Lincoln Aviator is underpinned by an all-new, rear-wheel-drive architecture (image: Lincoln).

Lincoln Aviator: new rear-drive platform, plug-in option

Just prior to a 2018 New York auto show that promised to headline virtually no new models that weren’t crossover SUVs of some sort, Ford’s Lincoln premium-vehicle brand unveiled an all-new Aviator that goes on sale in 2019 to give the restructuring brand a formidable player in the crucial midsize-luxury crossover segment.  

At a media presentation before the New York show, Lincoln was careful regarding exacting details such as dimensions and specifics about the new Aviator’s two available powertrains—executives and engineers would not commit even to a model-year designation—but did offer perhaps one of the most significant engineering aspects of the new crossover: it is based on an all-new, rear-wheel-drive unibody architecture internally designated CD6. This new platform also will enable all-wheel-drive, of course, but the brand’s engineers and design director David Woodhouse underscored the well-known intrinsic vehicle-dynamics and design advantages imparted by a rear-drive layout.

And in promising that all future Lincolns will be electrified in some fashion, Joy Falotico, Lincoln group vice president and chief marketing officer, confirmed that the new Aviator will offer the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain when it goes on sale in 2019.

John Davis, chief program engineer for the Aviator, said powertrain specifics will be detailed at a later date, but told Automotive Engineering the new crossover will feature a twin-turbocharged gasoline engine as its conventional powertrain—and that engine with plug-in hybridization will mark the first time a twin-turbocharged engine will be coupled with PHEV technology. Ford currently has twin-turbocharged V-6s in a variety of displacements and power outputs, but Davis would not indicate which, if any, of those V-6s might be earmarked for the new Aviator.  

Three rows, big tows

The Aviator’s new platform imparts the dimensions for three rows of seats and Lincoln sources said the three-row layout is the only configuration in which the new crossover will launch. There will be the choice of rear-drive or all-wheel-drive (AWD), although it is not clear if the PHEV powertrain option will be available with either driveline choice.

Davis said the rear-drive configuration is expected to be the choice for customers who want maximum towing capability or for those in fair-weather regions who don’t desire AWD.

He said Lincoln committed to the new CD6 rear-drive architecture for several reasons: overall dynamic ability, including the potential to achieve near-ideal 50/50 weight distribution between front and rear axles; it “sets up the very long and elegant wheelbase;” it provides maximum towing capability and, finally, imparts the dash-to-(front) axle ratio to project a premium design.

The Aviator is fitted with a keyless entry system that will allow locking and unlocking with a thumbprint. Inside, there is a unique “floating” center console and the brand’s now-expected pushbutton transmission selection, as well as a driver’s head-up display with advanced functionalities.

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