There’s a lot to love about the new Lincoln Aviator. It continues the elegance of design that Lincoln has espoused across its lineup. And it’s engineered for success on a new rear-drive platform, packing a lot of power, and adding a plug-in hybrid model.
So it was with high expectations that we got a pair of Aviators to spend more time behind the wheel. As the MotorTrend editors found, the new Aviator is brilliant in many respects, with a whisper-quiet interior, supple suspension, kick-ass seats and stereo, and lots of power. And as features editor Christian Seabaugh notes, “What’s more luxurious than not having to spend your time at a gas station? You essentially have to have a PHEV or EV option these days to be taken seriously.”
The Aviator is a visual stunner, inside and out, with notable differentiation from the Explorer.
It starts with the gimmicky “approach” lights when you walk up to the car; the head- or taillights illuminate to lead you to the Lincoln logo puddle light and the driver’s door. “I also love that this Aviator ‘bows’ for you, making it easier to get in,” Seabaugh says of the air suspension.
Once inside, the Aviator greets you with chimes from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as you lay your hands on a beautiful steering wheel and brush your fingers across the piano key gear selection buttons. The dash incorporates soothing wood with a nice grain.
Settle into the 30-way adjustable seat and select your massage, which “feels like a Dr. Scholl’s insert for your entire back,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh says. With this level of craftsmanship and design, it is truly a lovely place to hang out.
Even given that this is a large three-row SUV, the chassis delivers a top-notch ride. It’s easy to drive fast, has excellent body control, and offers a superb ride/handling balance. Executive editor Mark Rechtin says it offers “a whole lot of drifty fun.”
The Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD model starts at $57,285. Our tester came in at $74,920. That nets you the 400-hp, 450-lb-ft 3.0-liter V-6. The 5,167-pound vehicle scoots from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and completes the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds. That slays the Cadillac XT6, which needs 6.8 and 15.2 seconds, respectively, and also beats the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4Matic. But it lags behind the BMW X7 xDrive 40i, which gets to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and hits the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds.
EPA-rated fuel economy matches the far less powerful Cadillac XT6.
The Grand Touring plug-in hybrid Aviator electrifies the gas engine, but the extra motors and batteries contribute to its 5,838-pound heft. Some of us felt that it didn’t feel fast enough given its 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. The lack of power shows up in the test results, too. The hybrid is only three-tenths quicker than the gas Aviator in the quarter mile.
The Grand Touring gets a shove of torque off the line, but it doesn’t take off like a jet engine. The power delivery is in keeping with Lincoln’s preference for a smooth, quiet takeoff. And although it doesn’t snap your neck, it might widen your eyes when you see how quickly you’ve exceeded the speed limit. Loh describes the acceleration as unwavering and unyielding. The motor’s torque fills in while the turbos spool up, and the 10-speed is smart and refined with no rough shifts or odd shift choices. We had no complaints about the transition from regen to mechanical brakes.
The bigger problem is the hybrid’s aggressive throttle tip-in. “The hybrid drivetrain is seamless shutting down the gas engine and going into electric mode, and the gas engine restarts smoothly enough, but when it re-engages with the drivetrain, there’s a noticeable shunt every time, like there’s slack in the system quickly being taken up,” Evans says.
The powertrain, coupled with a rear-drive bias, provides a rousing ride on the handling course. The vehicle felt smaller than it is, urging you to toss it around. The suspension felt incredibly supple over the uneven surfaces. The big bumps created more of a shudder than an impact in the hybrid thanks to its air suspension.
Part of the rebirth of the luxury brand has been a slavish dedication to giving Lincoln more powertrain and an upgraded suspension compared with its Ford counterparts.
The lane keep assist centers the vehicle in the lane well and will let you go 15 seconds before reminding you to keep your hands on the wheel.
It’s wicked cool to take such an elegant SUV off-road and kick sand up and over the windshield. The drive modes, including Deep Conditions, allow you to go full tilt without reservation, and the electric motors chime in with their extra torque.
