Lincoln sells a lot of cars — well, they sell a lot of car models, anyway. Sales for any particular Lincoln have been minuscule since Ford stopped making Crown Vics, which was the death knell for the closely related Lincoln Town Car. Now, “black car” companies are buying Toyota Avalons, BMW 5s, Chrysler 300s, and, now and then, other Lincolns.
Meanwhile, there’s General Motors with its highly successful large SUVs, succeeding where nobody else has been able to make much of a dent. The Yukon, Suburban, Tahoe, and Escalade have made their way into American’s hearts mostly by doing what they do well and without fuss. They were the bright spot of GM’s lineup 20 years ago and 10 years ago, and remain so now. Ford may dominate pickups, and Ram may be encroaching on GM in pickups as well, but in big pickup-based SUVs, the General reigns.
The 2019 Lincoln Navigator is part of Ford’s attempt to wrest that business from GM, aimed directly at the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon; it’s essentially a tarted-up version of the Ford Expedition SUV, which starts at a stunning $52,000 (the Tahoe starts at $48,000 and the Suburban at $51,000).
The Aviator is part two of that strategy, going up against both the full-size GM SUVs and the midsize Dodge Durango. While the Navigator is an overweight monster, the Aviator is based on the unibody next-generation Ford Explorer, which helps the weight problem a bit. It’s also ten inches shorter, bumper to bumper, than the Lincoln Navigator land yacht, coming out to 200 inches long. Unlike the current Explorer, the Aviator will be rear wheel drive based, with roughly 50/50 weight distribution. The move to rear wheel drive is apparently partly to enhance towing. At least one engine will be a twin-turbo 2.7 liter V6, with a PHEV option claimed to be on the way. A rather clever feature (possibly optional) is to look for road problems ahead and adjust the suspension accordingly, making potholes and speed bumps much easier on the driver (and the car).
The Lincoln should arrive shortly before the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Wagoneer; the latter is to be based on the Ram pickup, and will likely be far more off-road capable than the Ford or Lincoln, though that matters to a vanishingly small group of potential buyers. Given Chrysler’s past timing issues, the market for supersized SUVs should collapse around 2021.
David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s, including books on the Dodge Viper, classic Jeeps, and Chrysler minivans. He also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.com and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today.