- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

There will be those who may perceive the new Aviator SUV from the Lincoln camp as nothing more than a down-sized Navigator, while others may be prone to categorize it as a "Lincolnized" Explorer.
Perception, as with beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder, and isn't always reality. The Lincoln Aviator is a midsized, luxury, four-door SUV with all the amenities needed for a crosscountry jaunt on or off pavement featuring four-wheel independent suspension and premium leather seating in three rows.
The Aviator incorporates several design cues from its larger sibling, the Navigator. Outside, these cues include the chrome signature Lincoln grille and overall form concept. The Aviator is bold and muscular,and though smaller than the Navigator, it still possesses a strong presence.
Moving inside, the blend of satin nickel, American burl walnut wood trim; premium leather and white light-emitting-diode instrument illumination is easy on the eyes. The rear opening complements the forward four doors with a combination upper liftgate (partial) with integrated glass, or full lift hatch. In essence, the Aviator really does come across as an unsanforized Navigator, which is not a bad thing.
Power for the Aviator comes from a 4.6-liter DOHC, 32-valve aluminum V-8 that generates 302 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque.
The transmission is a five-speed, electronically controlled automatic with overdrive lockout, transferring power to either the rear wheels (2WD) or all-wheels (AWD),with an optional traction and stability enhancement system called AdvanceTrac.
The Lincoln Aviator is truly a premium SUV in its own right. Power is more than adequate, handling borders on the level of a luxury sedan, not to mention comfort. It seems unfortunate that it must live in the shadow of the Navigator.
In terms of functionality, the standard third-row seating may be fine for children, but provides a limited comfort zone for full-sized adults access for either is difficult at best. I had occasion to ferry four adults and one child in a car seat plus cargo installation of the car seat was more safely and easily accomplished in the second row on the curb side, necessitating one of the adults crawling in an ungraceful manner over the remaining folded second-row seat on the street side.
This is a problem that seems inherent in most midsize SUVs with three-row seating.
A plus for the Aviator would be the power-operated third-row seat, especially for a vehicle encroaching on the $50,000 range.
Despite these small personal, nit-picking issues, the Aviator is a fine SUV with luxurious appointments and a host of standard features and equipment in the Lincoln tradition, capable of transporting family and friends in style.

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