Just over a decade after Lincoln abandoned its whimsical names in favour of acronym-like designations, the classic names are making a comeback, with the mid-sized Aviator back for another go-round.
Aviator was marketed between 2003 and 2005, before giving way to MKX in the Lincoln MK branding philosophy. MKX has carried on since then, and will be refreshed and rebranded next year as Nautilus under the new nomenclature. Aviator returns as a 3-row utility following in the steps of its larger stablemate, Navigator (which never gave up its name).
“The Lincoln Navigator continues to turn heads and bring new clients to the brand,” says Joy Falotico, president, The Lincoln Motor Company. “We believe Aviator’s elegant design, state-of-the-art technology and refined plug-in hybrid option will draw even more clients to the Lincoln showroom, including families who are looking for three-row capability.”
An Aviator production preview (Concept? Prototype? Teaser? Whatever!) was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, promising to showcase Lincoln hallmarks of beauty and elegance, and ride smoothness and quietness.
Aviator will also offer a Lincoln-first — a plug-in hybrid with a twin-turbo V-6 to improve power and ease electric-motoring range anxiety. It also debuts Smartphone key technology, with which owners can start and drive the vehicle, as well as common smartphone-app remote functions such as locking and unlocking doors, and automatically open the hatchgate.
Although no specifics have been shared, it is known that Aviator will be powered by a twin-turbocharged V-6 (the original Aviator had a naturally aspirated V-8) with the option of adding a plug-in hybrid variant. The engine will give the utility vehicle the power desired by owners for trailer towing, while the hybrid would provide the fuel efficiency to make Aviator a sensible everyday driver. The driver can also choose from different drive modes, depending on performance desirability and the terrain being driven on.
A forward camera ties into an adaptive suspension system, allowing the computer to adjust suspension settings in anticipation of rough pavement ahead.
And in case you though the name Aviator was just indicative of a naming trend (Navigator, Nautilus … see the theme?), it turns out it’s also indicative of the design direction.
“In Aviator, 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.”
That’s most evident, says Woodhouse, in the wraparound windshield and a character line pulling down toward the rear (reportedly a hint at Aviator’s rear wheel drivetrain), which is a known in-flight movement.
“If you look at a bird or plane in flight, the wing is always at an angle to the air and falling downward toward the rear,” he explains. “You see that in the main bodyline of Aviator. From the headlight to the taillight, there’s a beautiful undercut feature varying in depth that connotes poise and grace.”
Accommodations are also first-class worthy, including a driver’s seat offering 30-way adjustability (plus massage!), middle row seats that recline and slide to help tailor third-seat legroom, wireless smartphone charging, standard Wi-Fi, and multiple power outlets and plugs throughout the cabin.
Aviator will also come with the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technologies, including automatic emergency braking with passenger detection, blind-spot information, cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, auto high beam, and a rearview camera. It also features reverse brake assist, which detects obstacles while the vehicle is backing up and automatically applies the brakes.
Through SYNC, Aviator also offers prompts to drivers for certain common occurrences. For example, if the vehicle runs low on fuel, the system will alert the driver and call up the navigation system to display the nearest gas stations.
“Lincoln is committed to delivering the innovation and features that luxury consumers expect today,” concludes Falotico. “And, the Aviator is yet another example of how we are creating an effortless experience for our clients.”