Two All-New Lincoln SUVs: The 2020 Corsair + Aviator

American-made luxury autos that steer the brand toward a bright future

In a consumer culture driven by experience and emotion, people want their things to do some talking for them—and specifically for the product name to carry some weight. With Lincoln‘s Navigator, Continental, Aviator, and Corsair, there’s a recognizable theme. These names (unlike the uninspired alphabet soup of MKZ and MKX that the brand wisely dropped) declare that the driver has not only arrived, but they’re not staying put for long. The goal of any luxury product (especially luxury cars) is to be a coveted, aspirational item. And over the past decade, Lincoln gradually made itself a brand for the upwardly mobile.

For younger generations, Lincoln is perhaps best known for the iconic “suicide door” (now re-branded as the “coach door”) drop-top Continental. But for older generations, Lincoln is more notoriously known, albeit adjacent to a President’s assassination. And Lincoln was the brand that embraced some of the worst automotive trends of the car industry’s Malaise Era, and took them to extremes: opera windows, vinyl tops, carpeted doors and dashboards. They were not alone, as every American automaker churned out their fair share of questionably-styled luxury vehicles in the decades following the 1973 oil crisis. While there were a few bright spots, it wasn’t until after the turn of the millennium that a modicum of legitimate quality returned to American-made luxury vehicles.

Lincoln has hit their stride since re-arranging their priorities following the 2008 recession. With Oldsmobile and Mercury folding, Chrysler specializing in minivans, and Cadillac chasing German levels of performance, there was a clear opportunity for Lincoln to become the American luxury automaker if they approached that goal wisely. Soon, the brand found a direction and committed to it. Having the Navigator lead the way was clever, and since the re-designed full-size SUV launched, the trajectory of Lincoln has remained positive. With the arrival of Aviator and Corsair, it’s even better.

Starting with the new Navigator and gaining momentum with the new Continental, Lincoln was clearly on a roll. The Aviator takes everything that’s great about the Navigator and condenses it into a more manageable package—albeit one that still has a third row and captains chairs. Its interior is among the most impressive in its class.

The Corsair brings that same quality down to a mid-size crossover, the most hotly contested vehicle segment in the marketplace. The easiest way to gauge the quality of a vehicle these days isn’t by what it has, but rather what it’s missing, considering how generously equipped they can be. While driving the Aviator and subsequently the Corsair, there wasn’t an instance when we went looking for a feature only to find it omitted.

Each vehicle puts its own spin on the family styling derived from the Navigator, but does so with surprising grace. The Aviator (especially the top of the line Black Label plug-in hybrid) is a joy to be in, whether calmly cruising or making haste, thanks to an adaptive air-suspension that’s quite good at making road imperfections imperceptible.

The Corsair goes further in its ability to be hustled on a winding road, but despite its size, it is surprisingly adept at conquering corners—again thanks to a well-tuned adaptive suspension. That’s not the point of the vehicle, but it’s a welcome bonus. The plug-in hybrid’s real party trick is its 3.0L twin-turbo V6, which makes 630 lb-ft of torque (more than plenty) with an assist from a 75 kilowatt electric motor when needed. It doesn’t launch like a rocket, but it pulls like a freight train. Passing is effortless with the electric assist smoothing out the V6’s torque curve and the result dovetails nicely with Lincoln’s overall mission to deliver an experience they call Quiet Flight.

Both the Aviator and Corsair feature relaxing cabins packed with premium materials, with the Aviator pushing deep into the upper echelons of luxury in Black Label form and the Corsair occupying more accessible territory. Regardless of which vehicle or trim you choose, though, you’ll be welcomed in with warm cabin lighting and chimes recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Furthering the enjoyment are massaging 30-way adjustable cushion-on-exo-frame front seats and a crystal-clear 28-speaker Revel Ultima sound system. From knurled control knobs that deliver a satisfying click when turned, to clever driver screen animations that signal changing drive modes, these vehicles blend the best of the past with the present. In carefully doing so, Lincoln has given the Corsair and Aviator a personal touch and in turn given the brand a bright future.

Images by Andrew Maness