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NY 2018: Lincoln Aviator touches down

28 March 2018 | by Chris Maillard

The enormous Navigator is Lincoln’s flagship product, but you might assume that its gigantic luxury-liner style would be tricky to diffuse downwards into a smaller package. However, the new Aviator, a plug-in hybrid (though one which still proudly boasts twin turbos) is a very creditable effort at doing just that. Though not strictly a production car, it’s much more than just a concept, described as a ‘production preview’.

Lincoln Design Director David Woodhouse explained his thoughts on downsizing without downgrading to us – and the interesting ideas behind the Aviator’s distinctive interior. Check out our picture gallery at right for more detail shots.

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“With the Aviator, we were able to use more detailing, particularly on the sides,” he said. “The Navigator is in some ways a utility vehicle – its size makes it necessary to make it seem like a big box. It needs that bulk. But with this we could add more sculpting to the bodyside and give it a little more refinement.

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“Though it is smaller, the Aviator is still a three-row SUV, and we worked hard to get the roofline to sweep smoothly down towards the rear while still allowing a six-footer to sit in the third row comfortably. That echoes the rocker line which sweeps up, giving it something of the profile of an aeroplane wing from the side. I'm pleased with the way that gives it a dignified, gliding stance rather then an aggressive nose-down attitude. That’s a Lincoln hallmark.

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“Horizontal elements are another hallmark. The door handles and the light bar at the rear are good examples of this. Basically, when we look at an element of any design we always try to make it horizontal rather than vertical or at 45 degrees. It’s simple but it works.”

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Another example of the horizontal approach is the interior, particularly the dash. This carries over a strong theme from the Navigator – the horizon line. David explained; “this is as a reference to the sea-meets-sky line which humans associate with a feeling of peace and tranquillity; a subliminal clue which also gives it a distinctive style, particularly with a separation between the centre console and the dash.”

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New on the Aviator are elegant aluminium vents, matching the perforated door panels and echoing a strip of machine-turned aluminium running along the width of the dash top. That itself is an echo of the early days of aviation, which was a continuing inspiration, from Bell & Ross aviators’ watches with their clean functionality and use of light tones for the leather, to Howard Hughes’ H-1 racing aeroplane with its hand-formed aluminium skin.

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This pre-production version only has one style of trim, with other options to be announced when it is officially launched as a production car (“which won't be long at all,” confirms David). We’re looking forward to seeing it – the Navigator is apparently selling extremely well since its refresh, and the Aviator’s style is distinctive enough to form a highly credible American alternative to the other well-thought-of SUVs’ characters – particularly Volvo’s Nordic cool and Land Rover’s upmarket Britishness. 

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