Mark Phelan: This SUV can read speed limit signs and adjust accordingly

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

September 2, 2019

A pair of intriguing new features in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator luxury SUV promise to take some of the stress out of long drives.

The Aviator is the first vehicle with:

ó Cruise control that adjusts your speed to a set amount above or below the limit, when the posted speed changes.

ó Revelís new 28-speaker Ultima 3D audio system.

Iím looking forward to experiencing both in a road trip with the Aviator.

Lincoln calls the new speed control ďintelligent cruise control.Ē It goes a step beyond adaptive cruise control, in which the driver sets speed and the following distance to the next vehicle.

Adaptive cruise control, or ACC, then applies throttle or brakes to maintain speed and distance. If the car ahead of you comes to a stop, it brings you to a stop behind it and accelerates back to the set speed when the lead vehicle starts moving again.

Lincolnís intelligent cruise adds the ability to read speed limit signs and lets the driver set a speed above or below the posted limit.

An example: On a highway trip, you set intelligent cruise for 3 miles over the limit because traffic is moving fast and you donít want to be a laggard. In a 70-mph zone, you drive at 73 mph. When you enter a construction zone with a posted 55-mph limit, the car slows to 58, unless the vehicle ahead is moving slower. As the posted limit rises, your car accelerates with it. Lincoln calls the amount you program above or below the limit ďtolerance.Ē It can be set from the Aviatorís touch screen.

Combined with the Aviatorís automatic lane centering, which subtly adjusts the steering wheel to keep you in the middle of your lane, intelligent cruise control should take a lot of the work out of long road trips, keeping the driver refreshed. It promises to help drivers who use ACC cruise around town, too.

I used intelligent cruise control for about 20 miles and found it to work pretty much as advertised. A longer test will tell me if it delivers on its promise to take away some of the drudgery of driving.

3D sound?

Revelís new Ultima 3D audio had 28 speakers. Itís standard on the Aviator Black Label, which starts at $68,800. It combines new speaker placement with advanced digital sound processing for audio that impressed me in a brief test.

The key feature, and the reason itís called 3D, are speakers mounted in the Aviatorís headliner, the fabric lining the SUVís ceiling. Those speakers, just eight of the systemís 28 total, make a surprising difference. Working with the latest surround-sound processing, they mimic the all-encompassing experience of a room with excellent acoustics.

Revel ó the brand is part of Harmanís corporate stable ó also debuts its new Quantum Logic 3D Surround processor in the system. In the Aviator, you can select:

ó Stereo, in which the music seems to come from the right and left corners of the dashboard;

ó Audience, which creates the impression of sound coming from instruments and voices across the width of the dash, as if on stage;

ó Onstage, in which the music comes from all around you. The speakers in the headliner are most apparent in this setting.

The proof of the systemís effectiveness was hearing new elements in pieces of music I know well ó at low volume. The best modern systems sever the connection between volume and sound quality, delivering precise performances without cranking it to 11.