What is it?
2020 Lincoln Aviator First Drive
Reborn, Resurrected and Rebooted
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a three-row SUV that fits in the Lincoln lineup just beneath the Navigator. It's rear-drive-based and shares its underpinnings with the new rear-drive Ford Explorer. It has three rows of seating and comes with a standard turbocharged V6 engine. There's also a new plug-in hybrid version available.
Why does it matter?
Lincoln has resurrected the Aviator nameplate, so it might seem like the brand's going for a nostalgic angle. But this three-row SUV is all-new. For Lincoln, it's proof that the company can offer more than just the truck-based Navigator and can appeal to buyers who value comfort more than towing capacity.
What does it compete with?
Many three-row luxury SUVs have standard and hybrid variants, and the Aviator is no different. For the most part, the Aviator competes against the Acura MDX, the Volvo XC90, the Audi Q7 and the Land Rover Discovery. Like the Aviator, the Volvo and the Acura are available with hybrid powertrains. If you price it out to the max, however, the Aviator also competes well against the Mercedes-Benz GLS and the BMW X7.
How does it drive?
The base and midlevel models come with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that puts out 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. That's more than enough to get this big three-row moving. It accelerates smoothly from a stop and passes on the highway with ease. The standard Aviator is big, but it's also surprisingly swift around corners. Our test vehicle was equipped with an optional air suspension. So equipped, the Aviator moves from corner to corner with ease.
The topped-out Aviator Grand Touring comes as a plug-in hybrid. You get the same twin-turbo V6, but it's paired to an electric motor that increases power output to 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. Unlike some other hybrids, the Aviator doesn't feel like it's tuned for fuel economy. Rather, this system is more for a burst of extra power at low speeds. It also fills in the gaps between shifts nicely. Placed in the EV-only mode, this powertrain provides about 18 miles of all-electric range before this big SUV switches over to normal hybrid mode.
The Aviator's steering has an excellent on-center feel, and it's well-weighted. Even with the higher-horsepower plug-in hybrid, you won't confuse the Aviator for a shouty AMG Mercedes or an M Sport BMW SUV, but it reacts to driver inputs well. The 10-speed automatic shifts quickly. And on the highway, things are impressively quiet. The only real noise comes from the tires at highway speeds.
What's the interior like?
The Aviator comes in a number of available trim levels, but even on the base and midlevel trims, it feels put together nicely. You'll find quality materials and crisp displays all around. In the cabin, there's lots of space to move around in the first and second rows. Even the third row can accommodate two adults, at least for a short trip. You also get an increasingly luxurious experience in the Aviator's Reserve and Grand Touring trims. They add options such as plush leather seating, 30-way-adjustable heated and ventilated seats, and even an available 28-speaker stereo.
For the driver, there are a lot of controls at the helm. The steering wheel is packed with redundant controls, but none of them seem like overkill. The track-skip and volume functions, for example, are all controlled by one directional knob, while the cruise control functions are all hidden and only light up on the steering wheel when you're ready to engage them. Then, there's a 10.1-inch touchscreen at the center of the dashboard that displays all the infotainment functions. It's crisp, clear and impressively large.
How practical is it?
The Aviator is big on the inside, which results in plenty of cargo capacity. Towing capacity is impressive for the class, especially since it's not a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Lincoln says you'll be able to tow up to 6,700 pounds with the standard powertrain, or 5,600 pounds with the plug-in hybrid. It's not for everyone, however. The Aviator is more expensive than several of its conventional rivals, so it shouldn't be considered a luxury bargain.
What else should I know?
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is excellent in a lot of ways, but it does have a few drawbacks. As mentioned previously, some conventional rivals from Acura and Volvo are less expensive to start. What's more, rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi have a seemingly higher build quality — our test vehicle had some squeaks and rattles that don't belong on such a plush SUV. Altogether though, the Aviator is an impressive entry into the luxury three-row class.
Based on our initial impressions, the Aviator looks to be a first-class SUV that stands a serious chance of being one of Edmunds' top-ranked vehicles. Whether you go with the standard Aviator or the top-trim plug-in hybrid, there's a lot to like. Stay tuned for a full rating of the Aviator, and be sure to use Edmunds for all your car- and SUV-shopping needs.