DETROIT ó Another
year is in the books for the Woodward Dream Cruise, the Motor
Cityís cavalcade of automotive nostalgia, and it was a glorious
indulgence of 1940-1970 muscle cars and land-yacht nostalgia.
For American muscle,
the nostalgia is sweet because Detroit continues to lead into the
21st century with updated versions of the Corvette, Camaro,
Challenger and Mustang.
But land yachts have
always left me wistful because U.S. luxury makers surrendered their
crowns decades ago. Cadillac Brougham tail fins no longer slice
through downtown traffic. Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights the length of oil
tankers are gone. Huge Chrysler New Yorkers have sailed into the
sunset. The boulevards today are ruled by sleek, athletic Germans.
But Iím happy to
report there is hope.
The Lincoln Aviator
SUV is here and is a welcome throwback to the future. Aviator is an
unabashed embrace of all that once made American luxury great:
design, size, power and comfort, updated for the 21st century.
Aviator leads an army
of real names. Gone is the German-like alphabet soup of MKC, MKX,
MILK (OK, I made that last one up). Theyíve been replaced by
proper names like Navigator, Nautilus and Corsair.
Turbo-4s are for
politically correct Euro-utes. The new Aviator swaggers into your
rearview mirror with a standard 400-horsepower (best in class)
twin-turbo V-6, and a rear-wheel drive based chassis, gaping chrome
grille and an interior quieter than a public library and more wooded
than an Upper Peninsula forest.
Where 1940s Lincoln
Continental Cabriolets lowered a massive 292-cube V-12 into their
engine room, the Aviator boasts a range-topping, twin-turbo
V-6-powered Grand Touring model mated to an electric motor
generating a stump-pulling 630 pound-feet of torque. Post-war luxury
owners wanted a big V-8 to drag home the bear strapped to their
rooftop. Todayís 21st-century scion is more woke ó they want to
bag the bear and save the planet.
So Lincoln gives
íem power with a conscience. I got 22.1 mpg in the hybrid versus
18.7 mpg in the standard V-8. Drive like thereís an eggshell on
the accelerator and you can do 20 miles on the battery alone. But
make no mistake, this hybrid is no pious Prius.
With its massive
torque, the Grand Touring model came out of stoplights like a steam
locomotive. Indeed, the hybridís general character differed little
from its standard little brother, except that it sucked the
worldís oil reserves through a smaller straw.
Flying low through
the California wilderness, Aviator struck fear in slower traffic
just like the chrome-caked grilles of Motor City yore. Of course,
this being a Ford product, the grille these days looks more Bentley
than Continental Cabriolet. Blue Oval designers have fallen in love
with Brit designs of late. Fusions look like Astons, Mustangs like
Mondeos, Explorers like Range Rovers ó but it could be worse; they
could look like a Lexus.
Besides, Lincoln is
trying to inspire brand cred, so borrowing from gold-standard
Bentley is shrewd.
Design is just one
part of a long journey by Lincoln that has culminated in the
Aviator. Like the brand-redefining Acura RDX that was the spawn of
the Acura NSX supercar and two design concepts, the Aviator is the
most important Lincoln this century. On its back it carries the
hopes of a new Lincoln generation.
I like to call it
ďBaby NavigatorĒ because the similarities to Lincolnís
flagship are unmistakable: bling-tastic grille, tablet infotainment
screen, luxurious graphics.
But the significance
of Aviator is more than skin deep.
Along with the Ford
Explorer, Aviator debuts a state-of-the-art rear-wheel drive based
architecture. The platform allowed Explorer to introduce the
apex-carving ST model that I raved about in July. But Lincoln chief
engineer John Davis makes clear that Aviator was the impetus for the
engine layout takes Lincoln back to its rear-wheel drive glory days
when land yacht sedans ruled Woodward. This being the 21st century,
of course, SUVs are the new land yachts. But rear-wheel drive brings
luxury cred ó just ask European hits like BMW and Rover.
Next to Bentley,
Range Rover is Lincolnís (and just about everybody elseís)
favorite Brit with its saucy proportions, short front overhangs and
loooooong roofline. The Aviator (and Navigator) has been to Rover
school and has the sculpted bod to prove it.
But unlike the
truck-based Navigator, the Aviator sits on a more athletic unibody
made of aluminum and high-strength steel that can cut some rug on
the dance floor. Itís not as athletic as the lighter, tighter
Cadillac XT6 I recently flogged ó but the Aviator is a far more
comprehensive vehicle. I love the Cadillacís design and handling,
but itís just another ute in Caddyís lineup. The Aviator is
The Cadillac raids
the GMC/Chevy toolbox for the workhorse 310-horse, 3.5-liter V-6.
The Aviator starts with the aforementioned 400-horse twin-turbo V-6,
and then goes to a different level with a hybrid asphalt pounder.
brings in the Vanderbiltís interior designers.
Ditching the old
Lincolnís nice-if-dated vertical dash, Aviatorís horizontal
interior has more layers than a wedding cake. Acres of wood laid
over stitched leather are set off by delicious color combos like
mocha and ebony.
adjustable thrones will massage you to jelly. Second-row seats are
hardly second-class with their own climate screen and available
console island. Roomy third-row seats are accessed as easily as
pulling a tab, and ó with the rear rows folded ó you can gaze up
at the stars through the yawning panoramic roof.
Which reminds me of
my biggest Aviator complaint, the lack of a wow standard feature.
The panoramic roof isnít standard. Why not? It is on a $38,000
Acura RDX. Lincolnís answer is, you have to climb the price ladder
to $60,000 before Audi or Volvo will offer you a 300-horse engine
At $52,000. Lincoln
gives you 400 horses standard mated to a class-exclusive 10-speed
tranny. Itís good olí American power at a good olí American
Lincoln has its own
personality again. Open the driverís door and the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra welcomes you with a chime. Dealers provide red carpet,
Will it work? Stay
tuned. For this yearís Dream Cruise, the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII
coupe qualified for its antique plates. When it debuted that year,
the Mark VIII claimed dramatic proportions and a daring, wraparound
interior. It died five years later.
Now comes Aviator.
Itís not a coupe. Itís a three-row ute aimed at the meat of the
market. Motor City luxury is back, baby.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Front-engine, rear- and all-wheel drive, 6- or 7-passenger SUV
Price: Base price for
standard V-6 model $52,195, including $1,095 destination charge
($83,540 Black Label AWD as tested); hybrid model $69,895 including
$1,095 destination charge ($83,670 Grand Touring Hybrid AWD as
Twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6; twin-turbo V-6 hybrid mated to DC
electric motor/lithium-ion battery
horsepower, 415 pound-feet of torque (V-6); 494 horsepower, 630
pound-feet of torque (hybrid)
mph, 5.3 seconds (V-6); maximum towing, 6,700 pounds (V-6)
Weight: 4,892 pounds
(AWD V-6 as tested); 5,673 pounds (AWD hybrid as tested)
Fuel economy: EPA: 17
city/24 highway/20 combined (AWD V-6); Hybrid ó 400-mile-plus
value, power; good looks
Lows: Pricey hybrid;
standard adaptive cruise, please
Overall: 4 stars