SUVs

2020 Lincoln Aviator brings torque-heavy thrust to the LA Auto Show

Think of it as a miniature Navigator with 600 pound-feet of torque.

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When Lincoln unveiled the Aviator "concept" at the 2018 New York Auto Show, its doneness and intent for production was patently obvious. Now, just a few short months later, it's time to take a look at the real deal.

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a new three-row SUV from Ford's fancy sibling. Think of it as a vehicle that packs all the new-level luxury of the Navigator into a smaller package, and it seals the deal by throwing even more new tech in its direction.

Wagon-ish good looks

The Aviator has a long, low stance, helping separate it from the bulkier Navigator. That gives it a sleeker, almost wagon-like silhouette. I'm not the biggest fan of the headlights, which I think looked better on the concept version, but both the lights and grille are appropriate proportioned for the front end. Take note, Lexus and Cadillac. Lincoln also took the "floating roof" look one step further by blacking out both the D-pillar and the A-pillar, and I dig it.

Things stay classic around back, where a single red strip of taillight runs the width of the rear end above classy clear lenses. The quad tailpipes give it just the right bit of rebelliousness.

Inside, things stay pretty true to the concept. The interior is laid out elegantly, with a big reliance on horizontal planes on all levels of the dashboard. The steering wheel is new for Lincoln, with a pair of thumb sticks surrounded by illuminated switchgear and a relocated voice recognition button at the 10 o'clock position on the wheel. Higher end trims of Aviator use a turned metal finish in lieu of wood -- it's a nod to the aviation theme, and I think it's damn classy.

I had the opportunity to climb through an Aviator already, and I found ample visibility in the front row and oodles of space in the second row. The third row is more of an occasional fare; while my 6-foot-0 frame fit back there, awkward leg angles make it less viable for long stretches.

Its stance is significantly more athletic than the Navigator's, but then again, the Aviator isn't also the size of a parking garage.

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Optional hybrid power

The base engine, if you can call it that, is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 good for 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Since it rides on the new Ford Motor Company platform that will underpin the next Explorer, rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard.

If you really want to hustle the kids to lacrosse practice, though, the Aviator Grand Touring offers plug-in hybrid tech by way of an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Net output is 450 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. As for all-electric range and figures of that ilk, Lincoln didn't divulge any battery specifications, saying only that it's compact enough to live under the passenger side of the vehicle without impacting interior space.

The PHEV Aviator will have two additional drive modes, as well, in addition to the usual suspects like sport and bad-weather modes. Pure EV mode will allow the Aviator to roll on electrons alone, while Preserve EV will maintain the battery's current charge level to ensure it's ready when it's needed.

All the tech trimmings

The Aviator is positively brimming with the latest tech Lincoln has to offer. It'll be the first Lincoln to let an owner use their phone as a key. The system runs on Bluetooth Low Energy, and owners can "pass off" their keys to other people as they see fit. The phone will do everything the regular remote can, including opening the trunk and remotely starting the vehicle. If a phone dies, there's a keypad on the B-pillar that'll grant access to the vehicle, and entering a second code on the touchscreen will permit vehicle operation.

Even its four-corner air suspension is smart. A new system relies on a camera to map the road ahead. It's reportedly capable of measuring the size and depth of potholes or bumps, adjusting the suspension to soak up the bump.

Lincoln's CoPilot360 Plus suite of active and passive driver aids is standard. It can hold itself in the center of its lane on the highway, stopping and going as traffic begins to snarl. It can provide extra boost in the steering to help a driver avoid a collision, and it'll now automatically brake if it believes it'll contact an object when reversing. The automatic parking function now does everything itself -- all an owner needs to do is hold a single button, and it'll take care of the brakes, gas, steering and transmission.

Audiophiles will dig the optional Revel 3D audio upgrade, which packs the cabin with 28 speakers, including some in the headliner. 30-way adjustable power front seats are optional, as is a wireless phone charging pad under the center armrest. A Wi-Fi hotspot that can accommodate 10 devices is standard. The Aviator also has a new HUD that, thankfully, works with polarized sunglasses.

Light on debut deets

When the Aviator goes on sale, the timing of which is still TBD, it'll have some serious competition in the midsize luxury SUV segment. It'll be up against two- and three-row heavy hitters like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and Volvo XC90. All that torque certainly won't hurt its chances.

That's some fancy metal trim there.

Lincoln

LA Auto Show 2018: Check out all our show coverage here.

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