U.S.A.: 2003 Lincoln Aviator
Lincoln's midsize SUV comes with the maximum in comfort and luxury
IF YOU THINK THE spectacular failure of the Blackwood means Lincoln shouldnít do more trucks, think again. Lincoln is selling tons of Navigators these days to those whose automotive desires dictate they drive a house on wheels. Now, the U.S.-based marque in Fordís Premier Automotive Group is out to prove it can go head- to-head with Lexus and Acura, as well as PAGís Swedish mem- ber Volvo, in the midsize luxury SUV department as well.
The Aviatorís interior design represents a new level of what a Lincoln should be, and a new definition of American style. Based on the best-selling Ford Exploreróand looking just like a Navigator, only smalleróthe Aviator is blessed with having the best genes for the job.
Priorities for luxury SUV buyers center more on comfort and ride quality than on plowing through rutted terrain, and naturally, in those areas this Lincoln excels. It has more front-seat headroom than Acuraís MDX, plus more legroom than the MDX, Mer-cedes M-Class, Volvo XC90 or Lexus GX. With a roomy third-row seat that folds flat into the floor, itís a perfectly sized SUV. The Aviator glides over the rough pavement of the urban jungle with ease, and never feels balky, bus-like or tippy, making it one of the best-handling SUVs weíve driven.
Our test vehicle was a four-wheel-drive Aviator. What most impressed us about it was the steering, which provided good self-centering action and straight-ahead stability. This truck was as quiet as the Infiniti G35 we tested, so silent in fact we found ourselves checking the accuracy of our sound measuring equipment. Fit-and-finish is among the best weíve seen in an SUV, with high-quality materials throughout and nothing pickup-like about it.
Visibility in the Aviator is not great, as the wide B- and C-pillars obscure the side and rear views. In this case, a vehicleís side mirrors would be especially important, but the Aviatorís are on the small side, and tall rather than wide, good for tracking airplanes, not cars (itís called the Aviator. Maybe it wants to fly?). Lincoln should address this shortcoming when the Aviator comes due for a facelift.
With a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.06 seconds, the Aviator bested both the Range Rover and the Expedition we tested recently, not surprising given its lighter weight. It also topped the two-wheel-drive Explorer by better than a second and a half. The Aviator and the Explorer both use Fordís 4.6-liter V8, with the Aviatorís engine tuned to make 302 hp while the Explorerís makes just 240 hp.
Braking was not an Aviator strong suit. We found the brakes worked awfully hard bringing the 4818-pound vehicle to a stop. All of the aforementioned SUVs braked better from 60 mph than the Aviator did, which took a long 149 feet to come to a stop.
Owners who weighed in on the Aviator praised its ride quality and comfort features. One owner uses his Aviator to trailer his M3 to the track, and couldnít be happier with its combination of 7300-pound towing capacity and around-town driveability. Complaints included Escort-sized floormats and poor gas mileage, but really, isnít that like getting a dog then being annoyed when it barks?
Lincoln luxury doesnít come cheap. Base-level Aviators with four-wheel drive sticker for $45,865, compared to $36,200 for an MDX and $36,875 for an XC90. Already dealers are offering rebates on the Aviator, something you donít often see so early in a vehicleís model life.
Still, this is an impressive luxury SUV, and if Lincoln works on the little things, like fixing the mirrors, Aviator could be the divisionís ace.
Strong towing capacity
Poor rear view
Lexus GX 470
Specs and Data
Ford Motor Co.
16800 Executive Plaza Drivez
Dearborn MI 48121
Customer assistance: (800) 362-3673
Internet address: lincolnvehicles.com
Country of origin: United States
Number of dealers: 1371
(includes $740 delivery): $51,835
Owners paid; average: $40,000 to $44,200; $42,753
OPTIONS AS TESTED
Navigation system ($2,495); rear-seat DVD
($1,295); 17-inch chrome wheels ($795);
Advance Trac stability and traction control
with roll stability control ($795); tire-pressure
monitor ($295); tow package ($295)
OTHER MAJOR OPTIONS
Moonroof ($1,515); tri-coat paint ($375)
Body-on-frame, four-door sport/utility vehicle
Wheelbase (in): 113.7
Track (in): 60.9 front,
Length/width/height (in): 193.3/76/71.4
Curb weight/GVWR (lbs): 4818/5802
Fuel (gal): 22.5
Cargo (cu ft): 21.0
Towing (lbs): 7300
Front-transverse 4.6-liter/281-cid dohc V8
Horsepower: 302 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 300 @ 3250 rpm
Compression ratio: 9.85:1
Fuel requirement: 87 octane
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Final drive ratio: 3.55:1
Front: Unequal-length control arms with
coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers
and antiroll bar
Rear: Unequal-length control arms with
toe link, coil springs, gas-charged shock
absorbers and antiroll bar
Discs front and rear, ABS
Michelin Pilot LTX
0-60 mph: 8.06 sec
0-100 km/h (62.1 mph): 8.63 sec
0-quarter-mile: 16.14 sec @ 87.7 mph
20-40 mph (first gear): 2.8 sec
40-60 mph (second
and third gear): 4.0 sec
60-80 mph (third gear): 5.5 sec
60 mph-0: 149 ft
490-foot slalom: 39.4 mph
(200-foot skidpad): 0.74 g
INTERIOR NOISE (dBA)
Full throttle: 72
Steady 60 mph: 62
EPA combined: 15.38 mpg
AW overall: 15.36 mpg
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....