2003 Aviator New Car Test Drive
Lincoln showrooms have been like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboards of late: rather bare. But Lincoln's cupboards are now being re-stocked, and the most recent addition is the 2003 Aviator sport utility.
Ford's luxury division has been eliminating models from its line. Gone is the aging Continental along with the Blackwood, an impractical but expensive sport-utility vehicle with a pickup bed that never took off. In essence, all that Lincoln dealers have had to sell is the LS entry-luxury sedan, the Town Car and the Navigator sport-utility.
The Aviator, on sale since November, is the luxury marque's first midsize sport-utility vehicle. It is part of Lincoln's two-prong strategy for attracting different sets of buyers to the brand. Lincoln executives, who saw division sales tumble by 5.6 percent in 2002 to 150,057 vehicles, according to industry trade journal Automotive News, plan to invest in its traditional vehicles like the Town Car to retain loyal buyers, refine fairly recent models such as the LS and Navigator to keep the new customers it has attracted and add new products to lure younger, affluent buyers. Indeed, they hope the Aviator's smaller dimensions and lower price will lure buyers, whose average age is expected to be about 45 years old, a decade younger than Navigator owners, with more of them being women.
Based on the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, the Aviator drives into an increasingly crowded neighborhood of sport utilities with price tags that soar well above $40,000. It goes up against newly introduced midsize luxury sport utilities like the Lexus GX 470 and Infiniti FX45. It will also face the upcoming Volkswagen Touareg and Cadillac SRX. And it will challenge the relative old-timers, the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
Lincoln Aviator comes in two trim levels, Luxury and Premium. Both include a long list of standard features.
Luxury ($39,255) comes standard with six-way power front seats with two memory settings; AM/FM/in-dash CD audio system with steering wheel-mounted controls; dual-zone electronic climate control and auxiliary climate controls for rear seat passengers; heated power-adjustable side mirrors with built in puddle lamps and turn-signal indicators; power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals; and a back-up obstacle detection system.
Premium ($42,205) adds more equipment, including heated and cooled front seats. Options on both include a power moonroof ($1,595), a rear entertainment system with a DVD player and wireless headphones ($1,295), and a Class III towing package offering a 7,300-pound towing capacity ($295). Other options include a DVD-based navigation system and tire-pressure monitoring system.
Under the hood, the Aviator is outfitted with Ford's 4.6-liter DOHC V8 engine, rated at 302 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque. The V8 is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Aviator comes with a choice of rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive ($2920). Two all-wheel drive systems are available. Early models use a permanently engaged system that shifts power between the front and rear wheels. A more sophisticated AdvanceTrac system will also be available that shifts power front to rear and side to side for better traction in snow and ice and improved stability.
Aviator is outfitted with a host of safety features. Side airbags are not offered, however. Instead, Lincoln offers an optional Safety Canopy air curtain to provide protection for first- and second-row occupants in side impacts and rollovers. Other automakers offer both side airbags and a side curtain. Other safety and security features on the Aviator include: front safety belts with pretensioners and load-limiting retractors; three-point lap and shoulder belts for all seating positions; childproof rear-door locks; LATCH universal child safety seat latches; SecuriLock passive anti-theft system; remote keyless entry; approach lamps; and adjustable pedals.