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Preparing for Takeoff: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Spied

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 4/10/2018 STEVE SILER
2020 Lincoln Aviator (spy shot)

What It Is: Lincoln’s upcoming rear-wheel-drive-based, mid-size Aviator SUV, seen here in lots of camo, was flightlessly aviating on public roads after the well-received concept version made its debut at the New York auto show last month. While we can’t see many of the details on this prototype, covered as it is by some rather hilarious-looking circular camouflage stickers, we already know a lot about which of the concept’s bits will and will not make it to production. In a nutshell, the list of showroom-ready stuff on the concept includes pretty much everything, at least on the outside, with the proportions, glass areas, and graphic elements such as the headlamps, turn signals, grille, and full-width taillamps appearing exactly as they are on the concept. The most significant exterior changes, we’re told, will involve the fitment of larger side mirrors, some unspecified changes to the grille, and perhaps different tailpipes than the concept’s menacing quad pipes. It should be noted, however, that this prototype also features quad pipes of near identical size.

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We couldn’t tell much about the interior from these shots, but we expect it will offer most of the goodies found on Navigator and Continental models, including the 30-way-adjustable front seats, copious leather upholstery, and lots of shiny surfaces and trim pieces to give it a sense of occasion.

Why It Matters: If there’s a vehicle that could suggest that Lincoln is truly on its way back to relevance, it’s the Aviator. When it arrives next year, it will do many things at once for the brand. First, it will give Lincoln an additional SUV—its fourth—to offer in today’s SUV-obsessed automobile market. It will also better fill three-row-SUV customers’ expectations than the slow-selling and soon to be banished MKT, which barely sells outside the livery market. It will be another Lincoln to have a real name, thank you, as Lincoln continues to say “R.I.P.” to the meaningless and confusing acronyms it adopted after the first-generation Aviator flew off into the sunset in 2005. And, importantly, as a rear-drive three-row ute, it competes in a space where archrival Cadillac ain’t got nuthin’.

Platform: The 2020 Aviator will ride on Ford’s new rear-wheel-drive SUV architecture, which will be shared with the next-generation Ford Explorer. Lincoln says that the decision to give the Aviator rear-wheel drive instead of a transverse-engine, front-drive-based layout, as seen in the Nautilus (née MKX) and the MKC, was dictated by the desire for an elegant profile, which is made possible by a long dash-to-axle dimension that a longitudinal engine location and rear-wheel drive make possible. And the more balanced weight distribution? That’s just gravy.

Powertrain: The Aviator concept featured a twin-turbocharged plug-in hybrid powertrain, which Lincoln promises as an option on the production model, but most examples are sure to be powered by a conventional gasoline engine, likely a V-6 such as the twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 found in the Ford F-150 and others.

Competition: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Infiniti QX60, Volvo XC90.

Estimated Arrival and Price: The Lincoln Aviator will arrive in 2019 priced to take aim at popular three-row luxury SUVs such as the Volvo XC90 and the Audi Q7, both of which currently start around $50,000.

Preparing for Takeoff: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Spied© STEVE SILER Preparing for Takeoff: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Spied

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