- A baby Navigator, in the best ways
- Wide-screen infotainment and displays
- Plug-in hybrid power
- Versatile three-row seating
- A stunning interior
- Puts the $$$ in $$$$
- Small third-row seat
- V-6 engine moan
- Grand Touring shift quality and weight
features & specs
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator gives wing to Ford’s luxury-SUV ambitions, with sensational style and Lincoln’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is strong evidence that Ford’s luxury bona fides don’t start and end with the full-size Navigator.
In base, Reserve, and Black Label, both the Aviator and Aviator Grand Touring hybrid vector off in a luxury lane. We give it 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2020 Aviator leaps into the niche between the Navigator SUV and the Nautilus crossover, and revives a nameplate Lincoln hasn’t touched since the 2006 model year.
As it did back then, the new Lincoln Aviator shares basic running gear with the Explorer, but Lincoln reserves some hardware all to itself. Based on a new architecture that makes its debut in the new SUV, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator sports three available rows of seats, rear- or all-wheel drive, an air suspension with adaptive dampers, new safety gear, and an available hybrid drivetrain.
Lincoln writes another love letter to vintage American style with the Aviator. The tapered roofline has a lovely sport-wagon appeal, while the front end unleashes a flourish of chrome and glam details that work in their borderline excess. The Aviator’s cabin leaves the same kind of impression as the cockpits in top-flight German SUVs: it’s lavish without lapsing into glitz to our eyes.
The standard drive system pairs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with a 10-speed automatic; it’s rated at 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. The plug-in hybrid Aviator Grand Touring generates 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. Quick despite a chunky curb weight, the Aviator’s handling ranges from a laudably smooth ride on interstates to admirable control in wide sweepers, to evidently hefty responses to tightly twisted corners. The Aviator has a lot of sound deadening, but at full bore its V-6 could benefit from active noise cancellation, too.
The Aviator Grand Touring hybrid adds in a battery pack and electric motor that help the SUV cruise on electric power alone for up to 21 miles. As a hybrid vehicle, the EPA rates it at 23 mpg combined. The pack can recharge in about four hours on a Level 2 charger, but shift quality can be disappointing, and the hybrid's 5,673-pound curb weight dulls its efficiency and performance.
People and their accoutrements get top-drawer handling, too. Front seats can offer up to 30-way adjustment, though that leads to a quest for perfection that some passengers may never find. The Aviator’s second-row seats slide on a track for better third-row access and recline for long-distance comfort. The Aviator can seat up to seven passengers; configured with middle-row buckets, it’s perfectly suited for two adult couples. The third row’s cramped, but it folds down to boost the Aviator’s ample storage space.
Lincoln puts automatic emergency braking in every Aviator, and offers adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system, as well as a widescreen head-up display. Other tech features include wireless smartphone charging, a clean and easily understood touchscreen interface, and a choice between ultra-clear Revel audio systems, including one with 3D surround sound and 28 speakers. The 2020 Aviator also can allow owners to open the vehicle with their smartphones. Prices range from about $52,000 base to nearly $90,000 for a Grand Touring plug-hybrid in Black Label trim.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
The Aviator’s signature style scales down handsomely from the Navigator.
With the Aviator, Lincoln strikes the same vein of gold it did with the Navigator. The Aviator’s body bristles with interesting but not overwhelming detail, and its cabin has a sophisticated look that’s pure American glam.
We give it an 8 out of 10, with a point extra for the body and two extra for the interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Look at the Ford Explorer and it’s difficult to tell it shares genetic material with the 2020 Aviator. The Explorer has a low-slung, swept-back look that’s more sport wagon than SUV. The Aviator’s tall front end and gently draped roofline render the same, but from completely different forms and details. At the front, the Aviator wears a mesh grille with a light-up star (as an option); it’s bougie and brilliant just like the same effect on a Mercedes. Some of the Aviator’s other cues echo from Ford’s ownership of Land Rover and Jaguar. The headlights have underliners of LED and a jog in their otherwise plain shapes that gives them some pizazz, and the mirrors ride on fender vents that pierce what would otherwise be wide expanses of plain sheet metal. Where the Aviator is best is where it’s simplest, in the gradual taper of its roofline and the horizontal strips that cut across the tailgate, where less is more (so long as you ignore the massive lettering atop the taillights).