“The Aviator really seemed to come alive in the deep sand mode, where the ESC system let its tail slide,” Seabaugh says. “I was also really impressed that in the Slippery Surfaces mode, the Aviator was consistently able to hold its line without pushing or slipping back and forth.”
It comes in a package that impressed us all. All surfaces feel premium, with rich leathers and adept use of aluminum trim.
I love the steering wheel. The voice control button on the thumb rest is clever. Press the cruise control button, and the buttons light up. Tap them from behind with fingers wrapped around rich two-tone leather.
The Revel stereo encompasses you with sound. There’s a short demo track where the sound builds all around you until you feel it in every organ.
The Aviator comes with a big infotainment screen that’s distinguished from the Ford Explorer‘s by a black background and gold font. It’s quick and easy to use. There’s a vertical slot for your phone, and the USB ports are easily accessible. A deep bin offers cupholders, more power outlets, and more room for phones and other devices.
Third-row access is shockingly easy. Push a button, and the second-row captain’s seat rockets forward; Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 take an eternity by comparison. The third row is tight, and passengers must sit with their knees higher than they might like, but it’s no worse than the segment in general.
One quibble: The button that replaces the door handle inside the vehicle can be awkward to push and felt like it was sticking a bit. It might just be an early build issue.
“Overall, I’m truly impressed with the Aviator,” Seabaugh says. “In one fell swoop, it’s done what Cadillac has tried and failed to do for years: build a distinctly American, no-compromises luxury vehicle that competes with the foreign luxury marques on its own terms, not theirs.”
|2020 Lincoln Aviator AWD (Grand Touring PHEV)||2020 Lincoln Aviator AWD (Reserve)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads, plus internal permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||180.4 cu in/2,956cc||180.4 cu in/2,956cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||400 hp @ 5,500 rpm (gas), 100 hp @ 2,500 rpm (elec), 494 hp @ 5,500 rpm (comb)||400 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||415 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm (gas), 221 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm (elec), 630 lb-ft @ 2,250 rpm (comb)||415 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|REDLINE||Not indicated||Not indicated|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||11.8 lb/hp||12.9 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||10-speed automatic||10-speed automatic|
|AXLE/FINAL DRIVE RATIO||3.31:1/2.11:1||3.31/2.11:1|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|TURNS LOCK TO LOCK||2.8||2.8|
|BRAKES, F; R||14.3-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc, ABS||13.6-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||9.0 x 21-in cast aluminum||9.5 x 22-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||275/45R21 110W M+S Pirelli Scorpion Zero||275/40R22 107W M+S Goodyear Eagle Touring|
|WHEELBASE||119.1 in||119.1 in|
|TRACK, F/R||66.9/66.9 in||66.9/66.9 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||199.3 x 79.6 x 69.8 in||199.3 x 79.6 x 69.6 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||8.7 in||8.7 in|
|APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE||21.2/22.3 deg||21.2/22.3 deg|
|TURNING CIRCLE||39.0 ft||39.0 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,838 lb||5,167 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||52/48%||51/49%|
|TOWING CAPACITY||5,600 lb||6,700 lb|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.2/38.4/36.9 in||40.2/38.4/36.9 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||43.0/40.1/29.2 in||43.0/40.1/29.2 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||61.5/61.3/54.0 in||61.5/61.3/54.0 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||77.7/41.8/18.3 cu ft||77.7/41.8/18.3 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.8 sec||1.8 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.7||2.9|
|QUARTER MILE||13.8 sec @ 102.3 mph||14.1 sec @ 97.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.5 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)||27.1 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||NA rpm||1,750 (in 9th gear) rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$88,895||$74,920|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 years/50,000 miles||4 years/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||6 years/70,000 miles||6 years/70,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||Unlimited miles||Unlimited miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||18.0 gal||18.0 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||23 mpg comb||17/24/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147 kW-hr/100 miles (comb)||198/140 kW-hr/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.84 lb/mile||0.99 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular|