business An iPhone all you need to start, drive this SUV

An iPhone all you need to start, drive this SUV


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Luxurious new SUV’s features include 400-hp engine, plug-in hybrid, Phone as a Key, air suspension and pothole anticipation
Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press Auto Critic

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. — Lincoln is about to make carrying a key or bulky electronic fob to start your car seem as antiquated as hand-cranking a vehicle from 1910.

Drivers of the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator SUV can use iPhones, and soon Android phones, for those and a host of other functions that go way beyond current smartphone apps for remote start, find-my-car, and lock/unlock. Lincoln calls the feature Phone as a Key.

In addition to exponentially multiplying the level of panic the next time you think you lost your mobile phone — because now it is your phone and your car key — the feature allows the phone to start your vehicle, remotely open windows and tailgates, recall the driver’s settings and more. Current remote-start apps require you to have a mechanical key to drive away. The new feature also can unlock the vehicle when the driver touches the door handle and flash greeting lights as you approach the six- or seven-seat SUV.

I recently spent a day driving Aviators equipped with Phone as a Key. The phone was tucked into an inductive charging pocket in the SUVs’ center console. The Aviator started every time and ran fine, though I got occasional warnings that the vehicle had lost contact with the phone. That was probably because I was driving developmental vehicles. Lincoln engineers said the issue should be resolved in the Aviators going on sale now.

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Lincoln will offer Phone as a Key on more vehicles as it introduces new models. It’s part of the Aviator’s $1,000 convenience package. Only Tesla currently offers a similar feature on its Model 3 sedan. Consumer Reports magazine reported reliability problems when they tested it in the 3.

Other brands aim to offer the feature soon. Hyundai expects to have an Android-phone-only version on its upcoming 2020 Sonata sedan.

Bluetooth makes it work

Lincoln’s system uses Bluetooth at ranges up to 30 feet, so it works in places where there’s no phone signal, like underground parking garages. An embedded modem or Wi-Fi handles messages from beyond Bluetooth’s range. The Aviator has 11 antennas to receive signals.

The feature works with iPhones running IOS 9 and higher now. It uses the Lincoln Way app. Lincoln expects compatibility with Android devices soon.

You can authorize as many phones as you like to work with a vehicle. Phone as a Key can also activate valet mode. Parking attendants will use a temporary numeric code to lock, unlock and start the vehicle when the driver walks away with their phone.

The owner can disable Phone as a Key and use a backup ignition code that they punch into the door-mounted touch pad if they lose their phone or its battery dies. The feature also alerts drivers when they leave their phone in the car. If a driver still manages to lock the key in their car, they can get in using the touch pad Lincoln owners love.

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2020 Lincoln Aviator SUV at a glance

Price range: $51,100-68,800 (excluding destination charges)

SUV with three rows of seats

Seven seats standard, six optional

Rear- or all-wheel drive

Assembled: Chicago

Engine: Twin-turbo 3.0L V6 with 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque

EPA fuel economy rating, AWD models: 17 mpg city/24 highway/20 combined. Regular gasoline.

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 119.1 inches

Length: 199.3 inches

Width: 79.6 inches

Height: 69.6 inches

Base AWD curb weight: 4,892 pounds

Towing capacity: 6,700 pounds

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or mmphelan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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