Once you slip inside the posh leather interior of the Lincoln Aviator your whole definition of a sport utility vehicle will change. Preconceptions once associating SUVs as rugged, outdoorsy vehicles will vanish. Illusions of a truck-like ride, gone.
Technically the Aviator is a sport utility vehicle. But between you and me, for 45 big ones youre probably not going to traverse the back roads of the Big Thicket or haul a clunky bass boat behind it. Au contraire, this luxury utility vehicle is made to escort you and five-to-six other passengers to the opera, the symphony and perhaps, maybe, a rodeo - if theres valet parking.
Falling under Ford Motor Companys umbrella, the Lincoln Aviator is a late bloomer especially when compared to its cousins, Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, both of which enjoyed huge success in the early SUV years. Only two years old, the Aviator has a lot of catching up to do.
Competing against a litany of high dollar luxury vehicles that include the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Lexus GX470, Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes-Benz ML500, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90, though new, the Aviator has an edge: it can piggyback on the success of its older brother, the Navigator.
First introduced in 1998, the Navigator is older, wiser and has better name recognition. However, essentially, the Navigator and Aviator are basically replicas of one another.
Aviators flight plan Aviator is positioned as an option for young, affluent consumers who are finally waking up to the fact that they really dont need a SUV that can accommodate half a little league team and all of their gear. Goliath-sized SUVs are out, mid-size SUVs with not remarkable, but better gas mileage, lower sticker price and improved maneuverability are in.
It makes sense. To borrow from one giant retailers slogan, you get more for less. Less cost. Less size. And less driving hassle for basically the same interior and exterior. Its genetic engineering for auto manufacturers. Take the basic (successful) vehicle DNA, remove the steroids and, voil, youre in the competition again.
Stacking up against big brother When compared to the Navigator, the Aviator is a few inches narrower, 6.4"shorter in height and several hundred pounds lighter.
All of which adds up to 77 cubic feet of cargo room in the Aviator versus 104 in the Navigator though smaller, there is room for six or seven individuals. The Aviator comes with two rows of rear seats. The second row is available as a bench (for 3 riders) or as two separate captain chairs with a center floor console between the two. The third row is a bench (for 2 riders). Comparatively, the Navigator comes standard with seating for eight (two rear bench seats at 3 riders each).
Interior comforts Lincoln does a nice job of spoiling their passengers. The Aviators satin nickel-theme interior is every bit as elegant as what you would find in a luxury sedan: American burl walnut wood trim, creamy leather upholstery and white instrument lighting.
In the center of the dash is the signature Lincoln clock: an analog timepiece with a bone-colored backing and silver roman numerals and hands. Further adding to the Aviators upscale style is performance-glazed glass that absorbs noise and impacts much better than conventional tempered glass, a DVD entertainment system, HID headlights, a navigation system, a stability control system and rear-seat climate control.
Two trims You can order your Aviator two ways: Luxury or Ultimate. Luxury models arrive equipped with dual-zone climate control, a CD player, leather upholstery, adjustable pedals and rear park assist. Opt for the higher end Ultimate (last year this trim was dubbed premium) and youll find yourself surrounded by heated and cooled seats, in-dash CD changer, 17-inch wheels and HID headlamps. Options for both include a sunroof, DVD entertainment system, DVD-based navigation system and a trailer hitch. With second row bucket seats and a third row bench, the Aviator can accommodate six (note: the third row is best suited for small kids) or opt for a bench seat in the second row to increase the capacity to seven.
New for 2004 Because the Aviator debuted in 2003, the changes for this year include just a few features, such as the addition of Roll Stability Control to the optional Advance Trac stability system to prevent rollovers during sudden maneuvers. The previously optional tire-pressure monitoring system is now standard and Sirius Satellite Radio is optional on both the Luxury and Ultimate models.
True, mid-size luxury SUVs have been around for quite some time. The market is tight, but theres always room for one more especially when it comes wrapped in such a well-engineered and attractive package.
Even with its fashionably late arrival, the Lincoln feels as seasoned as an old pro. There arent any kinks to iron out and the learning curve is flat. If youve been comparison shopping among the elite mid-size SUVs the deciding factor just may be the bottom line. Fully loaded, the Aviator is less expensive than a comparable BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz ML500.