Quiet flight, by Lincoln.
Softness: increasingly difficult to find in this harsh world. Interiors can cosset but can an entire car be defined as soft? Practically 2.3 tonnes of metal, glass, plastics and leather suggests otherwise, but Dearborn’s luxury arm begs to differ. Lincoln, until recently home to stately sedans have chosen to park that genre for vehicles of a physically larger nature – taking a more tender route – if one which only those in the US and selected regions can sample.
In an ever-competitive luxury marketplace, the new for 2022 Aviator sees Lincoln up the ante in a most restful manner. Aviator can be optioned with air glide suspension where the car bows to greet the driver or assist with loading – the area lit by what the maker dubs a welcome mat, along with headlights that greet your appearance. For such a well mannered and relaxing-natured car, should it surprise that the interior contains 28 speakers? If only perhaps to hear the fretboard’s movements or the singer catching their breath.
Lincoln’s design mantra of ‘Quiet Flight’ has been overseen by non-natives since 2014. Born in Croatia but raised in Germany, Kemal Curić has been involved with equipé-Ford from 2003. Having inputted upon Euro Fiesta, Mondeo and Kuga, Curić was headhunted across the Atlantic to helm the current generation Mustang before the calmer waters of Lincoln called, initially working alongside Design Director, David Woodhouse. His exterior design work on the final Continental gave way to the rarefied air of the Aviator, a seven seater sports utility. In 2019, following the Australian design director’s departure for Nissan, Curić inherited the top job.
Expanding on the ethos of Quiet Flight, Curić cites four pillars: Human, Beauty, Sanctuary and Gliding. Meeting the first requirement involves customer-focussed, intuitive technology, the second being visual seduction. Sanctuary is what the cabin affords through high end craftwork and materials. Dependant on trim level, those front seats can move in thirty directions. Attending safety chimes come courtesy of the Detroit Philharmonic, the centre console cheerfully minimalistic. The Gliding aspect relates to how any Lincoln should drive. “Similar to a marriage, we want you to enjoy this vehicle for years and appreciate what the vehicle affords you, inside and out”, Curić affirms.
According to Lincoln, Aviator taxies from Standard to Reserve then Grand Touring. There follows Flight, which takes inspiration from the skies – tan leathers, propeller type wheels, while Destination brings diamond weave seating alongside khaya mahogany in a manner which the carmaker believes, turns “travel into art”. Chalet meanwhile contrasts pulse-raising slopes with the comforts of an après-ski lodge. Whilst tempting to poke fun at such rhetoric, Lincoln does appear to be trying hard to soften those inevitable body blows against their competitors.
Divert your antagonism from the Aviator’s bulk to indulge the niceties. Curić points to “The face of the car, the grille is its ‘crown’. Human like eyes. The S shaped body curves show a human-centric, organic, almost sensual feel.” This car is no more aggressive than a cumulonimbus on a July afternoon – no mean feat.
Journalists love to make connections between wristwatches and automobiles, as if one cannot survive without the other. Car designers too are anything but immune. So in a move which may incur previously metered wrath, within Aviator lies an horological link. Curić found inspiration from fellow Detroit-based fashion house, Shinola, makers of watches alongside other luxury goods. On a field trip to Shinola’s studio, Curić and his team referenced materials and colours leading to a collaboration resulting in the Lincoln Shinola Aviator Concept.
Externally, the concept is a soft white, inspired by the Shinola Pearl stone luxury watch faces and in certain lights conveys a bluish tinge. Areas linking bonnet and door are picked out in an almost rose gold copper effect, found on a Shinola bike seat, softening the metallic element, and contrasting the pearl. The wheels, too are treated to that rose gold effect – subtly lightening the load.
Inside, changes are more noticeable, with whiskey coloured leather surrounding creamy suede with a centrally placed watch strap line. Liam Butler, Lincoln’s colour and materials designer took a watch strap and scaled up the thread to match the car’s seating. And no matter the colour of the interior, Lincoln always introduce a subtle hint of blue to proceedings, a signature move – here, found in the seat piping, as one would also find on a Shinola duffel bag. Curiously though, save for the tablet screen, the dashboard contains no actual timepiece.
The Lincoln Shinola made an appearance at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where many attendees asked to buy it. Lincoln politely informed the well-heeled that this was purely for show. But Curić suggests otherwise. “Cars have become much more than just A to B. With the new electrification trend, it’s a perfect time to blend the beauty and artisanship of the analogue with the ultra modern digital capabilities.” No doubt those keen on both brands may yet see a production fruition.
But before we are overcome with soft palettes and cocoa-enhanced dreams, we must look to the cold hard facts. Lincoln have been subjected to a waning in both interest and perceived soul over the passing years, and currently make but four SUV type vehicles. Combined sales (via carsalesbase.com) for 2020 reveal that 105,410 ‘Illuminated Stars’ were sold, a market share of just 0.72%. Lincoln President, Joy Falotico sees Aviator as Lincoln’s “signal for take off.” With rivals such as old sweats, Cadillac, the Germans, and Japanese alongside newer threats from Korea and Silicon Valley, Lincoln may well have more to prove than an admittedly long heritage and delightfully superlative features in order to truly fly.
Not that the likes of us will find out, slumming it in our European take on luxury which often sails closer to millstones of convenience or over-verbose opulence. Shame, for an Aviator might just work here – ah, but for the (now slightly less soft) Range Rover[*].
[*] The new L460 now being a seven seater – an American market criticism of the previous version which JLR claimed lost them five sales per week to the competition.
Data sources: ablogtowatch.com, caranddriver.com, pebble beach concourse.net, Lincoln.com