Lincoln previews a smart, sleek future with the Aviator plug-in SUV
Lincoln dazzled at last year's New York International Auto Show with the all-new Navigator, a much sleeker, more modern interpretation of its full-size SUV. It's back in the SUV driver's seat at this year's show, this time showing a completely new utility vehicle: the midsize Aviator. An impressive vehicle on its own, the Aviator also previews the beginning of an expanded SUV lineup and increased electrification at Lincoln.
If the New York Auto Show is proving anything, it's that the utility vehicle is riding high in the US market. Automakers are revealing everything from concept SUVs to new-generation crossover staples.
Lincoln says that dealers are selling Navigators virtually as quickly as it can build them, and it sees plenty of room in its lineup for more SUVs. With the Aviator, it aims to take a nice bite out of the midsize luxury SUV segment that it puts at 585,000 vehicles sold in the US last year.
Lincoln calls the Aviator a preview, and it essentially feels like a refined, production-bound show car. As its name implies, the new model takes cues from aeronautical design, a series of sharply defined lines whisking backward and terminating at the powered rear. The Aviator has markedly more slope and taper compared to the stouter, squarer Navigator, the roofline having a gentle downward arch and the grille more of a compact, rounded design.
"The lines of the vehicle are streamlined," says Lincoln design director David Woodhouse. "You have the stature and presence of the grille at the front, then the body and tail taper off, creating a distinct aerofoil analogy. From the headlight to the taillight, there's a beautiful undercut feature varying in depth that connotes poise and grace."
We've liked Lincoln's latest design language since seeing it on concepts like the 2015 Continental and 2016 Navigator, and the Aviator follows the winning formula while wearing some specific design cues quite natural for a midsize SUV.
Being but a preview, the Aviator doesn't have any hard numbers to share with the world, but Lincoln is clear that it's a rear-wheel drive powered by a twin-turbo engine. The plug-in hybrid option can be added to the twin-turbo, allowing for zero-emissions commuting and boosted power. Lincoln calls the plug-in powertrain its quietest, smoothest, most powerful drive ever. Several drive modes will allow drivers to manage the output of the various power sources.
Following the lead of luxury offerings like the Audi A8, the Aviator will include Suspension Preview Technology, using a front-facing camera to identify changing road surface conditions and adjust the suspension accordingly. Meanwhile, the onboard Co-Pilot360 will encompass driver-assistance technologies like lane keeping, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot system with cross-traffic alert, reverse camera and auto high-beams. Available reverse brake assist will detect rear obstacles during back-outs and auto-brake when necessary.
The Aviator interior will be accessed with the all-new Phone as a Key option of the Lincoln Way app, allowing the owner's smartphone to lock and unlock doors, pop the trunk and start the engine. Should the phone run out of battery, a passcode entered on the exterior keypad can provide access as a backup.
Lincoln has designed the interior around spaciousness, ease of use and minimalism, relying on a long wheelbase to ensure added space in the second and third rows. Perfect Position seats offer 30-way adjustability and massage, while the thoughtfully positioned controls on the steering wheel provide fast, reliable access with the slightest of finger movement.
The interior also includes wireless device charging, standard Wi-Fi and sliding second-row seats for easier access to the third row. The Aviator will be the first model to offer a new series of helpful SYNC prompts meant to streamline the driving experience. For instance, when fuel runs low, the car will issue a warning on the display system and seamlessly connect with navigation to nearby gas stations.
The Aviator will go on sale next year as the first of two new Lincoln utility vehicles. The models will be part of the "next stage of Lincoln," which will also include four other all-new luxury offerings.