Lincoln’s refreshed lineup has set a new bar for American-style luxury, and a big part of that is due to the mid-size Aviator SUV. It’s styling, comfort, and features remind us of the brand’s full-size Navigator, but its smaller package makes it more agile and easier to park. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite reach as high as established European rivals such as the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. Buyers can choose a twin-turbo V-6 engine or a plug-in hybrid powertrain using the same V-6. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available as an option. The cabin is upscale, comfortable, and spacious—at least for the first two rows of seats. Plus, Lincoln offers plenty of luxury options such as 30-way adjustable front seats with massage, soft-close doors, and a 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D stereo system, not to mention a bundle of standard driver-assistance features it calls Co-Pilot360.
What’s New for 2021?
The Aviator sees only minor changes for 2021, including optional 21- and 22-inch wheel designs, three new colors (Asher Gray, Ocean Drive Blue, and Flight Blue), and an available Monochromatic Reserve appearance package. The Reserve trim receives a panoramic sunroof, and the top-flight Black Label gains soft-close doors. The Elements package—found on the Reserve and Grand Touring models—now comes with heated and ventilated front seats.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Lincoln Aviator’s 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 is among the most powerful standard engines in the mid-size luxury SUV segment. The refined 3.0-liter V-6 works with a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission to deliver both serene cruising and authoritative acceleration. In place of a more powerful V-8 engine as an option, Lincoln offers a plug-in hybrid model that’s known as the Aviator Grand Touring. Using the same V-6 and 10-speed transmission as the standard Aviator, the Grand Touring adds a 100-hp electric motor and a 13.6-kWh battery. The two propulsion sources combine for 494 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, but the refinement isn’t quite up to snuff, with occasional thunks when the driveline reengages the gas engine. The battery allows the plug-in Aviator to cover about 18 miles in the Pure EV driving mode without using the gas engine, but the 100-hp motor is slow to accelerate the Aviator’s heft without help from the engine. Most buyers will use one of the alternative drive modes, which rely heavily on the V-6.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The 2020 Aviator is available in six- or seven-seat configurations. Buyers who opt for second-row captain’s chairs will have a choice of two different center consoles between those seats, one of which allows for easier pass-through to the third row. On trips longer than a few minutes, the back row is suitable only for small children, but that compromise means there’s more room for cargo with all seats in their upright position. The Lincoln offers 18 cubic feet of storage space, more than the BMW X5 and Cadillac XT6 provide. Upfront, the optional Perfect Position seats offer 30-way adjustability and massaging capability. If you’re willing to spend extra for it, a camera behind the windshield scans the road for potholes and other imperfections and sends instructions to the adaptive dampers in order to improve ride quality.