The Lincoln Aviator is the latest new model from the luxury American brand, and industry watchers say it is yet more evidence that the brand has returned to its roots.
After showing off a concept version of the vehicle at the New York Auto Show in early 2018, the brand is unveiling the production version at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.
The Aviator comes as Lincoln is still enjoying the astounding success it has had with the 2018 redesign of the Lincoln Navigator. After Lincoln introduced that vehicle, the company was selling them so fast it was having trouble keeping production up. That momentum has largely continued throughout the year. In the month of October Navigator sales were up 70 percent over the same month in 2017. Many customers are opting for the most luxurious versions, such as the Black Label, which can command prices up to $100,000.
Now the brand is aiming to repeat the trick in another segment.
The 2019 Lincoln Aviator is a smaller SUV than the Navigator, and it is the latest step Ford's luxury brand is taking in carving out a place for itself as a purveyor of spacious and comfortable SUVs that float over the pavement.
The Aviator is a resurrected brand — Lincoln first sold it from 2002 to 2005. The Aviator shares some design language with the Navigator, such as the distinctive design of its wheels and its plush leather seats.
But there are several firsts here that suggest Lincoln is not simply trying to make a smaller Navigator replica. The brand commissioned the Detroit Symphony to design all the interior alert chimes for the doors. The vehicle also has the ability to "see" potholes and uneven pavement and adjust the suspension to keep the ride smooth.
"It is not overstating it to say Lincoln has got its mojo back," said Karl Brauer, who is executive publisher for Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. "The company in the last couple of years has made some really positive moves."
The models Lincoln has come out with recently, including the Navigator and the Continental full-size sedan, show that the company has tried to carve more of a traditionally American niche out for itself by making vehicles that emphasize plush interiors and gentle, floating rides. This is a departure from older habits in Detroit of trying to make American versions of European brands that emphasized sportier designs and features, such as those found in BMWs.
"I think Lincoln discovered that they were much better at being Lincoln than they were at being the American version of BMW," he said.
That said, it is perfectly fine if Lincoln wants to come out with a high-performance variant of a sedan or SUV, he added. The Aviator will offer a performance trim level of the vehicle that will come with a combination hybrid and twin turbocharged powertrain that Lincoln said is a first for the brand.