By on March 17, 2018

Image: Ford Motor Company

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]

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40 Comments on “Lincoln Officially Dusts Off the Aviator Name, Prepares for a Future That’s Short on Tradition, Big on Cargo...”

  • avatar

    So now what, ads featuring Matthew McConaughey stocking up on Beef-A-Reeno at Costco?

  • avatar

    I’m always boggled by these luxury car lines that are simply tarted up versions of their regular car line. I get that it’s economical, but who the hell is going to pay $80000 for a Lincoln Navigator? Once you’re in that price range, why not get a Porsche? A BMW? A Landcruiser?

    At least Acura understands it’s a status car for the budget conscious. I don’t know what Lincoln is.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis


      BMW- Very hard to fit a family of 4 with their lugage in a 3 series
      Porsche – waiting to trade in for a mid-engine Corvette.
      Land Cruiser – have to move 10 Camrys out of the way just to take it for a test drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan C

        on the land cruiser, meaning there are none available? wasn’t sure on what you meant. i am a big fan, they may not be bling, but they last. i have three and they just are so well made.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      The Navigator is the only Lincoln that makes any sense at all. It offers something that you can’t get from the European or Japanese brands, and it’s significantly more luxurious than the Ford it’s based on.

      You can tart up a less-premium vehicle all you want, but it will never be fundamentally better than the model it’s based on, just more “premium” on the inside and with more gadgets (if that). How well that works depends on how good the underlying vehicle is. In Lincoln’s case, everything they’re starting with other than the Expedition is long in the tooth. The new Explorer might be a good base, or it might not. It depends on how well Ford executes on this.

    • 0 avatar

      ” I get that it’s economical, but who the hell is going to pay $80000 for a Lincoln Navigator? ”

      You can, pretty easily, option an Expedition to over $80K.

      The Lincoln rebadge goes over $100K.

    • 0 avatar

      Plenty of people pay $80k+ for the Escalade/ESV.

      Porsche, BMW and the like don’t offer large BoF SUVs which have significantly more trailer-hitch weight capacity than the crossovers which the Germans sell.

      As for the Landcruiser, the Lexus LX is basically a “tarted up” LC and few people buy either.

      Otoh, Lexus does tremendous volume with the “tarted up” versions of the Highlander and RAV-4 (and soon the CH-R) – the same game that Acura plays with its CUV lineup.

      Lincoln is trying to play the same game (in addition to its BoF SUVs) with its CUVs, but just haven’t been as successful as Lexus or Acura, much less Cadillac with its 1 current CUV (the XT5 being the 2nd best selling luxury model after the RX).

    • 0 avatar

      You’re confused by Lincoln, but totally get Acura? Acura has few exclusive models (NSX and…?), most are heavily based on corresponding Hondas. But that’s just fine because it isn’t Lincoln.

      And, any time a car faces competition, it shouldn’t be marketed at all. Excellent deduction.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, Lincoln? The majority of ’18 Navi’s we’ve sold (I work at a Lincoln dealer) have been Black Label editions and several were over $100k. Hell, three weeks ago we had a G-Wagen traded in on a $110k Navigator.

  • avatar

    Oh great, another crummy SUV.

  • avatar

    I want another 1979 Mark V Bill Blass edition in my driveway!

  • avatar

    I honestly thought that the Aviator was still in production.

  • avatar

    Mulally should have killed Lincoln when he had the chance. It’s over. It’s been over for many, many years now.
    The luxury car market has become a zero sum game. Lincoln’s four new SUVs will have to steal sales from Audi, BMW, Volvo, Lexus, Cadillac, Buick, Jaguar, Land Rover, Acura, Infiniti…did I miss anyone else?

    The Aviator will be great, but the Ford Explorer Platinum won’t be far off and most people will just save their money and buy the Ford. Ford should have found a way to effectively market the Vignale trim in the US and give Lincoln the dirt nap it deserves. This is nothing more than corporate arrogance that will cost another $1B, and they wonder why the stock has been stuck in neutral for so long.

    A fancy Navigator that will get trounced by the next Escalade won’t bring it back. All Lincoln did was give GM a head start. The next Escalade will have a big V8, IRS, Super Cruise and whatever else it needs to kill the Navigator’s mojo.

    Just make more upmarket Fords. The Vignale brand in the USA, or something similar, could be the “Denali” of the Ford Brand. Just stop with this Lincoln nonsense.

    Lincoln is dead, and he was killed in Ford Theatre.

