The new Lincoln Aviator sets the tone for what’s to come from Ford’s luxury brand.
Québec, QC. It’s been a while since I’ve looked forward to driving a new Lincoln product. While I did enjoy the Lincoln Continental at the launch event and as a press car, the last time I was genuinely excited about a Lincoln was the LS from the first half of the 2000s. It was right around the same time that the “original” Lincoln Aviator was launched but it was far less than rousing.
The recipe behind the all-new 2nd generation 2020 Lincoln Aviator remains nearly identical to that of the first. That is, that the Aviator is heavily based on the Ford Explorer, in this case the high-performance Explorer ST. The main differences lie in the aesthetics where I can confirm that the Lincoln wins hands down in nearly every aspect. The question is: Is this enough to convince the discerning and option-rich luxury SUV buyer to spend big bucks at Lincoln over the European alternatives?
It sits majestically
Physically, the 2020 Aviator is everything it needs to be. It stands tall and proud with plenty of chrome, 20- or 22-inch wheels and a beautiful signature Lincoln grille. I’m especially fond of the rearward slopping roofline that reminds me of the Range Rover Velar, same goes for the tall, long bonnet and strong front fascia.
There is something quite majestic in the way the Aviator presents itself. The same goes for the cabin with at least one exception. Lincoln’s seriously upgraded the interior. It’s to a point where I’d be willing to point to Lincoln as a designer of some of the finest, cleanest and intuitive dashboards. Sadly however, material quality is uneven and worst of all, it’s obvious.
As do we
The door cards are the most affected by this. The piano-black surfaces have orange-peel in the finish and the lower door bins are made of hard and cheap plastics. Otherwise, luxury abounds.
The “perfect position” 30-way adjustable front seats suffer only from one fault: it takes forever to be fully comfortable because of all the possible adjustments. Once in and set up however, getting out of the Aviator won’t be something you want to do willingly. The second row provides plenty of space for two or three passengers while the 3rd row is there when you need it…
Said 3rd row rises or stows at the touch of a button. When down, the boot is a capacious 1,183 litres, when in place, the number drops to a still quite usable 519 litres.
With the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator, Ford fully intended on delivering every possible piece of tech they could think of in order to satisfy everyone. In fact, there’s so much onboard that I can’t fathom anyone, especially the average 61+ year-old Lincoln owner, will ever dive into more than leaving the active safety features on and using adaptive cruise control, perhaps focus on the heads-up display and for fun, have their kids program their smartphone as a key to use the Aviator. I doubt that they’ll truly experience the power and abilities of the optional 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D audio system. I did and the sound and power are difficult to comprehend.
One flattering feature is the Lincoln Embrace. Once within about three meters’ distance from the Aviator, its approach detection illuminates door handles and various running lamps including a Lincoln logo projected from the sideview mirrors. The best part is, when equipped with optional Air Glide Suspension, the vehicle lowers up to 2 inches (50.8mm) in order to ease entry.
The drive is really good
The caveat in this subtitle is that the purchased (or leased) 2020 Lincoln Aviator must feature the optional Air Glide suspension. Adaptive dampers are standard, as are steel springs. The air suspension provides a generous serving of comfort and even with the “Normal” drive mode selected, the 4,900-lb Aviator still handles very well.
Setting the “Excite” or sport drive mode stiffens and limits the Lincoln’s body roll without compromising ride comfort. The general driving experience is positively and negatively affected by the Aviator’s intense sense of weight. It’s a good thing as the SUV feels safe, powerful and solid but the sense of excess burden hovers throughout the drive. The other advantages to Air Glide include a raised ride height in “Deep Condition” or off-road mode. As well, the Aviator will lower itself as of 113km/h.
The standard twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.0-litre V6 does an impressive job of countering the mass. With 400-horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque on tap, the Lincoln Aviator feels muscular. The equally standard 10-Speed SelectShift automatic transmission, with paddle shifters, performed flawlessly no matter my requests. This powertrain’s downside is a posted combined average of 12L/100km which is one of the highest in the segment.
Over the two-day drive event, we covered over 400km and the vast majority were very pleasant. The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a great long-distance people and gear hauler.
It’s a tough sell though
The most difficult-to-swallow aspect is the Aviator’s pricing. I get that it’s a premium vehicle but at $69,000, to start, Lincoln is not where the typical buyer will start shopping. For about $75k, you can consider a Porsche Cayenne or a BMW X5. Between $60k and $70k, an Audi Q7, a Mercedes-Benz GLE or a Volvo XC90 are all attainable.
Loaded up with a few options, the two 2020 Lincoln Aviators we drove retailed for just under $90,000, or $88,000 to be more precise. A Mercedes-Benz GLS starts at $94k. The only time the Aviator knocks an SUV hard is when it’s line-up against the new Cadillac XT6 – Caddy screwed this one up hard.
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a valid attempt at seriously taking on the larger midsize luxury SUV segment. Its main issues are that no matter what, it is a dressed-up Ford Explorer, albeit well-done, and pricing. Ford will without a doubt be heavy on incentives in order to move the vehicle. But, as most of these are leased, “saving” $200/month on a $1,000+/month lease won’t be enough to convince most to walk away from the Europeans.