Is the Aviator preparing for takeoff?

It seems Ford is busy developing new vehicles these days. We’ve seen spy shots of a refreshed Explorer, a new Focus hatchback, and this, which is a long-wheelbase SUV that is much larger than the Explorer yet smaller than the Expedition. Upon closer inspection, this test mule rides on reused Lincoln Navigator wheels, has a large vertical pillar in the center of its grille, and has taillights that somewhat recall the shape of the current Navigator’s rear lights. Could it be that Lincoln is preparing a second-generation Aviator? It seems to be happening.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of the Aviator name getting a reprise. Several articles suggest Lincoln is working on the mid-size SUV. Looking holistically at Lincoln’s lineup, the Aviator would fit perfectly between the larger Navigator and smaller (and recently renamed from MKX) Nautilus. That means Lincoln would have three crossovers with seating for five in the Nautilus, seven in the Aviator, and seven in the Navigator. Of course, the Navigator would remain the flagship SUV with the Aviator targeting luxury-minded yet slightly more budget-conscious families needing three rows of seating. The two-row Nautilus would target small families and empty nesters.

Continue reading for more information and speculation.

Spy Video

Exterior

2020 Lincoln Aviator
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The Lincoln Aviator is definitely longer and lower-slung than the current Ford Explorer yet smaller than the new Navigator

While we can’t be completely certain this is the Lincoln Aviator, it is definitely longer and lower-slung than the current Ford Explorer yet smaller than the new Navigator. It also wouldn’t make any sense for Lincoln to have a camouflaged Navigator at this point since it is already in showrooms.

Nevertheless, this SUV is clearly a three-row model with what appears to be generous amounts of second-row legroom and a smaller third-row seat – at least by judging from the wheelbase, rear door placement, and the roofline.

The grille and headlights are pretty well covered, but we’re still able to make out the vehicle’s overall proportions. A low-hanging air dam is present for aerodynamics and the bumper’s center section appears to have a large opening for cooling. The upper grille can’t be seen, but the camo has a rather pronounced vertical line, which hints at this being a Lincoln.

2020 Lincoln Aviator
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Further adding suspension that this test mule is a Lincoln are the taillights. Their overall shape looks nothing like a Ford Explorer’s taillights, but rather connect across the tailgate like all of Lincoln’s current vehicles. The rear bumper also features dual exhaust cut-outs, further pointing to its upscale nature.

Of course, it’s hard to know anything for sure at this point, but we will certainly keep an eye out for what transpires.

Interior

The New Lincoln Navigator is Here, and You're Going to Want One High Resolution Interior
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We expect a cabin much like the one seen in the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator.

Neither our spy photographer nor the guys at TFL Car were able to grab photos of this vehicle’s interior. Should it actually be the new Lincoln Aviator, we expect a cabin much like the one seen in the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator.

A Navigator-inspired interior would include a low, horizontal dashboard with a floating center infotainment screen and a digital gauge cluster. A push-button gear shifter would be present, along with high-end materials like wood, metal, and full-grain leather. Its really up to Lincoln to set the tone for the Aviator. The SUV could carry the same level of refinement and luxury as the Navigator, but be more family-friendly thanks to its smaller size, or it could use less expensive interior finishings and cater to lower price bracket. We’re hoping for the former. After all, Lincoln should leave the budget-friendly vehicles to Ford.

The rear seats will likely come in a 3+2 configuration, meaning the second row is a three-person bench seat and the third row has seating for two. We’d bet on an optional second-row captain’s chairs, allowing for walking space between the chairs for easier entry and exit from the third row. Expect cargo space to be less than Navigator but larger than the current Explorer.