    • 0 avatar

      “The luxury car market has become a zero sum game. Lincoln’s four new SUVs will have to steal sales from Audi, BMW, Volvo, Lexus, Cadillac, Buick, Jaguar, Land Rover, Acura, Infiniti…did I miss anyone else?”


      But they’re bringing new people into the high price point, because they’re selling that you can’t get elsewhere.

      Personally, I just can’t appreciate the value proposition offered by the brands you mentioned. But, I’m going to buy a Tesla (a Model 3 for sure, and maybe an X too) as soon as I can.

      Tesla is the counterexample to your observation, and yet shows the way forward.

      You can grow the luxury market, because.many people who can afford one of the brands you mentioned just don’t have the temeperment for it. But, if you can offer us something tangible that we can’t get from a highly optioned commodity car (futuristic electric drivetrains), then we could be convinced to enter the luxury-priced market.

      Buick and Lincoln should have become the EV brands for GM and Ford. But that would have required more risk than either company was willing to embrace 5 years ago, and so they’ve introduced their EVs in their commodity brands — which is where they will remain.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. You missed Genesis, who will have luxury SUVs starting next year.

      • 0 avatar

        The thing that will differentiate the Genesis crossovers from most of the competition is that they will be RWD-based as opposed to FWD.

        It’ll be interesting to see how the Genesis CUVs will fare in the marketplace when they’ll likely be priced around what Lexus charges for its CUVs (maybe even a little higher) – whether it’s enough to offer a lower price compared to the RWD CUVs from MB and BMW, but not lower than the price of the FWD competition.

        As for Ford and Lincoln – don’t see what the problem is as GM’s SUV and CUV lines are split into 3 tiers with Chevy, Buick/GMC (including the Denali trim) and Cadillac with GM seemingly being able to make it work.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I’m a big Lincoln fan but the world has changed. My dream is a Mark IX with rear wheel drive, a long hood, and a detuned NA V-8. Not gonna happen. The Continental was one (year) and done – more evidence that Lincoln is on it’s deathbed. The 91-97 generation of Town Cars was Lincoln’s last (and great) hurrah.

  • avatar

    Lincoln has been dead for awhile now. As a longtime Lincoln lover and owner of the cars as I currently own a 78 Continental, a 79 Mark V Cartier edition and used to own a 61 Continental and a 93 TC. Lincoln’s haven’t truly been Lincoln’s since the 70’s. I’ve driven just about every Lincoln car, and when things really started to change was in the 80’s. Even more parts sharing, the downsizing, and more corporate cost cutting. I believe the last decent looking Lincoln’s were the Town Cars up until 97, as the 98’s and up were atrocious! Absolutely horrible cheap interiors and ugly bubbly exterior.

    I actually test drove the new Continental at a local auto show last year , and I was really impressed with the interior and exterior side profile, but as nice as that car was to drive and be in, it didn’t have any sort of distinctive styling or anything that made it stand out and memorable.

    It wasn’t really all that big and prominent like an S-Class Benz, and didn’t even have the presence like a Chrysler 300, you honestly would think your driving a Jag or. Kia from a distance, and that’s pretty bad if you’re driving a Lincoln and others think it’s something else.

    It also rode pretty harsh because of the 20 inch wheels, and the rough roads out here in San Diego made it very noticeable by all the road imperfections and pot holes pounding the interior with little vibrations and impacts entering the cabin too easily.

    Shoot, take a 70’s Lincoln Continental down the same stretch of roadway and you wouldn’t feel a damn thing! How would I know? Well I did in my 78 Lincoln, and was astonished how much smoother, more comfortable and quieter my old Lincoln drove over the rough pavement. It’s the like the car just glides over it, and isn’t bothered. While the new Continental drives into it all the bad stuff and makes you suffer for it, Ughhh.

    Until Lincoln can truly build something as isolated riding and stylistically beautiful like it’s 60’s and 70’s cars, they don’t have a chance these days. The competition is way too fierce and even non luxury brands are luxury like on the inside and makes you feel like you’re actually driving something higher end. I don’t know else Lincoln can do to save the brand, they tried with the Conti and we all thought that was the answer, but I guess it wasn’t as luxury buyers aren’t interested in them like they used to be. So sad because they used to know how to make attractive luxury cars. You wonder WTF happened??!

  • avatar

    I have never been a fan of Lincoln. However I do really like the new Continental and Navigator. While I can see the Continental has stiff competition the Navigator does not. Other than the Escalade what luxury vehicle has that kind of size. I for one love the interior on the Navigator especially the Black Label versions.

