U.S.:2003 Lincoln Aviator Kitty Hawk Edition Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
Lincoln hit a home run with its full-sized Navigator. If it wasn't
the first full-sized luxury sport-utility, the Navigator was the one that
seriously jump-started growth in the class. It also jump-started
How to follow such a success? With more of the same, of course.
And so Lincoln now has the mid-sized Aviator. In looks and in
character it is very much a smaller sibling to the second-generation
2003 Navigator. Offered with rear- or all-wheel drive, the Aviator
features fully-independent suspension for luxury sedan comfort and
handling and a 302-horsepower V8 engine for effortless cruising.
That strength has other uses, too. With the optional Class III
trailering package, towing capacity is at the head of the mid-sized
luxury SUV class at 7100 lbs for all-wheel drive models and 7300
lbs for rear-drive versions.
The Aviator's two standard trim levels tell all: ``Luxury'' and
``Premium.'' As is necessary for success in the luxury class, it is
sumptuously and comprehensively equipped, and options like a
DVD-based navigation system and DVD-based rear seat
entertainment system give it parity with the competition. Useable
interior space puts it ahead of the competition, with a choice of
second-row captain's chairs or a 40/20/40 split bench, and a standard
third-row seat that can actually hold real adults in comfort.
And if ``Premium'' isn't premium enough, there is the limited-
production ``Kitty Hawk Edition.'' Ford Motor Company is 100
years old in 2003, and 2003 is the 100th anniversary of the Wright
brothers' first successful powered flight, at Kitty Hawk, North
Carolina. The vehicle name is Aviator, which leads to the Kitty
Hawk Edition, the official vehicle of the Experimental Aircraft
Association's ``Countdown to Kitty Hawk'' celebration. It is, like
Henry's Model T, available in any color you want as long as it's
black, and features unique exterior and interior trim and badging on
top of the Premium-level specification. One has been my
transportation for the past week. I've been surprised and impressed
by its power and competence on the road and its excellent interior
design, spaciousness, and comfort. With trucks like this, there is no
wonder that an increasing number of luxury cars are trucks.
APPEARANCE: Set up an Aviator the correct distance in front of a
current Navigator so that they look the same size and you will be
hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two. Did someone in
the design department just bring up the Navigator plans on the CAD
machine and press the ``smaller'' button? The gently-rounded two-
box SUV shape becomes Lincoln courtesy of a large, bold chrome-
trimmed grille and bulging hood with a small clerestory strip down
the center. Integrated bumpers with foglamps merge with the line of
the wheel arches and side cladding. The taillights say ``Navigator'' as
well. Befitting the Aviator's luxury and pavement-oriented nature,
running boards are standard fare. The Kitty Hawk Edition is, as
mentioned, monochrome black, and its discreet special badging
features the Wright Flyer.
COMFORT: The Aviator's interior combines shapes from Lincoln's
heritage with contemporary design and trim for a fresh, youthful,
and original look. The Kitty Hawk Edition features black leather
seats, embroidered floor mats, and mink zebrano wood trim.
Depending on configuration, second row bench or buckets, there
really is room for up to seven people. Unlike most other mid-sized
SUVs, the Aviator's third-row bench has enough leg and head room
so that two occupants will still be friendly after time spent there, and
three are possible. The third-row seat folds flat when not needed.
My test vehicle had second-row buckets, which flip and fold for easy
third-row access. The dual-level second row center console adds
passenger convenience but detracts from cargo ability - but Aviator
owners can use a rather large trailer (7000-plus lbs worth) if serious
cargo is necessary. Why mess up the interior? If fitted, the DVD
entertainment system is easily viewed from the second and third
rows. Up front, the driver and front passenger get very comfortable
heated and cooled bucket seats. The perfect driving position can be
easily found thanks to good adjustability plus the tilt-adjustable
wood-and-leather steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals.
Backlit instruments are easily visible in any lighting. My Aviator had
the optional DVD navigation system. The screen can be hidden
behind a flip-down panel, and the six-disc CD changer is behind the
LCD nav system screen. That sort of space utilization extends to the
many storage spaces in the cabin.
SAFETY: Safety features of the Lincoln Aviator include the
``Personal Safety System''(tm) of dual-stage air bags, safety belt
pretensioners, and load-limiting retractors, the ``Safety Canopy''(tm)
side curtain air bags, and the optional ``AdvanceTrac''(tm) stability
ROADABILITY: The Aviator has truck-standard body-on-frame
construction, but you'd never know that from the driving experience.
Both the frame and body structures are very rigid, and a fully-
independent suspension dispatches any hint of truck origins. Other
than the high-eyepoint driver's perspective from its height, the
Aviator could be a contemporary American luxury sedan in its ride
and handling, with a smooth, moderately firm and well-damped ride
and good handling considering its high center of gravity. A relatively
small turning circle makes maneuvering and parking easy.
PERFORMANCE: A sports car engine in a sport-utility? Believe it.
The specs for the Aviator's dual overhead cam, aluminum alloy V8
don't tell the whole story. While 302 horsepower at 5750 rpm and
300 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm are impressive, the power delivery
and excellent five-speed automatic transmission are what make it
work, and work well. There is plenty of torque right from a
standstill, useful for both traffic and towing, and no shortage as
engine and vehicle speed increase. Acceleration and merging are
absolutely no problem, and when it comes time to stop, large four-
wheel antilock discs do the job.
CONCLUSIONS: Luxury comfort meets strength in the Lincoln Aviator.
2003 Lincoln Aviator Kitty Hawk Edition
Base Price $ 45,125
Price As Tested $ 54,635
Engine Type dual overhead cam 32-valve
aluminum alloy V8
Engine Size 4.6 liters / 281 cu. in.
Horsepower 302 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 300 @ 3250 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 113.7 in. / 193.3 in.
Curb Weight 5002 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.6
Fuel Capacity 22.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires P245/65 SR17
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm with coil springs independent short-and-long arm with toe link, coil springs
Ground clearance 8.6 in.
Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 13 / 18 / 14
0 to 60 mph est. 8.5 sec
Towing capacity (class III) 7100 lbs
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Power moonroof and medium overhead console $1,595
Kitty Hawk Edition - includes:
17-inch chrome wheels, tire pressure monitoring system,
special trim $ 2,295
Class III trailer towing package $ 295
Navigation system package - includes:navigation system, steering wheel,
and mirror $ 2,495
Interactive vehicle dynamics $ 795
DVD entertainment system $ 1,295
Destination charge $ 740
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.....