Finally had a chance to check out the Aviator in person at my dealership for a preview on a pre-production Reserve II.
First off, it looks better in person. Though, I am not trying to say it doesn't look good in photos. For one, I am super happy that I was able to sit in it and make several seat adjustments. being 6-foot 3 I was almost concerned about the space. After spending a good 40 minutes with it and the Lincoln rep from Detroit I am happy to see that there is plenty room and I can even fit behind my front-seat adjustment in the 2nd row. I saw a couple videos of the second row and I became a bit concerned about the space but after checking it out in person there is plenty of room for tall individuals up front and in the second row (captains chairs). Moreover, the cargo room was decent. Not really large behind the 3rd row but more than I was expecting, and that's comparing it to a few other 3-row crossovers I've driven and reviewed. The headroom is plentiful unlike what some videos may tell you. Take my word, I adjusted the 30-way seats several times and had time to "play around" with all seat adjustments.
one thing to note before I go on is that I have been an automotive journalist for over 15 years now mostly through my publication (automotiveaddicts.com). I have driven well over 1,000 cars and somewhat consider myself to be an expert.
This is the first time I took a chance on ordering a vehicle without driving it. Pretty darn crazy and risky... I know.
Other takeaways from my visit with the Aviator is that the air suspension system continually makes adjustments even when the vehicle is stationary. With the vehicle power on (no engine running) the suspension system adjusted to keep the vehicle level when people got in the back and shut the door. Pneumatic door latches work flawlessly despite them sounding a bit clunky when opening the door. The interior was very well thought out and the new vehicle chimes are a nice touch.
I asked about the start-stop system and its lack of a physical button to disable. The disable toggle on screen and be brought up by one button press on the dashboard and then a click of the touch screen. The system will revert back to being ON after a new key-start. Though, there is a method to disable it quickly by toggling the drive mode to Excite, which is a turn of the knob counterclockwise. <--- cheap way of disabling it quickly but the vehicle will then be in its "sport" / Excite mode.
The tech was saying the latest version of the 3.0-liter TT V6 "probably puts out way more power than Ford claims" - I said I would not quote him on that but its just "speculation" haha. He said the Aviator also has the sport brakes of the Explorer ST but not the track brakes, which are only just a Pad change (different pad surface)... otherwise, the sport brakes option on the Explorer is what we get on the Aviator by default.
As far as delivery date, there is a lot of conflicting info out there. Tech says several Aviators have been built but are just sitting awaiting "release" - However, there is a month delay that is being discussed for some reason. No mention as to the reason. Tech still says some of the early orders should arrive at dealers in July. So, take that with a grain of salt for now. My thought is they want them to go through the "review" cycle with top auto magazines first before they release them. Currently, TODAY, the new 2020 Explorer is being tested by auto journalists and their opinions of the vehicle are embargoed until next week. I think the Aviator tests will happen within weeks as well.
The 22-inch wheels and tires actually look nice in person and fill up the wheel well. Again, another aspect that looks better in person than in photos. The engine is mounted very low and there are strut tower braces installed. The hood latch is now like BMWs with the two pulls and does not require you to hunt for a hood latch under the hood.. you just lift it up now and let the hood struts do their job.
Only thing thus far I was disappointed with is the lower-lower door trim is hard plastic... but I was not able to confirm if it is that way in the production unit. This pre-production unit was a very very early one that has been sitting for a few months in California. Tech says there were several "improvements" made from this vehicle to the production units. So, take whatever you will from that. We shall see very soon.
The switchgear in the Aviator is all different from the Explorer... at least all that you can "touch". I was impressed by the immersion of soft touch surfaces and a high-level of quality... mostly like the current Navigator. Though, there was something more cohesive about the Aviator over the Navigator as if the interior fits around passengers better. Should be able to get a better grasp on this when I drive it... hopefully in the next couple of weeks when the dealer is said to get in their first demo unit. I will be sure to report back.
Overall, the Aviator looks to be a winner and offers much more over the Explorer - don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I've seen both in person now and there's plenty of "extra" substance to justify the Aviator's pricing, especially when you start to configure the competition with the same features.
Lincoln has a winner here! Now, they need to hurry up and release the builds.