2005 Lincoln Aviator

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2003 Lincoln Aviator

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Strategic addition to Lincoln lineup.
Pros:
  • European driving feel
  • Roomy
  • Luxurious
Cons:
  • Fuel-thirsty
  • Third seat comfortable only for short trips
  • Small audio controls

Lincoln breaks into the growing market for midsize sport-utility vehicles for the first time with its new Aviator.

The 2003 Aviator looks much like the automaker's bigger, revamped Navigator with such things as a prominent grille. But —surprise!—this new Lincoln has definite European-style handling.

It's expected that the Aviator would be roomy, which it certainly is with space for up to seven occupants. But one also might think it would be rather soft, considering its upscale U.S. nameplate, Lincoln's older audience and the fact that many midsize sport-utes wouldn't be considered for handling awards.

European-Style Driving Feel
However, Ford Motor's Lincoln wanted the Aviator to have the driving character of its European-style Lincoln LS sedan, which has a modified platform from Ford-owned Jaguar.

The Aviator's quick steering, nimble handling and strong braking make this vehicle fun to drive and should go a long way toward keeping drivers out of trouble. The ride is firm, as with some top European sport-utes, but not uncomfortable.

An optional traction control/anti-skid system was scheduled to be offered by the end of 2002, and also a tire-pressure monitoring system that will warn of underinflated tires. That's a key option for a vehicle that weighs a hefty 4,834 to 5,002 pounds—although it feels lighter.

Based on Ford Explorer
To hold costs down, the Aviator is based on the Ford Explorer and similar Mercury Mountaineer, which were recently redesigned with such nifty items as an independent rear suspension for better ride and handling, along with more interior room.

But key changes have been made to make the Aviator significantly different from those vehicles.

Plenty of Power
For instance, the top horsepower rating of the Explorer/Mountaineer 4.6-liter V8 is 239. But the Aviator's modified version of that V8 pumps out 302 horsepower and more torque at lower engine speeds for lively acceleration off the line and at highway speeds.

The engine loafs at 75 mph and has a special exhaust system that makes the Aviator very quiet in the best luxury sport-utility tradition. And you can't get the Aviator's big 17-inch wheels as standard equipment on the Explorer/Mountaineer.

Mediocre Fuel Economy
The V8 works with an advanced 5-speed automatic transmission, but fuel economy is poor, as with all powerful midsize sport-utility vehicles. Estimated economy is 13 mpg in the city and 18 on highways. And the high-performance engine calls for 91-octane gasoline.

The Aviator has a third-row seat that is fairly easy to reach and features surprisingly good leg room. However, that seat's stiff construction makes it tolerable only for short trips.

The third-row seat allows room for seven occupants, unless the available middle-row bucket seats drops that number to six.

The second- and third-row seats fold flat to allow a large cargo area. That's a good thing because there isn't much cargo space when the third-row seat is in its normal position. The smooth operating liftgate has a convenient two-piece design.

Well-Equipped
Offered are Luxury and Premium trims with rear-drive or an all-wheel-drive system with no low-range gearing because this isn't meant to be an off-road vehicle. Base prices range from $39,255 to $42,175 for the Luxury version. They go from $42,205 to $45,125 for the Premium trim.

The Luxury version has lots of comfort, convenience and safety items. They include power adjustable pedals, dual-zone climate control and an auxiliary climate control system for second- and third-row passengers. There's a rear obstacle-detection system and even integrated turn signal repeaters in the "portrait-shaped" heated power side mirrors.

The Premium trim adds such items as heated and cooled front seats, in-dash CD changer and high-intensity headlights.

Among the few options are a power sunroof and navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems to prevent you from getting lost and for keeping the kids entertained back there.

The Aviator doesn't have the Navigator's nifty power running boards, but its running boards are partially concealed by the doors—allowing those boards to be wide enough for large shoes without sticking out excessively. Large, easily gripped door handles also help entry into this tall vehicle.

Elegant Retro-Style Dashboard
Good style never goes out of style, which is why the twin-hooded dashboard looks elegant. It's reminiscent of the classic, cleaned styled 1961 Lincoln Continental's dash.

Adding to the Aviator's luxury status are such items as burl walnut and satin nickel finishes.

Sound system controls are too small, but a nicely integrated flip-down access panel conceals that system's controls to deter thieves. There also is laminated front-door glass to help protect again smash-and-grab robberies—and to reduce wind and road noise.

Safety Items
Safety items include curtain side airbags for first- and second-row seats; the bags are designed to deploy in a side collision and roll-over.

New models are constantly being added to the midsize sport-utility market. The Aviator is one of the best such models.

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BB02 - 8/21/2014 7:20:36 PM