Lincoln's got that Boom Boom Pow!
Car culture is a funny thing. Whether you look at manufacturer's constantly going after each other in a bid to earn your business or owners modifying their vehicles in various ways, there's always an element of one-upping, trying to be more than the next guy. Some people roll their eyes and say this is excess, while others get giddy an excited and say this is progress.
Personally, I think it depends on the specific thing we're talking about. Full size trucks are in a constant war with each other in power, torque, and tow ratings. As such, trucks have gotten to the point where you're driving a small city block in most cases. And considering how often people are actually utilizing their towing and payload capacities, it often seems more a metric to brag to people at work or on social media than anything functional.
On the other hand, things like handling and fuel economy are something you'll actually use on a day to day basis. The newest compact cars getting 40+ US MPG is something that the average person will get a benefit out of while using their car. Better designed and calibrated suspensions, and advancements in tire technology make cars more precise, more fun to drive, and safer as a result. Earlier this week, Car and Driver reported that it tested the new 2019 Nissan Altima AWD and it posted a 0.93g skid pad result, something that is generally sports car territory, and genuinely impressive for a regular family sedan.
Now, on the aftermarket side, there's no shortage of ways to improve your vehicle, and customize it to your heart's content, and your wallet's dismay. And at no time was this more prevalent than the early 2000s. Car culture was frothing with excitement, and many things that were once small, niche areas were now hives of activity. Aftermarket companies of all sorts basically had a license to print money, whether you wanted to customize your interior, upgrade your car mechanically, or even build a stereo setup that would rival most movie theaters. SPL (Sound Pressure Level) competitions became a fixture at many car events, with participants cramming an insane number of speakers and amplifiers in a vehicle to see who could be the loudest.
Now, at this time, there was a new wave of vehicles ushered into the custom scene. It was just the compact "tuner" cars you saw in The Fast and The Furious, nor the high end sports cars. Along with the rise of car culture, the rise of hip hop and R&B saw celebrities getting into the scene as well. With higher budgets, come higher end cars, and we started seeing Lamborghini's, Bentley's, Rolls Royce's and the like starting to be customized. But, the one vehicle that seemed to really hit a mark in the scene was the Cadillac Escalade. 24" rims, custom interiors, and screens and crazy stereo systems to match. With the rise of the Escalade, Lincoln started pushing it's Navigator into the same space, and it too gained a following.
In it's early day the Navigator was just as popular as the Escalade, with peak sales of both vehicles in the mid 30K mark in the 2003-2004 years. This gave Lincoln the confidence to branch out a bit. Since the Navigator was a hit, offering a slightly smaller version based on the Ford Explorer (The Navigator was based on the larger Ford Expedition) would be likely to be an even bigger hit, right? While the mid-size Aviator had decent sales in it's 2003-2004 years, sales quickly fell by 40% in 2005, with the decision to discontinue it following right after.
Fast forward a few years to the 2008 recession. While the Navigator initially kept pace with the Escalade, when the recession hit, the Navigator's sales plummeted to around half of what the Escalade was selling, and it slowly started to lose it's cultural significance in comparison. A large part of this was Cadillac kept the Escalade more modern, as this was it's cash cow, while Lincoln was hesitant to pump a lot of money into a vehicle that had seemingly fallen out of favour.
Hit the Fast Forward button again to 2017, and the market has changed yet again. SUVs and CUVs have taken the market by force by increased consumer demand. Vehicle prices are at an all time high as customer's increasingly demand more luxury and technology from their vehicles. Lincoln responds with an all new Navigator, it's first in over 10 years. And this is a substantial upgrade in every way imaginable. Sales of the 2018 model year Navigator jump 70% to it's highest levels since 2008. It also helps that it's well received. Lincoln actually put together a compelling alternative to the Escalade again.
Now, for the upcoming 2020 model year, Lincoln is bringing back the Navigator's little brother after a 14 year hiatus. Taking what they've learned from the Navigator relaunch, the new Aviator looks poised to become a hit. Partially because almost any SUV/CUV sells well, but also because they've made it worth the money. It's going to have an optional 450hp hybrid engine, luxurious finishes throughout the cabin, and tech aplenty.
Now, back for a minute to 2003. Those SPL competitions. They still happen, but, they're not the fixture at events like they were back then. In general, you'd see people stuff a vehicle with speakers on every panel, several subwoofers, all in the name of power. SPL didn't care about sound quality, it was a quantity game, and like all trends, that eventually lead to all of the low budget imitators you'd see for years after, such as the 16 year old with a 1994 civic driving with his trunk vibrating to no end (You know the guy).
As an offshoot of that culture, there was also people who wanted a genuinely good sounding stereo system in their vehicle. Until the early 2000s, most mainstream vehicles had 4 speakers, and they generally weren't of any good quality. That started to change though. Partially because car makers have learned that people will pay for premium audio systems from the factory, and they could be making the money instead of the aftermarket. And so, we started to see a new type of way companies could compete against each other.
More options started to become available from the factory, as car makers teamed up with high end audio companies to design amazing (and expensive) optional car stereos. Which brings us back to the new Lincoln Aviator. As an option, it will have an available 28(!) speaker Revel 3D sound system, the second highest in the world from a factory stereo (Range Rover offers an optional 29 speaker Meridian system) which includes 8 speakers over the occupants heads, as well as a dual-wall dash, acoustic glass, and acoustic shielding, all in the name of not having the same trunk rattle that plagued the 16 year old and his Civic.
So don't be too surprised this summer when the new Aviator is available, as I have a feeling a few of those former 16 year olds may be telling you about all of the speakers in their new SUV. After all, just because you've matured, doesn't mean you have to grow up.