re bound to find in showrooms within the next year. We don’t know a ton about the new Aviator, but from what we do, it’s sure to be a hit.
Instead of being built as a common, run of the mill crossover, the three-row Aviator gets its own unique, rear-wheel-drive SUV platform. I’ve already had to correct a few false assumptions I’ve heard others make saying it’s just going to be a jazzed-up Explorer wearing a fancy, overpriced tuxedo, because this is far from true. I appreciate that the Aviator stands out from Lincoln’s current lineup of SUV/crossover things as being the most modern looking. It doesn’t look aged, or tired, or boring. At first glance, it looks bears traditional Lincoln styling but with a dosage of sexy, high-class attitude finally. I see shared styling cues from Land Rover’s Range Rover in the rear and sides, and quite frankly I’ll accurately assume the new Aviator will be undeniably more reliable than the $85,000 Range Rover Velar test car I was photographing weeks back, that already had its check engine light on after less than 10,000 miles.
“Thing is, the Velar photographs excellently and is equally good in person. The Aviator photographs well but has a real presence to it in person that photos just don’t get across.”-Ross Ballot,
Pay close enough attention and you’ll probably see a few aviation-themed styling hints, like its wheels that look like propellers in motion and the modest chrome hole just fore of the “A” in “Aviator” on the side, that to me, screams a Fighter plane.
Expect power to come from a twin-turbocharged engines, I’m guessing a slightly detuned version of the 450 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost. Lincoln also tells us, very vaguely, that there will also be a plug-in hybrid version. My guess is that it’ll share the Navigator’s 10-speed automatic and optional adaptive suspension. And while the Navigator can be had in either rear- or all-wheel-drive, I suspect the Aviator will be full-time all-wheel-drive.
The interior is a mix of brushed metal, wood and leather, carries similar design trends with Navigator like its climate and audio control layout, and an iPad-size screen rising out from the dash. From the looks of it, the Aviator also has the questionable PRNDL buttons on the center stack below the air vents. Early manufacturer photos also indicate the Aviator gets a colossal sunroof, various parking assists and cameras, and a knob for multiple driving modes. Even the door panels with their elaborate speaker covers and seat controls, look impeccably crafted and designed- enough gusto to give Santiago Calatrava the chills.
Right now the Navigator starts in the low $70,000s, the MKC a shy few over $33,000 and the MKX at $39,035; I’d imagine the Aviator will start in the mid $40,000s with higher trims encroaching on $60,000. To put it in comparison, in 2003, the first generation Aviator had base rear-wheel-drive trims starting at $39,485 while top “Premium” all-wheel-drive models commanded $45,125. A Navigator that same year cost anywhere from $48,485 up to $54,505.
I’m going to call it right now: the Aviator will sell like hot cakes. Jaw-dropping style inside and out with a plethora of panache, the new Aviator is bound to attract buyers away from say, its German and British luxury SUV counterparts.
This is what Lincoln needs to roar down the runway and get its brand to take take off again. The Aviator needs to fill the turbulent void the Continental tried to do and sadly has yet to accomplish. To me, Lincoln is the last true American luxury brand. Cadillac is doing a solid, impressive job, but I’m still not 100% swayed towards them.
Fly on, Aviator, fly on.
What are your thoughts? Will the Aviator live up to its high hype?
[Image © The Lincoln Motor Company and / Ross Ballot]