2021 Lincoln Aviator Review
The Lincoln Aviator is a three-row midsize luxury SUV based on the Ford Explorer. This new generation debuted just last year and takes its place between the bigger Navigator and the smaller MKC. It's priced competitively against its European rivals, though alternatives from Acura and Infiniti are more affordable.
The second-generation Aviator comes standard with a strong 400-horsepower turbocharged V6 engine. There's also a plug-in hybrid model that increases output to 494 hp and delivers an estimated 21 miles of electric-only propulsion. Overall, we like the Aviator, though it has a few flaws that keeps it from being our top-ranked midsize luxury SUV. Check out our Expert Rating to get our in-depth take on the 2021 Aviator.
The Lincoln Aviator provides an upscale interior design, a comfortable ride quality and strong acceleration. Other midsize three-row luxury SUVs are more poised when going around turns, but overall we like how the Aviator offers shoppers something a little different.
How does the Aviator drive?
The Aviator is quick in a straight line. While there's a slight delay when you ask it for power, the Aviator really gets going after that. In Edmunds testing, our all-wheel-drive Aviator Black Label covered 0-60 mph in a quick 5.9 seconds.
Braking and handling are less exemplary. The brake pedal is overly soft and hard to modulate smoothly. The Aviator also feels big and wallowy when you're driving around turns and doesn't give you much confidence in its stability. Another problem is the transmission's clunky and slow transition between forward and reverse. All of these issues combine to make driving the Aviator less pleasing than we expected.
How comfortable is the Aviator?
The Aviator reminds us a bit of Lincoln models of old: It's big, heavy and cushy. Bumps are absorbed nicely, although there can be a bit of residual body motion. Wind and traffic noise is minimal, so you can have a quiet conversation in the cabin if you want.
The highly adjustable seats are quite comfortable once you've managed to dial them in. One notable demerit: The seat is a bit narrow, so you may feel the hard frame on your hips. As for the climate control system, it does a good job of regulating cabin temperature, though the seat heating and cooling are a bit weak.
How’s the interior?
The third row is pretty much a kids-only affair; there's just not much legroom back there. The second row is better and has a lot of legroom, but headroom is a bit limited if you have an Aviator with the optional sunroof. Up front, headroom can be tight for tall adults.
Visibility is another concern. The windshield and rear window are short, blocking some of your view of the road. There are also a lot of surfaces around the cabin that can cause distracting glare and reflections. As for the controls, they're generally easy to use, though the transmission shift buttons and the multifunction buttons on the steering wheel can require taking your eyes off the road to push.
How’s the tech?
The infotainment screen has large text and virtual buttons, making it friendly no matter your comfort level with technology. However, it's a less sophisticated system than some competitors and lacks some of the coolest new features. For device integration, the first two rows have plenty of options for plugging in devices. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but using them locks you out of basic voice controls and creates annoyances with things such as adjusting vehicle settings or switching radio stations.
The Aviator's driver aids are quite good. The lane keeping and centering system works well and isn't overly noticeable, for instance. Adaptive cruise is smooth in heavy traffic, although it will brake aggressively if you set it to follow the vehicle ahead closely.
How’s the storage?
The Aviator has an edge over competitors for storage behind the third row. Space behind the second row is average, and many competitors offer more maximum cargo volume. Our Aviator test vehicle had the optional air suspension, which you can use to lower the ride height and make it easier to load cargo. If you want to tow, the Aviator offers a solid 6,700 pounds of max towing capacity. The strong V6 engine helps out too.
Inside the cabin, all three rows offer a handful of useful storage options, though the center console box is a bit shallow. Small-item storage isn't class-leading, but it is certainly sufficient. For family taxi duty, the Aviator's second-row seat is roomy enough to install even bulky rear-facing safety seats. The car seat anchors are easy to access.
How’s the fuel economy?
The EPA-estimated ratings of 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway) for AWD and 21 combined (18 city/26 highway) for RWD are acceptable for the class. But in our time with the Aviator, our best tank only returned 18 mpg, and our overall average was under 16 mpg.
Is the Aviator a good value?
Lincoln has come a long way in terms of design, content and quality. The Aviator looks and feels luxurious inside and out, with lots of thought put into making sure the first- and second-row passengers have a premium experience. The chrome and piano-black trims are a bit chintzy, but other than that the Aviator offers something special.
We do question the value of the Aviator at its highest trim level. Our loaded Black Label test vehicle felt distinctly overpriced at $84,000. If you can live with a less luxe interior, go with the more competitively priced Reserve.
The Aviator looks distinctive, which we like. At the same time, it reminds us a bit of Lincoln models of days gone by. This vehicle is best driven in a straight line since it lacks the poise and confidence of European competitors when the road gets twisty. Don't care? Then you'll just be pleased to see Lincoln staking out a distinctive luxury personality.
Which Aviator does Edmunds recommend?
The second-level Reserve trim takes a marked step up from the base model Aviator, with a more comfortable — almost opulent — interior and impressive technology. The included equipment is easily enough to make us happy with the standard rear-wheel-drive version, though if you feel inclined to choose all-wheel drive to get the adaptive suspension we certainly won't argue.
Lincoln Aviator models
The Aviator is a three-row SUV that comes in five trim levels: Standard, Reserve, Black Label, Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label. The first three are powered by a turbocharged V6 engine, while the latter two are equipped with the more powerful hybrid version. Rear-wheel drive is standard with optional all-wheel drive on the first two trims — all others are AWD-only. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board.