NYIAS 2018 – 2020 Lincoln Aviator Stuns With Navigator-Avant-Garde Style
Three-Row, Rear-Drive SUV to Offer Twin-Turbo Plug-In Hybrid
Lincoln wowed the 2018 New York International Auto Show when it revealed the Aviator, a preview of the SUV expected to arrive in time for the 2020 model year. The Aviator views Lincoln’s design language through a sleeker, more modern lens, with styling clearly inspired by the Navigator but with just a bit more modern verve.
Lincoln says using the name Aviator was a deliberate choice. The brand last marketed a vehicle called the Aviator from 2003 to 2005, and like the preview model shown this year, it was a three-row SUV with mini-Navigator styling. But the new Aviator takes more inspiration from the world of aeronautics.
“In Aviator, the lines of the vehicle are streamlined,” said 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.”
The Aviator gets Lincoln’s bold chrome grille, plucked seemingly intact from the Navigator, but it gets sharper, hawk-eye headlamps with large, distinctive LED elements set inside. A short front overhang and graceful, smooth bodysides have a very premium look, with no extraneous filigree to muddle the design. The roofline is highest above the driver’s head, before flowing downward toward the taillight to give the side profile a distinct impression of motion. Helping in that mission is a rising beltline, with the side window opening trimmed in two pieces of chrome trim.
A full-width taillight bar instantly identifies the Aviator as a Lincoln, but its design is much sharper and shapelier than that of the Navigator or Continental. Brightly polished quad exhaust pipes join with abundant metallic trim found elsewhere on the vehicle to bedazzle the view from every angle. We don’t usually like chrome that much, but a Lincoln wouldn’t be a Lincoln without lots of brightwork, and it definitely gives the Aviator a little extra sparkle.
The 2020 Aviator should be based on a new rear-/all-wheel-drive platform shared with the next Ford Explorer. That platform will be able to make use of Lincoln’s twin-turbocharged powertrains, which are specifically mentioned as the Aviator’s likely engines. We’d presume Lincoln will offer both the 2.7L and 3.0L twin-turbo V-6s in the Aviator, with the former producing 335 hp and 380 lb-ft and the latter making an even 400 ponies and pounds. Routing power to the rear or all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic gearbox, the Aviator should be a willing performer with either engine.
What’s more, Lincoln promises the Aviator will also boast a plug-in hybrid powertrain with one of those turbocharged mills, giving the SUV more power than some supercars, according to the company: “This combination of power and electrified capability will help Aviator deliver Lincoln’s quietest, smoothest, most powerful drive yet.” Given the Navigator makes 450 hp, don’t be surprised if Lincoln’s plug-in hybrid Aviator is capable of producing nearly 500 hp and plenty of instant-on torque, a staggering number for any family SUV, much less a Lincoln.
And a family SUV it will be. Lincoln is targeting younger families with the Aviator, as the medium luxury utility segment attracted a majority of 35- to 44-year-old buyers in 2017, and the size class accounted for a quarter of all premium SUV sales last year as well. Befitting the big market will be a big interior with lots of amenities. Lincoln says the Aviator will be the first vehicle to feature phone-as-key technology, activated through the Lincoln Way app. Unlocking, starting, and driving the car will no longer require a key fob. In the event the phone goes dead or is lost, the driver can enter the Aviator via a five-digit door code, then start the vehicle through the touchscreen.
The Aviator prototype comes with Lincoln Perfect Position 30-way front seat adjustment, and the second-row seat reclines and slides, balancing comfort and space between the second and third rows. Standard Wi-Fi means everyone in the Aviator can stay connected on the move, and wireless phone charging up front, multiple power outlets throughout the interior, and convenient media storage will keep passengers’ devices juiced up as well.
Interior styling is as modern and attractive as the Navigator, with lots of horizontal lines emphasizing the vehicle’s width and creating an open, airy environment. The freestanding touchscreen display rises from a span of engine-turned aluminum (furthering the aviation connection), and mercifully, we see plenty of physical buttons on the center console, hopefully enhancing ergonomics. Overall, the appearance of the interior is simultaneously contemporary and retro, thanks to the midcentury modern styling.
The Aviator prototype shown in New York might not be exactly the machine we get for the 2020 model year, but don’t expect the production model to change much, if at all. We could see Lincoln ditching some of the brightwork in the front bumper, replacing some of the exotic interior trims with more production-friendly materials, and enlarging the sideview mirrors. But the show car’s overall proportions and styling are likely exactly what we’ll get in Lincoln showrooms next year.
The company is obviously mum on pricing, but don’t be surprised if the base Aviator starts at $45,000 or more, replacing the $43,530 2018 MKT crossover and slotting in above the smaller Nautilus. And the plug-in hybrid Aviator will almost assuredly crest $80,000, doing battle not just with family crossovers, but more performance-oriented machines like the BMW X5 xDrive50i, Porsche Cayenne S, and Mercedes-Benz GLS550.
When the production Aviator arrives, it will herald Lincoln’s expanding relevance in today’s luxury market. With bold American styling, plenty of power, an electrified powertrain, and that Mad Men–chic Lincoln star, the Aviator is almost guaranteed to be a hit.