The perfect mix of luxury, performance and utility?
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Lincoln has been on a tear the last few years with its crossovers and SUVs. The Navigator, Nautilus and Corsair have all impressed me greatly. Each has brought new levels of style, performance and luxury to the table, and each vehicle was very enjoyable on every level.
Enter the Aviator. Remember the original? A hopped-up Ford Explorer with a lusty Mustang-derived V8 that could carve a smile into almost everyone’s face. This one is a different beast altogether.
The mission is the same. Offer Lincoln levels of luxury, SUV utility and space, and inject the whole thing with a dose of performance normally not found in this category. But it does each of these things better than before.
Look at this thing! People turned and stared at the Aviator wherever we drove it. It’s a really nice-looking vehicle, endowed with muscular touches like its wide stance, aggressive grille with a lit Lincoln logo front and centre and wheel wells filled with massive 22-inch rims shod with equally massive 275/40-sized tires.
That sloping roofline is really something too, and so are the cool touches like the wide LED tail light strip and the whole lighting ceremony that happens when you unlock the vehicle, including how the LED lights wake up and sweep out from the grille.
All lighting is LED and the headlights are as bright as can be, painting the landscape in white, even on the darkest country highways – we got to experience this.
It’s just impressive from every angle, and although it’s a huge vehicle, the styling makes it a sleek package.
The interior of the Aviator is no less impressive. The build quality is incredible, as are the materials. Everything is soft-touch, there’s stitched panels everywhere, a gorgeous real wood trim, the perforated speaker grilles are works of art and even the buttons and switchgear feel special.
Overhead is a full-length panoramic roof, which adds a sense of openness and airiness throughout the Aviator.
The Sandstone leather seats don’t just look good. They are perhaps the best seats I’ve ever experienced in a vehicle. They are so insanely adjustable (30-way if you were wondering) that it actually took me some time to find a comfortable setting, but after that, they were absolutely world-class. Heated – check. Ventilated – check. Massage functions – check.
Ahead of the driver is a stunning configurable digital dish, while a massive 10.1-inch touchscreen juts out of the dash. There are a few hard buttons and knobs for the audio system and the climate control, which are appreciated. The 28-speaker Revel sound system is truly one of the finest and most effortless I’ve ever heard.
Lincoln includes a full set of driver assistance technology – a 360-degree camera, evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist, active parking assist, excellent heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane centering and traffic sign recognition and more.
Second and Third Row Seats
The second row captain’s chairs (also heated and ventilated!) are incredibly comfortable as well. They slide fore and aft, recline and are heated and ventilated too.
Second row passengers get treated to an optional console in this review vehicle, which is clad in the aforementioned wood and looks simply amazing. It has cupholders, buttons to control the panoramic roof sunshade and a beautifully carpeted storage bin. But that’s not all – there are also air vents, 115V household and USB charging plugs and a super-cool touchscreen control panel with access to audio, climate, seat comfort and settings. There are also manual side-window sunshades.
The third row is a slight let-down in terms of size. It’s big enough for kids and has cupholders, storage bins and adjustable air vents – but surprisingly no charging ports. The seats are basically on the floor so adults are not going to be thrilled with the leg room in the third row, but my kids were quite happy back there.
The centre console has two bins, each with a scrolling lid – the left one has USB-A and USB-C plugs, while the right side has storage space and two cupholders.
Under the armrest is a large bin, including as 12V plug, an organizer and a clip-in vertical wireless charging cradle. I like this, as it holds securely on to your phone as well as removes it from being a distraction on the road.
Pop the power liftgate and you’ll find a large 519L trunk even with the third row in use. Fold those third row seats down (using powered switches in the trunk), and you end up with nearly 1200L of cargo space. There’s also a significant amount of underfloor storage space.
Under the Hood
The Aviator’s muscle comes in the form of a 3.oL twin-turbocharged V6 that sends 400 HP and 415 lb.ft of torque through its 10-speed automatic transmission to the all-wheel drive system.
It’s not a frugal set-up obviously, and is rated at 13.7/9.7 L/100 km (city/highway). We averaged 12L/100 km over the course of two weeks, but that includes the 650 km of highway cruising mileage our family did on a road trip to Drumheller and back.
You want power? We’ve got your stinkin’ power right here. Oodles of it. Endless torque is on tap in every driving situation from a standing start all the way to passing at highway speeds. It’s definitely a high-performance vehicle when called upon, yet it’s easy to drive sedately and could pass as a limo any day of the week.
There is a series of “piano keys” to direct your transmission’s rather than a gear selector. It’s certainly not as fast or intuitive as a stick-based mechanism, particular for multi-point parking turns, but you get used to it though.
If there is a less-than-perfect part of the Aviator, I’d say it’s the transmission. It’s mostly smooth, but occasionally it was lurchy and felt like it was stuck in the wrong gear.
There is also a drive mode selector which allows you to choose between Normal, Excite (called Sport in normal vehicles), Conserve (usually known as Eco mode), Slippery or Deep Conditions.
As with other vehicles with Lincoln’s active suspension, the Aviator’s ride and handling abilities beg for superlatives in their description. The ride is buttery, soaking up everything you throw at it from the smallest road imperfections to the biggest potholes and expansion cracks, even up to highway speeds. Yet the vehicle can be thrown into corners and curves with abandon, its ability to grip and remain flat in corners almost defying the laws of physics. It’s much sportier than you would ever expect judging the vehicle by its size and mass. And it can “kneel” the vehicle when you approach, making it lower and easier to get in. Plus it looks awesome when it’s sitting there lowered like that. The suspension upgrade isn’t cheap, but worthy every dime.
The all-wheel drive system was stuck with dry roads, so it never got a work-out during our time with it. The braking is powerful and easily hauls this monster back down to a stop when required.
Visibility is pretty great in every direction, with just a couple of exceptions – driver’s side shoulder checks are blocked by big pillars, and the third-row headrests definitely block your view when they are in use.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was extremely high, but it was mainly from a passenger point of view. She loved being “chauffeured” around in it, and said she felt like royalty because it was so deluxe. She said it would be hard to live with though, because of the size and how that would be harder to park.
The price of admission isn’t cheap, but the Aviator has it all. Style, substance and power. It looks fantastic (and different from the rest of the market), it has tons of space for people and cargo, it is full of technology and luxury and it goes like crazy when you want it to. It leaves very little to be desired, and checks all the boxes for most shoppers looking for everything in one package.
And hey, if all of this isn’t quite enough for you, you can opt for the Grand Touring trim in the Aviator, which offers up a high-performance hybrid powertrain putting down 494 HP and a staggering 630(!!) lb.ft of torque. All while sipping fuel, relatively speaking – it is rated to use about half as much gas as the normal Aviator. That’s amazing!
Pricing: 2020 Lincoln Aviator
Base price (Reserve AWD trim): $69,000
Options: $850 Ceramic Pearl metallic tri-coat paint; $9,000 Equipment Group 202A Elements Package Plus; $150 front and second row floor liners; $2,000 Convenience Package; $3,500 Dynamic Handling Package; $735 full rear console
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $87,435
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lincoln Canada.
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