How Lincoln Created a Sanctuary of Luxury and Elegance in its New SUVs

Lincoln's design language evokes a feeling of relaxation and serenity. Here's how they did it, and what to look for to get a feeling of sanctuary.

Lincoln Aviator
The panoramic sun roof in the Lincoln Aviator ?Scotty Reiss
Lincoln Aviator

A view of the front seat of the Lincoln Aviator. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Life is loud. Tune it out and relax.

Work, conference calls, video calls, video games, kids, pets, ringtones, construction, and more assault your sense on a daily basis and sometimes we just need a break. That’s why spas use soft, relaxing music and the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful. Lincoln has set out to recreate those elements of peace and quiet in their newest vehicles to give drivers a sanctuary away from the noise of the road.

The brand has come a long way since its first Lincoln was completed a century ago. According to Lincoln, the company made a dramatic turn in the 60s at a time when most American auto companies were using almost as much chrome as paint; Lincoln returned to “understated elegance” and that design elegance persists today. Buttery-soft leather, sophisticated piping, and flowing lines contribute to the sensation of “ahhhhh.”

“Even back when we were developing the Aviator, we were focused on the idea that you spend a lot of time in your vehicle,” Lincoln design manager Robert Gelardi. “The idea that you are looking for a place of refuge and solace and rejuvenation. I think that when we were embarking upon the quiet strategy, we felt this was a necessary place we needed to advance. I think it’s certainly taken more center stage as it’s becoming a key differentiator.”

Related: After Making Your Heart Beat Faster, Lincoln Wants to Help You Find Peace with the Calm App

Corsair Interior

Plenty of space in the Lincoln Corsair! Photo: Connie Peters

Imagine you’re at the beach, staring at the horizon…

One element Lincoln uses to evoke a feeling of sanctuary is low, wide, horizontal space. Pretend, for a moment, looking out at the ocean or one of the Great Lakes; naturally, our busy brains start to unwind from the hamster wheel.

“There is a reason people seek out a vista a panoramic view for relaxation,” Robert tells us. “We respond to that horizontality, and that was unbelievably important for us to incorporate. We know how to make beautiful shapes and materials and it was core that we had that low horizontal volume spot relevant to the occupants.”

When you’re sitting in a relaxed position, you want to recline and stretch your legs out. Lincoln wanted to give people that feeling while in an Aviator. And who wouldn’t want seats with 30-way adjustability, massage capability and additional lumbar support? Sign me up.

Related: What Drives Her: Joy Falotico, President of Lincoln Motor Company and Chief Marketing Officer, Ford

Lincoln Aviator

The Revel sound system has 28 speakers, all displayed here. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Finding the balance with notes of beauty

We asked Robert if he listened to any particular kind of music while creating this vehicle. He didn’t pinpoint any particular kind of music but he did say this: the reference to music was there. They felt it needs to not only sound like a symphony but feel like a symphony. It needs to feel calming and noticeably quiet. If one element is over- or under-indexed in terms of music, it’s not going to sound right.

At the LA Auto Show in 2018, Lincoln announced that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) had recorded the warning chimes for the Aviator. Instead of harsh, jarring electronic tones, Lincoln commissioned pleasing symphonic tones created by string instruments and light percussion.

If you’re a music fan, like me, you’ll also appreciate the available 14-speaker Revel premium audio system. Revel (a Harman International company) zeroed in on placement, tuning, calibration; even the number of Revel speakers are all unique to each Lincoln vehicle, designed to tailor audio quality and accuracy to individual cabin size and acoustics. Whether you prefer Rachmaninoff or Rage Against the Machine, you’ll appreciate the range and quality of the audio system.

Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln Aviator. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Aviator stays on the ground but has this in common with aircraft

You might not recognize it consciously, but aircraft designers deliberately use curving lines. The next time you board an aircraft (whenever that is!), notice the rounded contours of the seats in front of you, the overhead bins, the windows, even the shapes of buttons. Those curves are considered “friendlier” than angular shapes.
In that vein, the aptly-named Aviator indexes toward calm shapes and lines.

“We steered away from harshness and sharp corners, which conjures a more aggressive feel, and more toward light, human calmness,” Robert says. “We did look at aviation, aircraft, and lots of different types of transportation and even resorts. How do people feel in these spaces? We brought that sense into the design.”
As in aircraft design, all of the pieces work together. Something as subtle as the design of the instrument panel, the registers, and how they relate to the doors is important. Robert told me that for the Corsair specifically, they opted against encircling some elements with “bright work” (otherwise known as chrome). There’s a strategy in the way the light and colors meld, because thinner horizontal lines gives the interior a wider and more spacious feel.

Related: Introducing the 2020 Lincoln Corsair: Quietly, Powerful and Dressed to Impress

Lincoln Aviator Luxury 3 Row Suv

This is a sweet spot in he Lincoln Aviator: cup holders with a retractable cover, a small storage space with easy to reach USB ports and the drive mode selector. Photo: Scotty Reiss

“Part of sanctuary is feeling as though you are in a wide open space,” Robert emphasizes. “The shapes we use in the arm rest is notable because when your eye reaches the end of the periphery of the instrument panel toward the door, it either feels closed in or it feels open. We did a lot of design work sitting in the driver’s seat and looking at the passenger seat and following our gaze.”

Related: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Review: The Innovative, Thoughtful Luxury 3-Row SUV That Considers How You Live 

Lincoln Corsair

The Corsair Reserve is sleek and impressive. Photo: Connie Peters

Why Lincoln, though?

A number of manufacturers claim a quiet cabin. And quiet is relative, I suppose – some drivers want to be alone with the sounds of a loud engine or blasting heavy metal music. For those who prefer something more gentle, these are the kinds of features Lincoln has incorporated into the Aviator (and now Corsair) to smooth the ride:

  • Acoustic laminated glass
  • Streamlined design -aerodynamics minimizing cabin noise
  • Additional interior sound absorption and damping
  • Doors designed for quiet solid closure
  • Tires designed to reduce road induced low frequency rumble and mid-frequency ring
  • Acoustic under-body shields and acoustic wheel arch liners
  • Active noise control to capture, analyze and cancel sound
  • All-new engine sound package with 360-degree hood sealing, dual-wall dash, and double barrier dash insulator

“What Lincoln offers you in terms of design is something unique and elevated that gives you the sense of place of rejuvenation,” Robert says. “The architecture we created – the integration of all of these features – and attention to detail, the materials – it’s not one thing. It’s not necessarily a checklist. It’s the way in which we put these all together.

“If you’re looking for that sanctuary and premium luxury experience, when you experience all of our instruments playing together you’ll feel that you want to be in our space.”

Related: Cas Haley is Winning Life, Music and a Thanks to Lincoln’s Chart Your Course Competition, a New Corsair

Lincoln Aviator

The beautiful leather is illuminated by the panoramic sun roof in the Lincoln Aviator. Photo: Scotty Reiss

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Writer. Car fanatic. Mom. Kristin is the co-owner of auto review site Drive Mode Show and a nationally-published writer... More about Kristin Shaw