There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Aviator, a functional five-passenger sport utility vehicle that Lincoln sold from 2003 to 2005, except for timing and heritage.
The Aviator was built on the same truckish platform as the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. That heritage would have been fine, but it came about a decade too late, because just as the Aviator hit the market, the consumer tide turned away from truck-based SUVs to the more carlike crossover SUVs, so named because they crossed over from the car side, rather than the truck side. The poor Aviator was doomed the moment it rolled into the showroom.
Its replacement is the MKX, which is everything the Aviator wasn’t: Light on its feet, powered by a 265-horsepower V-6 instead of an old-school V-8, and extremely handsome, assuming you like your SUV styled like a boiled egg. Personally, I do. Just as the Aviator was based on the Ford Explorer, the MKX is based on the Ford Edge, and Lincoln designers have done a nice job of making the MKX look like a Lincoln, largely through a toothy but appropriate grille.
This is a good place to remind you that this SUV is the Lincoln MKX, not to be confused with the Lincoln MKZ, but of course it will be, as whatever Ford Mensa member who thought that an SUV and a car could successfully forge separate identities with a name that differs by one letter of the alphabet is dreaming. I keep them straight by remembering that the MKZ used to be the Zephyr, the Ford Fusion-based sedan.
None of this is the fault of the MKX, which is a very well-appointed sport-ute that is, as you’d expect, more at home at the valet parking stand than roughing it on the trails, even with the optional all-wheel-drive. It holds its own next to some tough competition, which ranges from the Cadillac SRX to the Lexus RX350.
Standard equipment includes big 18-inch tires and machined aluminum wheels, leather upholstery, wood trim, an excellent stereo with an in-dash six-CD player, stability control and side and side-curtain airbags. Options on the all-wheel-drive test model included “White Chocolate Tricoat” paint ($495), heated and cooled front seats, autodimming side mirrors, chrome wheels, a reverse sensing system and the pricey ($4,795) “Elite Package,” which added a panoramic sunroof, Sirius satellite radio, a DVD navigation system and the knockout THX upgrade to the audio system. At the end, the base price of $35,770 swelled to $44,385.
Inside, luxury abounds, nicely executed. On the road, the MKX was a bit more sensitive to bumps than Lincoln customers might want, but the tradeoff, crisp handling, makes up for it. It may not be as rugged as an Aviator, but the MKX hits the crossover bullseye.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smithcan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.