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Review update: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve poses a flight risk

July 18, 2020

The question: Could the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve transport five middle-age dads for a long weekend away at Lake Tomfoolery? The luxury three-row SUV could, but only if we left our coolers behind. But lake life goes with coolers like Lincoln land yachts go with 30-way power massaging front seats. Instead, there would be three dads, three duffel bags, two coolers, food for the group, a hammock, and a glow-in-the-dark bocce ball set. 

 

Even though we took two vehicles, everyone took a turn getting massaged in the front buckets of the Aviator. With all the snoring in the lake house, the Aviator tempted as a luxury suite. Those 30-way front seats with power thigh extenders and butt massagers were part of the $11,625 Reserve II package, which was part of nearly $17,000 in options that juiced the sticker price to more than $76,000. Comfort comes at a cost. 

A high TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10 might not reflect those seats, but it certainly reflects Lincoln’s renewed commitment to being a full-fledged luxury brand. Cadillac XT6, take note. Please. After a week in the smaller Navigator, here’s a few thoughts on three-row American luxury. 

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

Hit: Those seats

Not to belabor the point but there were adjustments from the head to the thigh and everywhere in between. Mounted to the door panel like a Mercedes-Benz, the controls were convenient but didn’t feel as solidly built. One of the coolest features on those heated and cooled bucket seats was a shoulder cushion that expanded and contracted like butterfly wings. But the control was snapped over the overall back control and made it hard to operate while driving. 

The Aviator comes standard with seven seats but my tester had second-row captain’s chairs that one delusional passenger claimed might be comfier than the massaging front seats. He might have been too tired from the long weekend to fuss with the massage controls but all four seats lull you to sleep. The mid-row seats recline for max comfort and another 6-foot-5 passenger complimented the ample leg and head room. They slide forward and back, then tilt forward with a latch to easily access the third row. 

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

Miss: Cramped third row

For a long weekend getaway, or even a busy weekend shuttling around town, a family of five or larger would need a trailer, a carrier, or the Lincoln Navigator to fit all the gear. The third row has two seats that ride over the rear axle. There’s less than 30 inches of leg room and head room gets cramped at the 5-foot-10 level. Two kids will fit fine, and two adults fit well enough for shorter trips but that third row is best folded down to optimize cargo space from 18.3 cubic feet to 41.8 cubic feet. From the liftgate, the power-folding third row encourages those seats to go down often. The optional center console between the captain’s chairs takes up more space than it is worth. 

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

Hit and miss: In-car technology

The dynamic steering wheel controls are four-way joysticks that operate like a knock-off of Mercedes' touch-sensitive thumb pads. Four-way icons appear on the right controller, like NSEW orientation on a compass, for audio, vehicle info, navigation, and settings. Toggle to one of those four to access a submenu in the instrument cluster; then the icons on the steering wheel change. Once you’re in the audio setting, for instance, the four icons change to a return arrow on the left side and an OK icon on the right. Using the joysticks takes longer than using the 10.1-inch touchscreen, which takes longer than using the tuning and volume dials. The inconvenience of technology aside, I got used to it within the week, same with the voice command button embedded in the 10-o'clock position on the steering wheel. 

That wheel is a thick thing, perhaps too dense with padding; there were several times with adaptive cruise control and active lane control activated where I was warned to take hold of the wheel even though my hand was on the wheel. Even with my hands off, there were only 15 seconds of hands-free driving and it was best on straight, uncongested stretches of highway. 

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

Hit: Soft ride, effortless transmission

There was no turbulence on this flight. All Aviators use a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes 400 horsepower (the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid adds a 75-kw motor to make 494 hp) with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It shifts quickly and effortlessly in three of the five drive modes tested, Excite, Normal, Conserve, Slippery, or Deep Conditions. In Conserve mode, it averaged 24.2 mpg on the highway, which pretty much matches the EPA rating even though we were weighed down by middle-aged daddom. 

My tester had 22-inch wheels that might be some of the sharpest-looking SUV wheels on the market, but tall wheels often are wrapped with thin tires with small side walls that can’t cushion the ride. That was the job of the $3,000 Dynamic Handling package with adaptive dampers and height-adjustable air springs. Turn it to Excite mode on the chincy console dial and the instrument cluster glows red as the suspension lowers the car for better aero and better handling. 

But like a black dress, the magical air suspension can’t hide the AWD tester’s 4,892-pound weight. The twin-turbo V-6 can shed that weight for passing moves, but you should consider the notion of “cornering” as you would on a commercial airline. 

Overall, the cush ride, quiet interior, and lush seats lull you into a sleepy state that make this one of the comfiest road trip vehicles I’ve tested. The superlative level of comfort was unanimous on our road trip. 

It’ll cost you, however, and at more than $76,000, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve isn’t as comfortable. 

_______________________________________

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

Base price: $59,795, including $1,095 destination

Price as tested: $76,310

Drivetrain: 400-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 17/24/20 mpg

The hits: Cush ride, great seats, sharp looks, effortless transmission

The misses: Rides large, luxury price, average tech.

2020
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2020
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