Spy Shots: 2020 Lincoln Aviator or Ford Explorer

Lincoln has shown the 2020 Lincoln Aviator at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. Our own Robbie was instantly in love with it. And rightfully so, too. Lincoln has recently stepped up its game. The first new model of what I will call Modern Lincoln was the Continental. It looked great inside and out but missed out by being based on an old FWD chassis. Then came the Navigator, which nailed down the design of what we all imagined a modern Lincoln to look like. 
The Aviator is the smaller, but far from small, SUV designed to fit between the Navigator and the upcoming two-row Nautilus. It is based on a new platform with longitudinally mounted drivetrain which will send its power to the rear, or predominantly rear wheels in 4WD applications. This will also underpin the next Ford Explorer. Both vehicles are extremely important to the Ford Motor Company. The Aviator will have to carry the Lincoln brand as it will surely outsell the pricier full-size Navigator. The Explorer has to be the workhorse, capable of being comfortable family vehicle as well as a rugged police cruiser. 

In the world full of FWD-based three-row SUVs, these two will stand out. Size-wise, I would estimate these two to be in between large cross-over and the full-size SUVs, sort like the Durango is now. It may sound silly but many people who have three kids find the three-row crossovers too small. The reason for that is that if you have two kids in their huge kid-seats in the middle row, the third kid has to sit in the third row. That obviously substantially shirks the cargo area, which is why so many people keep their roof cargo boxes on year round.
And please, don’t tell any Gen-Xers or Gen-Yers to buy a minivan. We were raised in minivans. Our parents drove minivans and no one wants to be like their parents. There is a damn good reason why so many of use choose to live in, or close to, cities and not drive cars or minivans. It’s why we like the minimalist lifestyle. It’s because we don’t want to be like our parents. But we do love our parents, especially when they take the kids away for a day or five. Hi, mom!

We have had some internal struggles identifying exactly what this vehicle seen in these pictures driving around Detroit as if it’s just another disguised test mule. We first thought it was actually the next Durago, which sure as hell is due for redo. Then a famous spy photographer told me it was the 2020 Explorer. But then I looked closer; the roof-line, the wheels, the dual double exhaust pipes, the headlight and taillight lines, it’s the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. 
Expect the differences between the Explorer and Aviator to be similar to what they are between the current Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator. Expect similar features on both but the Lincoln will have its own very specific styling and much more opulent interior. There will surely be differences in powertrains, too. The Explorer will start off with a four-banger and make the V6 optional whereas the Linc will likely start with a V6. Expect some kind of an electrified version of both vehicles. Also, expect a hot-rod version of the Explorer, because obviously. 

Big thanks to our Detroit-based spy photographer. 

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13 responses to “Spy Shots: 2020 Lincoln Aviator or Ford Explorer”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    Did you just establish a connection between “minimalist lifestyles” and houselike SUVs?

    1. Alff Avatar

      Ha! You won’t be able to convince me that eschewing the minivan in favor of one of these has anything to do with minimalism.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        Not if the “houselike SUV” is replacing the house.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          How to come full circle in three steps. You win.

          1. Vairship Avatar

            When your SUV is not only capable of towing, but is actually bigger than your Tiny House!

          2. nanoop Avatar

            I won’t accept any trophy though: those are _things_ that brush against the concept of minimalism, and will keep sliding off the dashbord in my living room.

    2. Kamil K Avatar

      Actually yes! Reason for that is that a lot of these families are single-vehicle families.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        But that’s not to say that every SUV replaces a van “plus more”? I understand how every SUV article being met with: “A minivan could do that better” by the commentariat is tiring. But less weight, smaller wheels, a more rational interior are not a precursor to needing two cars.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    I wonder if they will do a RHD version of any of these, to properly replace the Territory – also a rwd SUV. Ironically that was a vehicle that could take 3 child seats across – over 60″ hip room in the second row.
    So far we are getting the Edge in Australia, renamed Endura because Toyota owns the Edge name here, but obviously no 3rd row. The Everest is 3-row, but a very different animal.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      Wow, that Everest looks great! And it’s available with RWD. I wish that were sold here in the States. Is it based on the Ranger platform, or is it considerably larger?

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        Ranger platform, but a 13″ shorter wheelbase (112.2 vs 127). It was rumoured to become the new Bronco, but that will have its own body.

        1. Zentropy Avatar

          When I first looked it up (I’d never heard of it) I immediately thought “Bronco”. I’m not much of an SUV person, but that’s mainly because most of the reasonably-sized ones are now crossovers in the U.S. I like it.

          1. outback_ute Avatar

            Sub full size there is really only the 4Runner now I think, so surely room in the market for a competitor.
            I am 99.9% sure the Bronco will be a 2 door, because they always were, who knows they may do a 5 door as well. Sales of 2 door anything are minimal now outside of pony cars at least.
            There was a Ford teaser photo of a shrouded Bronco, the square shape of that is accurate according to a guy I know in the industry who has worked on it.