NAPA, Calif. — The 2020 Lincoln Aviator and Cadillac XT6, large crossovers that launched this summer within a month of each other, are the latest expressions of what their reinvented brands hope to become.
They also provide a window into the two marques’ revivals, showing that Cadillac has a formidable challenger in Detroit again after years of having domestic-leaning luxury buyers largely to itself. Cadillac is still bigger, but Lincoln is on the rise.
“Lincoln was not effectively competing with Cadillac in most ways a short time ago … but they’ve changed everything from the naming strategy to the styling strategy, and I think it’s completely worked,” Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, told Automotive News. “Now it’s a much more interesting battle between the two brands.”
Lincoln crafted the Aviator on a new rear-wheel-drive platform with a plug-in hybrid option. It replaces the MKT as the brand distances itself from the blander designs and confusing names it favored earlier this decade.
Cadillac, which has been working to rebalance its sedan-heavy lineup since replacing President Johan de Nysschen last year, brought the XT6 to market with a single powertrain. There’s no hybrid or plug-in variant, and the Super Cruise hands-free driving system won’t be offered until later, even as the brand positions itself as the pinnacle of General Motors’ technology and electrification efforts.
The Aviator costs less, is more powerful and has won widespread praise from critics for its distinctive styling. Reviews of the XT6 have been more mixed.
The Aviator and XT6 join a highly competitive segment led by the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and BMW X7. Sales in the large premium crossover segment rose 22 percent in the first half of 2019.
The XT6 had the benefit of launching first, logging 74 sales in June before the Aviator began reaching dealerships in July.
Although Cadillac still believes in offering sedans, it finally has a lineup of crossovers that customers want, culminating with the XT6, said Jason Sledziewski, Cadillac’s director of product marketing.
“When you look at the competitive set, we really feel this vehicle is built for this segment,” he said. “We really do feel this rounds out our portfolio across all of the luxury utility segments.”