That toothy chrome grille looks good on Lincoln's new midsize Aviator SUV. Large, square taillamps and bold fender lines fit the styling of this Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer-based SUV better than they fit the recently replaced first-generation Navigator. The Aviator joins the Mountaineer and a new Navigator in Lincoln Mercury showrooms late this summer, with the Explorer/Mountaineer's five-speed automatic transmission and short/long-arm four-wheel independent suspension intact.

While the Explorer and Mountaineer have a standard 4.0L/210-hp V-6 and an optional SOHC 4.6L V-8 making 240 hp and 280 lb-ft, the Aviator's sole engine is a twin-cam DOHC version of the aluminum-block 4.6L V-8, making 302 hp. Producing 95 percent of its torque from 2250-5400 rpm, the engine boasts a serious 7300-lb tow capacity. The Lincoln exclusive interior pushes the luxury threshold for this segment to the edge, including impressive white-lighting LED-illuminated controls. In addition, the interior has a three-section dash that mirrors the new Navigator. It features a center section trimmed in brushed aluminum down to the gearshift and console, and it's surrounded by rich wood, leather, and vinyl. After the Aviator goes on sale late summer, AdvanceTrac vehicle dynamics system, advanced AWD, and tire-pressure-monitoring systems will be offered. It's an appealing package, one that undoubtedly has Cadillac designers working hard to come up with a response.