'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Especially when it's yourself you're imitating' is how Lincoln touted the all new Aviator, which was very similar to the Navigator. Much of the Aviator's styling was borrowed from the Navigator, and though it didn't look much different from the Ford Explorer, the Aviator received pretty positive press coverage. The Lincoln Aviator was available in both Luxury and Premium trims, with either automatic all-wheel or rear-wheel drive.
The Lincoln Aviator was the most luxurious of all SUVs. Produced by Ford's Lincoln luxury division, the Aviator was a mid-sized sport utility vehicle that debuted in 2003. Production unfortunately lasted for only two years and was discontinued in August 2005. Also unfortunate was that the Aviator was priced very similar to the bigger and popular Ford Expedition. The Aviator borrows its body-on-frame platform from the Ford Explorer while its luxurious interior and exterior style was taken from the Lincoln Navigator. When Car and Driver reviewed the Aviator, is stated that its main drawbacks lay in the car's high price, and also the lack of certain features put it in fifth place.
The Aviator did feature very popular creative comforts that included heated leather seats, power pedals, and power everything and a variety of both standard and optional safety features. Heated and cooled seats were offered with the Premium trim, and other options included a navigation system, DVD player and a sunroof.
Built solely at Ford's St. Louis Assembly plant in Hazelwood Missouri, the Aviator faced their main competition; the Infiniti FX, Lexus GX and the Cadillac SRX. The Lincoln Aviator base RWD model was priced at $39,940 while the AWD model topped at $42,890. The Aviator was offered with a 4.6 L DOHC V8, 302 hp gasoline engine, a stronger standard engine than the Explorer, and a 5-speed automatic tuned for 302-hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque.
The Aviator appealed to drivers without children, who were looking for more cargo space, towing power, three rows of seating and AWD capability. Though at first it received positive feedback, the Aviator was a very poor sell for Lincoln. Sales never amounted to much; maybe because the equipment list didn't offer much from those of the less expensive Mountaineer and Explorer in looks, but it wasn't distinct enough in comparison to its older sibling. A common complaint was that the third row offered little legroom. Another one of the reasons the Aviator lacked in popularity may have been since the looks were all too familiar. The price was also pretty hefty and the low fuel economy didn't help either.
The Premium trim became the Ultimate before it was dropped and offered only as an option package. In 2005 the traction control with rollover protection became standard. The Aviator wasn't equipped for off-roading and it lacked low-range gearing though the all-wheel drive system provided additional security in rough climates or tricky driving situations.
The plan was to re-introduce the Aviator in 2006 on the CD3 platform, but Ford chose to replace the Aviator with the Lincoln MKX mid-size crossover SUV. The MKX was debuted at the 2006 North American International Auto Show and a 2007 model was put on the market in December of 2006.By Jessica Donaldson