“Grace and Elegance“
Occasionally you see a car and it exudes a certain character or feeling. You see a Lamborghini and you think speed and aggression, you see a 1960’s Bentley or Rolls Royce and you instantly imagine class and royalty. I had the good fortune of being in New York in 2019 when Lincoln unveiled the new Aviator, classic aviation design, picture the sweeping designs of 1940’s and 1950’s aircrafts, this was Lincoln’s design motif. With almost exact adherence to the prototype, the production Aviator exudes the graceful elegance of its inspirational aircraft and provides Lincoln’s promise of effortless power.
In an industry that has essentially moved to the manufacturing of SUV’s, even more so the case with Ford and Lincoln, it has become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to create something unique. With most companies attempting to differentiate themselves by creating razor sharp, aggressive track machines, think BMW X5M, Mercedes AMG GLE 63. The Aviator brings a novel approach to the equation. The reality of most SUV lifespans will be to haul its occupants from one urban locale to another, tackle the seasonal snow storm or blizzard and maybe tackle the gravel road of the summer campground. Maybe it’s my age speaking, but, the goal behind the majority of these tasks is to provide the driver and passengers with an environment of comfort and relaxation. It should be a place to shut out the hustle and bustle of the world when the door closes. The Aviator’s response is “Challenge Accepted”.
The Aviator sits in a unique SUV segment. The sub full size luxury three-row SUV segment is not occupied by many viable players. However, this segment is garnering an extreme amount of activity. As minivans begin to disappear and the full-size segment brings a degree of gigantism that does not fit well with the local mall or strip mall, buyers are more and more drawn to the third row SUV. Combined with this, an upward movement of upper middle class buyers that desire the luxury they have well-earned and deserve and the recipe for Aviator comes to life. Mercedes for 2020 have introduced a third row on their GLE and introduced a new three row compact SUV in the GLB.
So how does the Aviator overcome the luxury three row SUV challenge? Let’s start with a rear wheel drive architecture, for proper driving dynamics. Add to this a combination of turbo charged and hybrid power trains. Lastly, endow the vehicle with the best that technology can offer (i.e. physiotherapist designed massaging seats, 30 way adjustment, Revel® Ultima 3D Audio System to name a few). It also doesn’t hurt to wrap the package in arguably one of the prettiest SUV skins out there. It really is one of the nicest looking SUV’s in the market.
The heart of the Aviator comes courtesy of a 3.0-liter V6 engine, paired with a new 10-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission. The result is 400 glorious horsepower and 415 lb-ft of effortless torque. This, as tested setup is ample for any requirements with up to 6,700 lbs of towing capacity, the weekend getaway with the boat is not a worry. Need more? Look to the Aviator Grand Touring, which adds an electric hybrid system. The result is a class leading 494 combined bhp and mind boggling combined 630 lb-ft of oomph. The hybrid system only adds to Lincoln’s goal of providing a whisper quiet, sanctuary like environment with effortless power.
To allow for your new sanctuary to remain unsettled, the Aviator uses a suite of suspension and body control systems to constantly adjust and modify the ride to your environment. These include Adaptive Suspension which constantly monitors vehicle motion, body movement, steering, acceleration and braking activities. The system reads the road 500 times per second and can automatically prompt setting adjustments up to 100 times per second. The suspensions advanced pothole mitigation can sense when a wheel is dropping into a severe dip and stiffens the shock absorber to reduce the amount of drop, lessening the harshness of a tire strike. Each wheel responds independently, allowing the vehicle to tailor its response to any given road surface. The system also utilizes Air Glide Suspension, which uses air springs that can adjust to pre-set limits and also automatically adjust to provide better ground clearance when required and aerodynamics at speed. Lincoln also endows the Aviator with a combination of driver aids. The most advanced of these is Lincoln’s semi-autonomous system called Co-Pilot Assist360 Plus. The system provides for collision avoidance, reverse braking and Active park assist.
The result is easily Lincoln’s most engaging vehicle. Despite its size and nearly 2,500 kg curb weight, the Aviator handles impeccably. Twisty roads produce limited body roll and a continued composed ride. 0-60 comes in 6 seconds flat and can reach the 5 second mark in hybrid trim. That’s mighty fast for a vehicle of this size and is a thrilling exercise.
The Aviator carries a heavy burden on its shoulders. Lincoln’s revival rests on models like the Aviator, Nautilus and Corsair. In a segment that has been dominated by foreign marques, Lincoln comes swinging out strong, but, on its own terms. I love the underdog and the Aviator hits the mark dead center and I suspect will glide Lincoln into the future strong.