Skip to main content

2022 Lincoln Aviator Review: So Close to Greatness

A few small problems keep it an arm's length away from real excellence

2022 Lincoln Aviator

Ever since Lincoln became an SUV-only automaker it has really found its mojo. The Navigator is still one of the very best luxury body-on-frame SUVs on the market, and the Corsair and Nautilus both represent great value when you compare them to their German counterparts. But the Aviator, the brand's second-biggest SUV, is a different story. It could very well be Lincoln's best product if it weren't for a few nagging issues that hamper the experience.

The Black Label Grand Touring model we had in for testing is the top-of-the-line Aviator. Powering this sleek sport ute is Lincoln's plug-in hybrid powertrain. A twin-turbocharged V6 is paired with a 75-kW electric motor and a 13.6-kWh battery. All told, the system has a maximum output of 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. Yes, this Lincoln makes more peak torque than a McLaren 765LT, Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Ferrari 812 Superfast. It weighs a ton more than the McLaren at 5,173 pounds, but you get the idea.

2022 Lincoln Aviator
262 for sale in your area
See All for Sale

Heavyweight powertrain problems

When the Aviator's fully charged, everything is sublime. The powertrain is smooth and gutsy, and in our testing the Aviator scoots from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. It's no supercar in that respect, but it's certainly not bad when competitors like the Lexus RX and Cadillac XT6 need more than 7 seconds to do the same deed. However, once you get off the drag strip and into the real world, little gremlins soon start to pop up. Rolling away from a stop is almost never a smooth operation, and even light brushes of the throttle can result in big lurches forward.

The transmission is often asleep at stoplights, and even while on the move, the shift programming can't seem to wrap its electronic brain around which gear to select at what time. Its recalcitrant operation leads to frustration, and occasionally the gearbox slams its way into gear, resulting in a jarring thunk from the car jolting forward. The movement was so concerning we stopped the Aviator on the side of the road and got out to see if red transmission fluid was leaking from the bottom of the car. Thankfully, the car was fine, but the episode wasn't exactly reassuring.

2022 Lincoln Aviator

Coming to a stop is nearly as tricky. The Aviator has regenerative braking, which feeds the energy otherwise lost when coming to a stop back into the battery pack to help keep it charged. However, even if you apply a constant amount of pressure to the brake pedal, the car decides when to switch from regen to sheer disc-and-pad braking. As a result, coming to a stop sends shudders through the pedal and the switch from regen to friction is often accompanied by a thunk and another lurch. It's not a perfect system, but these are the kind of refinements we'd expect from a $89,600 SUV.

But how does the Aviator drive?

On this front, the news is good. Actually, it's better than good. The Aviator might just be one of the most athletic SUVs on sale that doesn't have an M or AMG badge plastered on its rump. As weird as this sounds, it's genuinely fun, responding quickly and accurately to steering inputs and being a joy to drive pretty much anywhere. Even our favorite mountain roads couldn't flummox the big bad Lincoln (yes, the Lincoln more than held its own on a spirited drive up twisty tarmac).

2022 Lincoln Aviator

When you aren't putting the hammer down, the Aviator is nearly sublime. It's quiet everywhere, and the adaptive Air Glide suspension delivers — it literally glides its way over rutted, nasty pavement. Big undulations will occasionally unsettle the whole car, and the Aviator starts to porpoise along until it can settle back down onto its suspension. But a little floatiness aside, the Aviator's ride is both calm and composed, an unfortunately far cry from the lack of refinement we experienced with its powertrain.

And then we get to the interior

On the inside, initial impressions are good. There are vast swaths of chestnut brown leather covering the doors, all six uber-comfortable seats, and pretty much everything else above your belt line. It's a well-thought-out piece of interior design, and anywhere there isn't leather is covered by a high-quality-feeling soft-touch material. We wish that the seat controls and the shift paddles behind the steering wheel didn't feel like they were made out of quite such chintzy plastic, but these are small gripes.

2022 Lincoln Aviator

The door panels are lined with leather, and there is a completely flat shelf that allows you to rest your left elbow on the top of the door panel as you drive. We also appreciate how plush the Aviator's seats are and its excellent driving position. The front seats are supremely adjustable, with more than a dozen different parameters to choose from. Plus, they're heated and cooled and have a massage function.

In fact, the Aviator's interior gets almost everything right, including a genuinely usable third row, an airy in-cabin feel thanks to a panoramic glass roof, and an excellent optional stereo system by Revel. But again, small issues kept appearing during our two weeks with the car. Nearly 40% of the time we spent in the Aviator, the infotainment screen that rests atop the dash refused to display anything. It would respond to touches, and would occasionally display information like volume adjustments, but in general the screen was completely blank.

We noticed that hooking our phones up to Apple CarPlay was the root cause of the issue, but this really is something Lincoln should have sorted out. If you're going to spend almost $90,000 on an SUV, whether the infotainment screen wants to work or not really should be one of the last things on your mind, and it's an honest-to-goodness hassle here.

2022 Lincoln Aviator

The bottom line

The fact remains that we genuinely like the Lincoln Aviator, and a general lack of refinement aside, it is a great SUV. However, we simply can't ignore the issues we faced in our time with it. It's quiet and comfortable and makes for a fine daily driver. We just know that if Lincoln had spent a little more time working out some very small kinks, the Aviator would be a truly excellent automobile. For now, it remains quite good.

Edmunds says

We'd recommend circumventing the Aviator's hybridity altogether, settling for less power, and saving some cash while you're at it.