- Do you remember the first Lincoln Aviator? We barely do. It sold from 2002 to 2005 and counts as one of the shortest-lived Lincolns ever.
- Lincoln is bringing back the Aviator nameplate in a huge way with this premium SUV that hopes to steal sales away from the Germans.
- Full of performance and luxury, the new Aviator might just be the brand's best chance for survival.
Lincoln doesn't have much in its arsenal. Its sedans don't sell, it doesn't have anything remotely affordable, and it hasn't been able to figure out who it wants to be. Name changes back to proper names, versus just letters, signify that the brand is still trying to figure out how to present itself to customers. Its hottest vehicle, the Navigator, never deviated from its naming formula. Can the brand do right with the Aviator?
Take one look at the beautiful new SUV, and everything seems possible. It's as handsome as anything by the Europeans, even though it steals some of its looks from both Jaguar and Land Rover. But it brings more than pretty much every other American SUV in its class. The base engine will be a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that makes 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and it will be rear-wheel drive biased with all-wheel drive available. In top trim, you can even add plug-in hybrid capability.
That's right, the Grand Touring trim adds plug-in hybrid technology, with an electric motor that mates with the 10-speed automatic. Total power will be a huge 450 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. There are even pure EV (electric only) and Preserve EV (battery conservations) modes. Lincoln wants this to be the future of its SUVs, and the approach is a smart one. The powertrain is the most potent one the brand has ever offered.
And there's more to the Aviator than great looks, power, and efficiency. The interior is truly high-end and just what the Aviator needs to be class-leading. The Aviator's premium interior will offer six- or seven-seat capacity. The six-seater versions will even allow buyers to choose different center consoles, one of which will provide easier entry to the third row. The level of interior versatility means it will appeal to numerous customers who want to have their cake and eat it, too.
The beautiful center console and center stack provides high style and easy controls. Then, there's Lincoln's Perfect Position 30-way power-adjustable front seats are some of the best in the business with individual thigh bolster control. Optional touches include a Revel premium audio system (28 speakers!), as well as a big 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In addition to the standard Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies, the optional Co-Pilot360 Plus has a neat feature that allows the adaptive cruise control to change speeds depending on speed limit changes via the traffic sign recognition technology. There's also traffic jam assist, evasive steering assist, and active park assist. You'll also be able to unlock and start your Aviator with your smartphone. How's that for convenience?
What Lincoln has done with the Aviator is build something the current market is begging for... an American luxury SUV that can compete with the best the Germans have to offer. The Navigator is great, but too large for some. The price of the Aviator isn't cheap at over $52K, but it's right up there with the BMW X5 and the Mercedes Benz GLE. We think the Aviator looks better than both of them.
It easily trumps the original Aviator, which was essentially a rebadged Ford Explorer. The new version is the first vehicle that uses Ford's new rear -drive, unibody architecture. The platform is meant to be very flexible and take on numerous engine sizes and all drive configurations. It's a brilliant move by the brand, and the execution in the Aviator looks like it will be a winner. The timing is perfect for Lincoln at a time when it needs it most.