Lincoln Officially Dusts Off the Aviator Name, Prepares for a Future That's Short on Tradition, Big on Cargo

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Given the direction Lincoln is headed, it’s unlikely we’ll see a return of the Town Car name anytime soon. The Town Coupe, on the other hand, seems ripe for a resurrection (as a sporty four-door SUV, of course).

Speculation aside, model names are back at Lincoln Motor Company, and the first of a series of all-new utility models will bear a short-lived moniker that disappeared after 2005: Aviator. The original Aviator, resembling a Navigator washed in too-warm water, served as the brand’s second SUV from 2003 to 2005. A 2004 concept vehicle of the same name heralded the design of the 2007 MKX.

What does the new Aviator mean for the brand? Sales, hopefully, as the brand’s suddenly flagging fortunes would leave any automaker rattled.

The Aviator, one of two all-new utility vehicles promised by Lincoln by 2020, should appear in production form next year. We’ll get a strong taste of it at this month’s New York Auto Show, where Lincoln plans to unveil a production preview. Until then, a short teaser video gives us something to look at, but not much to go on.

Sharing its modular CD6 architecture with the 2020 Ford Explorer, the Aviator serves as a bridge between the Nautilus (formerly MKX) and the range-topping Navigator. Expect the same rear-biased driving experience as the Explorer, plus a range of powerful engines. It’s likely we’ll see the brand’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 offered as an upgrade — a source tells us Ford plans to use that engine in the upcoming Explorer’s ST variant.

A hybrid version is ensured, as Ford promised this week that all new vehicle introductions will contain some form of electrification.

Lincoln’s product strategy is best summed up as “RIP, cars.” Jim Farley, head of global markets at Ford Motor Company, claims four more Lincoln SUVs will arrive after 2020, and it’s doubtless one will serve as a technological flagship for the automaker. That means a battery electric model. What Farley didn’t say, however, was whether cars have a future at Lincoln. The Fusion-based MKZ and Continental are widely expected to disappear around 2020, leaving the brand carless for the first time in its history.

Lincoln sales bottomed out shortly after the recession, but a multi-billion-dollar cash infusion from Ford brought the brand back from near death. Well, part of the way back. The brand’s 2017 U.S. sales fell below 2016’s tally by 565 vehicles. February saw Lincoln sales fall 23.4 percent, year over year, with only the new Navigator posting a gain. Sales of the compact MKC and MKX fell 20.9 and 24.2 percent, year over year, and Lincoln’s car models fared even worse.

Brand sales over the first two months of 2018 reveal a continued decline. Compared to the same period last year, Lincoln racked up 25.2 percent fewer U.S. sales in 2018, pointing to a lineup that, for the most part, no longer resonates in the competitive (and often fickle) premium segment.

[Images: Lincoln Motor Company/ YouTube]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Carve Carve on Mar 19, 2018

    I'm glad they're going back to real names, but I always find it odd when they give big, heavy, cumbersome vehicles fast, light and athletic names. "Aviator" comes to mind, although the Sprinter vans take the cake.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Mar 19, 2018

    I would just like to point out that the trim alignment on that Aviator (first picture) is appalling.

  • Akear I just wish GM could produce a vehicle 80% as good as the crown.I sat in a Trax at a Chevrolet dealership this weekend and was shocked how cheap it felt. GM does not care.GM - what a disgrace!
  • Akear I like the grill treatment of all Mitsubishi products. It is an interesting and original design.
  • El scotto Some rambling thoughts; Elon is pulling billions in cash out of Tesla. Tesla will be around, Elon won't let them fail. Mitsubishi is an odd place, you can't sell vehicles if you don't have dealers. Out of all the "Automalls" near you, how many have a Mitsubishi dealership? The Agnellis owned Fiat, Fiat got sold to Stellantis. The Agnellis control Exor. How much of Stellantis does Exor own? I really should be drinking beer with Billy Ford and talking Big-10 trash with him. Ford and Lucid should work out a partnership. You want an electric Lincoln? Have Lucid build it and slap a Lincoln name plate on it. BTW, kick Farley's butt to the curb.
  • Akear US contentChevrolet Trax - 5%Honda Pilot - 52%What a disgrace!I glad Consumer Reports panned the Trax, and put it on its avoid list.
  • Akear This is similar to what lazy GM and Ford used to do.