Mini-me Navigator: Lincoln Aviator debuts

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Say hello to Navigator Jr.

Ford's Lincoln luxury division unveiled the sumptuous, three-row Aviator SUV at the LA Auto Show with more horsepower than a Audi Q7 plugin and a long, Range Rover-like, rear-wheel-drive greenhouse.

But most of all, the 2020 Aviator looks like a more affordable, unibody-chassis Navigator — the big, Ford F-150-based land yacht. The first-ever Lincoln with a six-figure price tag, the Navigator can't be built fast enough to satisfy jet set demand. The big Aviator will be slotted between the two-row, $40,000 Lincoln Nautilus and the gigantic, $73K Navigator.

While Lincoln will announce pricing closer to launch next year, expect it to be competitive with the Infiniti QX60 and Audi Q7 three-row competitors starting in the $45-$50K range. For all intents and purposes, the Aviator displaces the poor-selling, similarly-priced Continental sedan as the brand's flagship vehicle.

"We will go right at Audi and Infiniti because with a vehicle with this much content we have a great value story to tell," said Lincoln boss Joy Falotico at the media unveiling Tuesday.

2019 Lincoln Aviator

Touting its mantra of "Quiet Luxury" — redefined for the Aviator as "Quiet Flight" — Lincoln touts a luxury experience different from the usual industry metric of size and power. The Aviator is a rolling condo of detailed appointments.

Approach the Aviator and the mirrors pool the Lincoln logo on the ground at six-feet away. At three-feet the vehicle unlocks. That assumes that you haven't already activated the Aviator via Lincoln's "Phone As A Key" system where the ute can be remotely monitored and started via a phone app.

With optional air suspension it will kneel to help you inside like a pet elephant.

Open the door and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra welcomes passengers with subtle violin music — augmented by more chimes that remind you, for example, to fasten your seatbelt. The spacious surroundings are reminiscent of the opulent Navigator — 12.3-inch, fully digital instrument display, 10.5-inch console touchscreen, optional, signature 30-way seats, and individual rotary knobs for audio, climate control, and drive modes. 

The long, horizontal console is wrapped in leather sewn by six stitches per inch. A forward-mounted camera constantly scans for road irregularities like potholes to electronically smooth out the ride and — if you cross into Canada — the vehicle will ask if you'd like to change the gauges to kilometers.

"The Aviator is always thinking of the next step," says chief engineer John Davis.

Backseat passengers get their own, five-inch control touchscreen and the roomy third-row is accessed with a simple push of a button atop the seat. 

Beneath this rolling divan is, in fact, a sophisticated piece of chassis and drivetrain engineering. The Aviator is built on a rear-wheel-rive architecture — like the Navigator but without the land yacht's harsher, body-on-frame truck architecture. The architecture allowed designers to design a long-hood, long-greenhouse design reminiscent of Range Rovers that are the design envy of SUVs.

The 200-inch long (compared to the Navigator's 210 inches) SUV will come standard with rear-wheel-drive with all-wheel-drive optional. A 400-horse, 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 mated to a liquid-smooth 10-speed transmission propels the big ship. 

All-wheel-drive is standard on the battery-assist version — Lincoln's first-ever plugin option. The Aviator showcased the plugin here in Los Angeles, carrying the "Grand Touring" badge. It's distinguished by its blue logo and "reverse grille" in front. The plugin also gives the Aviator — the most powerful Lincoln ever with 450 horsepower and 600 pound feet of torque — bragging rights as the most powerful hybrid in the high-volume, midsize luxury segment.

Like other Lincolns, the Aviator will come with a laundry list of available Black Label luxury options like 22-inch turbine wheels and a 28-speaker Revel audio system - for when passengers want to play a full Detroit Symphony Orchestra piece.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.