Over the past three years, Lincoln has been staging something of a comeback in the North American market. Though Lincoln was once the king of luxury cars, with its legendary Continental nameplate being the automobile of choice for generations of U.S. presidents, by the early 21st century it was facing something of a slump. Battling for market share against international competitors and trying to adapt to the growing consumer interest in luxury SUVs, Lincoln was no longer the favoured choice for shoppers who wanted to communicate taste and sophistication.
Given that the Aviator first appeared at Lincoln’s historic low point in the early 2000s, it is perhaps surprising that the Aviator name is making its comeback now, at a time when Lincoln is channelling its 20th heyday as the apotheosis of the luxury North American automotive market to market its revamped vehicles to a new generation of buyers. But as more information about the Aviator becomes available, it is increasingly clear that the new Aviator is a very different vehicle.
The original Aviator, produced in 2003, was a thinly veiled Ford Explorer, and it proved too lowbrow for the luxury car market and too expensive for the average shopper. It was discontinued in 2005, and rebranded as the MKX as part of Lincoln’s general re-branding strategy (in which all nameplates adopted an MK prefix). While the MKX saw better sales than the Aviator had, by the mid-2010s Lincoln was undergoing a renaissance, with the return of the famous Continental and a self-conscious embrace of its own history as one of America’s foremost luxury brands. The release of a new Aviator (undeniably a more memorable name than the MKX) is clearly a bold next step in this process.
While the Aviator has not yet seen public release, the prototype shows many reasons to be optimistic, and for shoppers thinking about buying a new Lincoln the Aviator offers much that is desirable, both in performance, comfort, and looks. The new Aviator is a mid-size three-row crossover on a rear wheel drive platform, and though it is not yet clear what engine the Aviator will be using, Lincoln has announced that it will offer twin-turbo and plug-in hybrid options. This is in line with Ford’s general push toward building more environmentally friendly vehicles, and will likely improve the Aviator’s appeal among city drivers who want a hybrid option.
A series of luxury features (massage-capable 30-way power seating adjustments for the driver and passenger, phone-as-key technology options, wireless charging, and a wifi hotspot) are sure to attract attention among luxury-conscious members of the target demographic, but the most compelling argument for the Aviator may actually be its aesthetics. With a swept-back brow and clean, streamlined profile, the Aviator is one of the best-looking SUVs of its class.
The Aviator won’t hit dealership showrooms until 2019 or 2020, but based on the prototype this new iteration of the Aviator nameplate will not go the way of its predecessor — with great features and incredible looks, the Aviator is sure to carve out a niche for itself as one of Lincoln’s most exciting new vehicles.