Seems that Lincoln – once synonymous with luxury cars – is putting lots more focus on its luxury crossovers.
Lincoln has been completely redesigning its slate of SUVs of late, starting with the all-new full-size Navigator for 2018, followed by an update of the midsize MKX that was renamed Nautilus for 2019. Next came the midsize, 3-row Aviator – the subject of this report – which just went on sale as a 2020 model, soon to be joined by the new 2020 Corsair (based on the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape), which is the replacement for the compact MKC.
Got all that?
Unlike most First Spin reports – which are based on day-long product overviews and drives at far-flung places – this one stems from a briefer drive of both gas and plug-in hybrid versions of the Aviator at our annual MAMA (Midwest Automotive Media Association) Fall Rally held at the Autobahn Country Club racing facility in nearby Joliet, Illinois. As it just happened to coincide with an official “static” display of the Aviator at a local Chicago hot spot, the combination proved to be sort of a mini preview. And I didn’t have to hop on a plane.
One advantage to a local drive is that we managed to find real-world pockmarked pavement on which to judge ride quality; preview drives typically don’t offer that capability.
Although our test drives were brief compared to those of a regular preview, they were quite telling nonetheless. Aviators are offered in gas and plug-in hybrid form in five trim levels, with lower models being available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while higher levels come standard with all-wheel drive. Gas models are powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 putting out 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Plug-in hybrids get a similar engine aided by an electric motor to put out 494 horsepower and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque.
Gas versions include Standard, Reserve, and Black Label, with Plug-in hybrids offered only in Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label form. We drove mid-level Reserve and Grand Touring (plug-in hybrid) models, and both impressed with their comfortable ride, quietness, and luxury-level interiors. While the gas model was plenty quick enough, the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid was downright fast – at least after a very brief pause after flooring the throttle from a stop – and both exhibited fine kickdown response and passing power.
Visibility is decent all around (though wide center pillars block some over-the-shoulder view), aided by standard front and rear obstacle detection and 360-degree cameras with front and rear washers on all but the base model. Also helping are second- and third-row headrests that fold out of view.
Interior room is ample for adults, and my 5’9 frame fit quite comfortably in the third row, though in a knees-up posture. Notable on the Grand Touring was a very nicely finished two-tone interior with engine-turned aluminum trim panels, a pattern that was popular on dressier cars “back in the day.” Notable on both was the gear-selector layout, which consisted of a row of “keys” mounted just above the climate-control panel that frees space on the console for storage. And it freed a lot of space; not only are there two covered console cupholders with a small bin in front of them, but also a large covered bin next to them and a large under-console tray, along with the usual glovebox, console box, and door map pockets. In all, cockpit storage is an Aviator strength.
So is cargo space. Not only is the area in back large and cubic once the second- and third-row seats are folded flat, but the third-row seat backs power down, and there’s a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area.
The Standard starts at $52,840 with rear-wheel drive, $55,340 with all-wheel drive. It comes with such features as 19-inch wheels, auto-dimming rearview mirror, tri-zone climate control, 10.1-inch touchscreen, keyless access and starting, remote start, Homelink garage-door opener, front and rear obstacle detection, 110-volt power outlet in the second row, satellite radio, Lincoln Connect telematics with WiFi hotspot, 10-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment, third-row power folding seat, heated front seats, power liftgate, rearview camera with washer, rain-sensing wipers, and SecuriCode keypad to unlock the doors. Safety features included under the Co-Pilot 360 system are forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot alert, and rear-cross-traffic alert. Optional is an Elements Package that adds heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and heated wipers.
Added on the Reserve ($57,930 with rear-wheel drive, $60,440 with all-wheel drive) are 20-inch wheels, 360-degree cameras with front and rear washers, premium audio system, hands-free power liftgate, and premium-grade leather upholstery. Optional are a panoramic sunroof, Co-Pilot 360 Plus (park assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam stop and go, lane centering, traffic-sign recognition, and reverse automatic braking), second-row captain chairs, adaptive headlights, 30-way power driver seat with thigh extensions, rear-door sunshades, and an adaptive air suspension that can be set to different heights and lower the vehicle when parked for easier access.
The Grand Touring is the base plug-in hybrid model, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive for $70,540. It also adds 20-inch wheels and a panoramic sunroof, with similar options to the above.
Topping both the gas and plug-in hybrid lineups are the Black Label editions, which come standard with all-wheel drive and start at $79,435 for the gas model, $89,540 for the plug-in hybrid. They include most of the equipment available on lower-line models, have distinct 22-inch wheels, and offer a choice of interior “themes” that allow a choice of color and trim combinations.
With the existing Navigator along with the renamed Nautilus and new Aviator and Corsair, Lincoln has now completely backed away from labeling its crossovers with three-letter designations. (In fact, the only Lincoln still carrying an acronym is the MKZ midsize sedan.) Hurray for that. And if the Navigator — which is a Consumer Guide Best Buy in the Premium Large SUV category — and this impressive new Aviator are any indication, Lincoln’s newfound focus on crossovers and SUVs may rejuvenate the brand as a powerhouse in the premium categories.
2020 Lincoln Aviator