  • avatar
    Leonard Ostrander

    Isn’t the term sporty four-door short bus the very definition of an oxymoron?

  • avatar

    It seems like it was only yesterday that they were dumping names in favor of the MK-WGAF labeling convention. Does anyone really want a buy a car or truck from a company that obviously doesn’t know what they’re doing?

    • 0 avatar

      “Sir, we’re sorry that we haven’t been clear on our brand identity in recent years. However, we’ll soon be releasing our fourth corporate frond-end treatment of the decade. Now we have a clear brand identity, as long as you don’t notice the mishmash of different grilles in the used lot of your local Lincoln dealer. Lincoln is back, baby!”

  • avatar

    Surprised at the negativity here on this one. Aviator done right will be a totally smart move for Lincoln. Sedans are dead. Long live the SUV(cough) err, CUV.

    It won’t be long before the MKZ and Continental are kaput. Lincoln’s move to MK-everything was a huge disaster, once they get back to real names for all their products, they should start doing better.

  • avatar

    game’s over. put the money into Ford products. just invest enough badge engineering into Lincoln to make it cash flow positive.

    1 car. 3 SUVs. small, medium, large.

    i wouldn’t be surprised if Lincoln becomes the first all imported from China nameplate.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Mullaly (sic) wanted to kill Lincoln. The Fords said “NO!”. Lincoln’s don’t cost FOMOCO that much to make. A S,M,L, and & XL SUV? Seems to be in vogue these days. Face it folks, Mark Whatevers and Town Cars were were gussied up T-Birds and LTDs that didn’t cost FOMOCO that much to make. Lincoln’s concierge service is earth changing for an American car maker. Darn handy too. Yes,EBFlex, you have to have pants on when the service rep shows up. All Lincoln needs to be is the American Acura.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t realize Lincoln had a concierge service. When did that happen? Hyundai has been doing that for a while for their Equus buyers (few though they may be), and Genesis does it as well.

  • avatar

    Ford’s biggest mistake was Selling Volvo and Keeping Lincoln! A Lincoln-Volvo brand is diverse enough to sell small Lux and big Lux and Lincoln could keep selling the Navigator, until a Volvo branded one could be marketed. Unlike Lincoln, Volvo already has a worldwide presence.

  • avatar

    Ford’s biggest mistake was Selling Volvo and Keeping Lincoln! A Lincoln-Volvo brand is diverse enough to sell small Lux and big Lux and Lincoln could keep selling the Navigator, until a Volvo branded one could be marketed. Unlike Lincoln, Volvo already has a worldwide presence.

  • avatar

    Lincoln did somewhat badge engineer even way back in the 70’s, but at least they were a lot nicer than a T-bird or an LTD or Grand Marquise. The problem with the 60’s Continentals as wonderful and high quality cars they were, they were very complex engineering wise. Everything designed and built into those cars was special and Lincoln “ONLY” up until 69 I believe. This made making repairs a nightmare and very expensive. Once Ford decided to go back to a Body On Frame design, the cars became much more conventional, less special, but better engineered, as well as more reliable which made repairs easier to do and access. So you have trade offs.

    Personally the 77-79’s was the best looking of the 70’s decade and they really were unique in styling compared to the rest of Fords lineup throughout those years. Another major reason why Lincoln’s were still great up until 79 was because of its size. Even the Grand Marquis was smaller and had a smaller wheelbase, but the Lincoln’s (Continentals, not Marks) had a longer wheelbase and they were much longer in size too. As the 80’s and 90’s rolled around, the Town Cars weren’t much bigger than a Grand Marquis. The interiors looked so similar and Lincoln lost its edge for giving luxury car buyers a reason to buy one.

    Things just became cheaper feeling and shittier as time went on for them. The biggest problem we all know too well is Lincoln wants to be successful and become a great brand once again, but how can you when every car in their lineup is shared with other Ford vehicles? A common problem the brand has had for years and years. Lincoln’s need to be cutting edge, use the latest and Lincoln “Only” features and tech that give potential customers a reason to even give the brand a shot, because as of right now, they are suffering mightily.

    They’re running out of answers.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a plan. Author jokes about a Town Coupe, but I think a Mark X crossover flagship based on this platform would do well for the brand. If Lincoln has any cars in their lineup, they absolutely have to have some level of electrification, and they have to make a big deal about it.

  • avatar

    I still wince every time I read about an “ST” variant SUV.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

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

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