Drivetrain

In Depth: 2017 Ford F-150 Buyer's Guide
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Given Ford’s current obsession with twin-turbocharging V-6 engines in the EcoBoost line, we’d bet big money the Aviator will also make use of an EcoBoost engine

Given Ford’s current obsession with twin-turbocharging V-6 engines in the EcoBoost line, we’d bet big money the Aviator will also make use of an EcoBoost engine. While the full-size, body-on-frame Navigator uses the 3.5-liter EcoBoost with an impressive 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, we suspect Lincoln will use the standard-output version of the 3.5-liter that’s used in the F-150. In that application, it makes a still-respectable 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That would give the Aviator the “premium” advantage over the Ford Explorer’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost and its output of 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

We suspect the second-generation Lincoln Aviator will take after the first-generation model and share its platform with the Ford Explorer. If that’s the case, the Aviator will use a unibody platform, a transversely mounted engine, and come with front-wheel drive as standard. If that’s the case, Lincoln will likely use the same automatic transmission used in the Explorer. The current 2018 model makes do with a six-speed gearbox, but we’d bet on either a new eight-speed or for Ford to develop a transverse mounting application for its new 10-speed automatic.

Regardless of engine or transmission offerings, an optional AWD system will be offered.

Pricing

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Given the Lincoln MKX (updated and renamed Nautilus for 2019) starts around $40,000 and the 2018 Navigator starts at $72,000, Lincoln has plenty of room to play with pricing. Conversely, the Ford Explorer’s range-topping trim, the Platinum, starts at $53,940. Lincoln could very well price the Aviator at $55,000. Of course, that is nothing more than conjecture.

The Competition

Audi Q7

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The Audi Q7 is completely new for 2018 and it boasts a sharpened appearance, a more technologically advanced in just about every way. Hinted by its name, the Q7 seats seven people in a 2+3+2 configuration. The dash features Audi’s swanky Virtual Cockpit and updated MMI infotainment system

The Q7 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Optionally, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 is offered and makes 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels via the Quattro AWD system.

Pricing for the 2018 Audi Q7 starts at $49,900 for the “base” Premium trim with the 2.0-liter. The range-topping Prestige trim with its standard V-6 starts at $65,400.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi Q7.

Volvo XC90

2016 Volvo XC90 High Resolution Exterior
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The Volvo charts its own course in the luxury SUV segment with a reserved, clean-cut appearance that isn’t overly ostentatious. It offers seating for seven in a 2+3+2 arrangement and boasts features like built-in child booster seats in the second row and four-zone climate controls. Other niceties is Volvo’s massive touchscreen infotainment system.

Volvo gives XC90 shoppers a choice between three engine options. The first is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque in the T5. The mid-range engine is the same 2.0-liter but with both a turbo and supercharger. The result is 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque in the T6. The third option is the T8 and it includes the T6’s engine mated with an 87-horse hybrid electric system that kicks out a final output to 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque while getting 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined.

Prices for the XC90 start at $45,900 with the T5 Momentum trim. The T6 Momentum starts at $54,350 and the T8 eAWD Momentum starts at $64,950.

Read our full review on the 2018 Volvo XC90.

Jeep Wagoneer

2017 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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An honorable mention is the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer. Little is known about this vehicle other than it will ride on a modified version of the Ram 1500’s ladder frame and will offer three rows of seating. It will be targeted toward the upper-middle-class range of vehicles, while its more luxurious brother, the Grand Wagoneer, will compete with vehicles like the Range Rover, Cadillac Escalade, and Lincoln Navigator.

Read our full speculative review on the 2018 Jeep Wagoneer

Conclusion

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Lincoln is fighting its way back into relevancy thanks to vehicles like the Navigator and Continental. New models with actual names, like the Nautilus, will further help the brand compete on the world’s stage. Adding a three-row crossover slotted between the two-row Nautilus and the full-size, three-row Navigator would give Lincoln a very strong lineup.

Only time will tell if we’re right about the Aviator – provide that’s even what we’re looking at. Obviously TFL Car seems to think this is the next-generation Ford Explorer, and they are not alone. However, due to its longer wheelbase, low-slung stance, and Lincoln-like features, we’re leaning towards this being the Aviator. Add to that we’ve seen at least one Ford Explorer running around in camouflage, suggesting it will only be receiving an update in the coming years. It could also be the rumored high-performance Explorer ST.

  • Leave it
    • * No real confirmation on identity
    • * Could actually be new Ford Explorer
    • * No official word for Ford/Lincoln

References

The New Lincoln Navigator is Here, and You're Going to Want One High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.

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Read more Lincoln news.

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