The Aviator’s interior has the intrigue of ‘60s Lincolns down pat. Chalk it up to a repetition of rectangular elements, from the wide dash band that defines the interior theme to the inset rectangular vents that line up across that band in lockstep. Even the Aviator’s seats have rectangular cushions with lovely stitching; it’s throwback design that seems fresh, a neat feat.
Where it goes more high-tech—in its digital displays—it’s flatter and a little less convincing, but still lovely. The metallic details are abundant and pull up just shy of glitzy; the piano-black trim is kept to a minimum. The tall screen doesn’t have the wide form factor of the displays in a Kia Telluride or a BMW X5, but the interface looks spare and easily understood. The transmission shift toggles sit asymmetrically under the screen.
Where the Aviator interior truly sings is in its Black Label editions. Three themes bring distinct trim and tones: Flight combines black and tan, while Destination pairs red leather and wood, and Chalet matches brown and white leather with a silvery wood-like trim. In these combinations, the Aviator pulls up alongside the Telluride and the Benz GLE/GLS in tony, on-trend style.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
The 2020 Aviator’s hefty curb weight dulls what could be slingshot power.
The latest Aviator rides on a new rear-drive architecture that promises deft handling to go with its prodigious twin-turbo power. Weight and height get in the way of its loftiest goals, but the Aviator’s still blessed with good composure.
We give it a 6 for performance.
Both Aviators tap a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 for power. A bored-out version of Ford’s 2.7-liter V-6 from the F-150 pickup, the Lincoln engine drops the hammer in the Aviator, where it’s rated at 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. The sounds that emanate from the V-6 are moany but not groany, and only draw attention at full throttle. Ford doesn’t publish acceleration estimates but this Aviator should reach 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds despite a curb weight of 4,774 pounds (4,892 pounds with AWD), which nets it a point above average. The 10-speed automatic that delivers power to the rear or all four wheels picks a gear decisively and shifts without much fuss; their small plastic shift paddles behind the steering wheel might go unnoticed.
The Aviator’s unfussy all-wheel-drive system comes standard on most models, and can split power between the front and rear axles, but not side to side as some more complex systems can. The drivetrain has a series of selectable modes which quicken or slow certain responses—Conserve upshifts early to save fuel, while Excite stiffens steering and quickens shifts. The modes change the digital gauge displays, but the Aviator doesn’t have an individual mode, so drivers can’t tailor their own settings as they might in a German SUV at the same price.
The 2020 Aviator also has an automatic tow mode that adapts its drivetrain when a vehicle is hitched; it can tow up to 6,700 pounds with an optional tow package.
Lincoln Aviator ride and handling
The non-hybrid Aviator has a strut and multi-link suspension, but with a Dynamic Handling package it adopts adaptive control for its electric power steering, adaptive dampers and height-adjustable air springs for a smoother ride, and a road-sensing camera that can better prepare it to cope with large bumps by adjusting spring stiffness.
The air suspension comes with extravagantly named settings. “Showroom” drops the ride height for profiling in the parking lot, while “Entry” limbos lower for easy passenger access. “Excite” notches the Aviator even lower for improved handling and fuel economy, while “Deep” raises the vehicle for snow and other obstacles.
All the test vehicles from our first drive were bundled with this package, which also brought along massive 22-inch wheels. The combination proved best at handling long, sweeping curves; in Excite mode its stiffer settings felt more nimble, not jittery or tense, and its adaptive steering took a fairly consistent set once it drove above parking-lot speeds. On tighter corners, the Aviator felt more like its bulk and size would imply. Its air springs allowed a fair amount of front-end movement, while the big wheels transmitted the impact of small bumps into the cabin even in Normal suspension mode. The Aviator constantly modulated its answers to the road surface like a candidate trying to make an impact through early rounds of debate. It doesn’t lapse into laziness, but the Aviator’s softer electronically delivered tune didn’t seem as well choreographed as that in the similar but simpler Ford Explorer.
Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring hybrid performance
In the Grand Touring version of the 2020 Aviator, the twin-turbo V-6 hooks up with a 13.6-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and a 75-kw electric motor to generate much more power than the standard SUV. The new hybrid propulsion system drops an electric motor between the transmission and the engine. A lithium-ion battery pack sits under the floor, on the passenger side, so as not to consume too much storage space.
Lincoln pegs the hybrid Aviator at 494 hp and 630 lb-ft, which might be enough to propel the Aviator to 60 mph in less than six seconds. It might be enough, if the hybrid version didn’t weigh in at 5,673 pounds, the sum of all its added hardware: standard all-wheel drive, battery pack and motor, and plenty of standard equipment. It's rated to tow up to 5,600 pounds.
While it’s very quiet in EV mode, the Aviator Grand Touring hybrid grows noisier when its gas engine engages, adding in motor whine with engine moan at full throttle. EV mode relieves the engine noise for as long as it can power the Aviator alone. The drivetrain gets two additional drive modes; Preserve EV holds battery charge state so that pure EV miles can be conserved for in-town driving while Pure EV mode locks into electric-only battery power until the pack energy is nearly used up—about 15 miles, in our experience.
Charging the Aviator Hybrid is simple. The port on the front left fender is lit, and when plugged in on a Level 2 port, it can get to full charge in three to four hours, Lincoln says.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Comfort & Quality
When you can adjust your chair 30 different ways, you’re probably doing OK.
The Aviator stretches to seat up to seven passengers and to carry their cargo—while it shrinks the Navigator’s lush trappings down to a more usable size.
It’s a 9 for comfort and utility.
The 2020 Aviator measures 199.3 inches long, and rides on a 119.1-inch wheelbase; the numbers exceed those of the Q7/GLE/X5 trio, and the Aviator parcels out its space better in the second row than any, we think.
In front, it also puts on a flourish of excess that would have embarrassed the first-wave German SUVs, if not the latest GLE-Class. Opulence is the norm now, even in mid-size utility vehicles, and the Aviator coddles front-seat passengers with lavish head and leg room and, at a minimum, 10-way power-adjustable seats. Swing into the top models, and the 30-way seats found in Continentals and Navigators offer up a potentially life-changing and possibly fidgety experience. Our test vehicles only came with these extravagant chairs, and other drivers spent miles tweaking every possible cushion for perfect positioning—some couldn’t find it. With leg cushions extended and shoulders cradled, I had an easier time than most with the dentist-chair-like effect of so much cushioning.
In the second row, 40.1 inches of leg room and exquisitely quilted white leather captain’s chairs made the most of their space, with reasonable head room under a panoramic roof and the kind of squared-off seatbacks that make old Lincolns look so stately. A second-row bench is an option on some models, but the buckets lend the Aviator some limousine realness and a practical mini-console for storage and USB power.
With just 29.2 inches of leg room in the third row, the Aviator’s no Honda Pilot or Chrysler Pacifica, and the seat enforces a very low crouch that sends a signal to taller passengers—an unwelcome one. It serves small passengers best; they won’t mind the harder plastics that pull up against their shoulders.
The Aviator’s interior space opens up with its fold-away third row and tilt-ahead second row seats. Lincoln measures 18.3 cubic feet of space behind row three, 41.8 behind row two and 77.7 behind row one. The Aviator has a high cargo floor which makes its cargo numbers seem optimistic, but the space itself is squared-off and uniformly usable.
We’ll rave about the look of the Aviator’s interior from the second row forward; it’s a glamorous conjuring of style that’s distinctive and tinged with heritage. We’re less enthusiastic about the plastic core of the metallic trim pieces, the hard plastic trim on the consoles and cargo hold, and most of all, the moany dull roar of the V-6 engine. On the balance, the Aviator’s eye-pleasing where it counts most.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
The 2020 Aviator has mostly good crash-test scores.
Lincoln's Aviator complements respectable crash-test scores with good active safety features and better safety options.
The feds gave it a five-star score—although the IIHS has its reservations—and it earns a 7 on our safety scale.
