Earlier this week, I got a sneak peek at the new Lincoln Aviator in a small Manhattan studio. Its physical presence, led foremost by an indulgently long hood, blends into a smooth, masculine body that will undoubtedly set a new visual benchmark in its segment.
That’s not an easy thing to do – this is Audi Q7 and Range Rover Discovery territory – but on design alone the Aviator will be in the upper echelon. That design leadership continues what Lincoln has been doing for a couple years now, as it calmly and constantly reinvented itself as a crisp, progressive premium brand, first with the Continental and then with the Navigator. The latter is in many way leaps and bounds ahead of its direct competition – in terms of driver and passenger (and passerby) experience, Lincoln knocked it out of the park. The Aviator furthers that trend, pushing Lincoln into low Earth orbit. Its crisp, pleasing lines lack excessive chrome and incorporate clever shapes and a sloping roofline that gathers in the back to accent the brand’s now signature wraparound taillight.
My in-person experience was with the top-end Aviator Grand Touring, a plug-in hybrid version that, in combining a 3.0 twin-turbo V6 (good for 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque on its own) with electric motors, will produce 450 horsepower and 600 goddamn lb-ft of torque. In a leather-swathed, probably relatively affordable crossover cruiser. But that doesn’t mean it’s a floaty locomotive; Lincoln is introducing a smart, adaptable air suspension in the Aviator that will sense terrain and adjust accordingly, help tackle curvier sections of road and automatically lower both as a driver approaches the vehicle and once it reaches highway speeds. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the Aviator will ride on a new rear-wheel-drive platform, which promises deft handling.
Inside, the Aviator shines brighter than even the new Navigator, with an athletic but airy cabin that is whisper-quiet with the hatches all battened. To fill the silence, an available 28-speaker Revel sound system is on offer as well. Opt for high-end packages, which Lincoln calls Black Label, and you’ll get fantastic leather and wood options that expertly call to mind vintage dashboards and consoles, but very effectively modernize the look. Captain’s chairs can be outfitted in the middle row too, and even my gangly long legs could cross with room to spare. Though I’d likely want to spend most of my time in the driver’s seat.
Tech and Design
Also new in the Aviator is Phone As A Key. Cumbersomely named, this tech allows drivers (or, perhaps, “users”?) to forego a physical key fob completely, and instead start, unlock, open and drive their car using only a smartphone app. Notably, Lincoln is not actively targeting “younger generations” or ‘Millennials,’ a cringey, condescending marketing strategy that other brands have utilized quite a lot recently. Instead, Lincoln simply introduces features that we, the youth, have come to expect in every part of our lives. Not a bad move.
In addition to tricky tech, Lincoln will also make available new safety and driving assist systems, which keep the vehicle in its lane, initiate emergency braking and maneuvering, will scan the road ahead for potholes and the like in order to prime the suspension and can mostly take over driving duties in traffic jams or in regular cruising. A couple other neat features: notice the rear windshield wiper is seemingly nonexistent – it lives in the housing above the glass to provide increased visibility; the door handles don’t move, but ar fitted with squeezable buttons that pop the door open.
Whether you like the idea of a crossover or not, this is the way forward. And, folks, the Aviator is making a big, bold statement in terms of style, available tech and brand identity. No word on pricing, but the Aviator will slot in above the five-seat Nautilus, whose top-tier Black Label packages start at $57,000. I’d wager you’ll need to spend at least $70K for the Grand Touring setup, and would guess base models will be available at around $45-$50K.
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