Making its official debut at the 2018 New York Auto Show is the all-new Lincoln Aviator. Officially billed as a "tease" of the production version, this luxury SUV will reach showrooms in 2019. Slotting in between the soon-to-be-launched Nautilus and the gargantuan Navigator in the Lincoln lineup, it will rival the Audi Q7 and the Land Rover Discovery, among others.
The Aviator will effectively replace the MKT, but it's a mark of how far Lincoln has come in recent times that its executives are keen to avoid any association with its unloved forebear. Roughly the same size as a Range Rover, the Aviator has a familiar SUV silhouette but tries hard with the details. The dramatic front grille is a new Lincoln signature and so is the horizontal red lighting strip across the rear — a visual motif also now employed by Porsche. It's hardly revolutionary, but in a class not blessed with beauties, it will hold its own.
It's more distinctive inside. Like Volvo, Lincoln is determined to step away from the sporty pretensions of its German rivals — not every mom needs to feel like she's racing to soccer practice. Instead, the carmaker is trying to create a luxurious sense of calm with the elegant application of leather, wood and aluminum. It's a world away from plasticky Lincolns of old, and there's some neat detailing, such as the Lincoln Way app that allows you to start and stop the car using your cellphone — you can ditch the traditional key. The only thing we don't like is the touchscreen display that looks too much like an afterthought and won't retract, Audi-style.
The Aviator will be offered as either a six-passenger with two individual chairs in the middle row or as a seven-passenger with a middle bench. Lincoln claims a 6-foot adult can fit in the third row but don't expect that person to be too comfortable in the seven-seater mode, which also makes luggage space minimal.
There'll also be the choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive and the option of a plug-in hybrid version. The hybrid combines a twin-turbo V8 with an electric motor to rival Volvo's XC90 T8. Ride comfort will be a key priority with Lincoln offering Suspension Preview Technology, which scans the road ahead and preloads the suspension. It's technology employed with success in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
For now at least, Lincoln is being publicly defensive about its pricing strategy for the Aviator. Privately, though, we're told it will be priced somewhere between the Audi Q5 and the Q7, so reckon on a starting price around $45K. It's a hugely competitive market, but for the first time, Lincoln might just have a vehicle capable of taking on the best of Europe and Japan.