The IIHS gave the Aviator top "Good" scores on all crash tests except the driver-side small overlap crash test. The agency hasn't tested the passenger side. Its standard automatic emergency braking system rated as "Superior" at avoiding crashes with pedestrians and other cars. Its headlights rate "Good" or "Marginal" depending on how deep your pockets are.
In its favor, the Aviator comes with a generous level of standard safety equipment. Every SUV has automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Most models can be optioned up with a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, and park assist—most of which comes standard on the top-end Aviators. These driver-assist systems can steer the SUV and adjust the throttle in traffic jams; they can also brake the vehicle when it detects approaching obstacles as it reverses, or steer out of harm’s way when it “sees” obstacles on the road ahead.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
The 2020 Aviator poses some value questions, but its features and infotainment excel.
The latest Lincoln Aviator soars above some of its SUV rivals in ways we’ve come to expect—namely in its superb audio options and its comely interior treatments. Its warranty is very good but not the best, and the value question has us flummoxed—it’s either too much for what it is, or a raging bargain for what it is.
We give it an 8 here.
The $52,195 Aviator comes with enough standard equipment to earn its luxury label. The roster includes LED headlights, a power tailgate, 10-way power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, a power-fold third-row seat, remote start, keypad access, keyless ignition, and an AM/FM/XM audio system with 10 speakers, an 10.1-inch touchscreen, and navigation. All-wheel drive boosts the price to $54,695.
An excellent options list sells upgrades like Delta—at the moment of purchase, just when you’re most vulnerable. We can talk it out later, but be prepared for temptation. Base Aviators can be outfitted with 12-way power front seats, leather upholstery, 14-speaker Revel audio, second-row captain’s chairs with a mini-console between, a panoramic roof, and 22-inch wheels (or on hybrids, 20- and 21-inchers). Packages include towing gear; a group that lets drivers use their smartphone as a key, along with wireless smartphone charging and soft-touch doors; a dynamic package that has adaptive suspension and steering; a climate package with heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. At the askiest end of the list, Lincoln sells front-row and second-row cooled seats, adaptive headlights, a light-up star (hello, Germany!), 30-way seats, and 28-speaker Revel audio.
To the base gear, the $57,285 Aviator Reserve ($59,995 with AWD) adds 20-inch wheels, a surround-view camera system, 14-speaker Revel sound, and premium leather. Options are similar to the base vehicle, but also include a panoramic roof and a head-up display.
The $69,895 Aviator Grand Touring gets 20-inch wheels, the panoramic roof, and adaptive steering, and offers the options as above; all-wheel drive is standard.
The ne plus ultra Aviator isn’t called the Ne Plus Ultra, and that’s a pity. But the $78,780 Black Label adds 22-inch wheels to all the gear above, and it can be configured with a middle-row bench seat. The $88,895 Aviator Black Label Grand Touring comes with most of the above and rides on 21-inch wheels; options include the tow package and rear-seat entertainment system, but no middle-row bench seat is offered.
Lincoln Aviator infotainment
The Aviator’s touchscreen interface and its 10.1-inch screen aren’t the best or widest in the luxury-vehicle universe, but they have some charming touches. We’re mixed on the new joystick controls embedded in the steering wheel. They give better toggle-style control to volume and other functions than, say, Mercedes’ touch-sensitive pads, but it’ll take a few drives to develop muscle memory for those functions and their toggle actions.
We’re not at all sold on the voice-control button embedded at 10 o’clock in the rim of the steering wheel. It’s too easy to hit the switch and call up a voice assistant in mid-turn if you shuffle the wheel. What we’re sold on, emphatically, are the sensational aural talents of the Revel sound systems, which render even lossy satellite radio sounds with brilliance.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Gas mileage isn’t the Aviator’s top priority.
The 2020 Aviator boasts a 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 that ripples with raw power—and has a decent appetite for gas. We give it a 4 here.
The EPA’s rated the 2020 Aviator in two ways. The rear-drive model earns 18 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined. With all-wheel drive, it’s good for 17/24/20 mpg.
The Aviator Grand Touring plug-in hybrid, which adds a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor to the engine, is more efficient. The EPA rates it at 23 mpg combined and says it can travel up to 21 miles on electricity alone.