The Aviator buries the MKT’s ancient bones and moves to a new architecture that rotates the engine 90 degrees so that torque now flows to either the rear wheels or all four. Sharing this core componentry with the new Explorer, the Aviator is still very much a gilded Ford. Crucially, the visible and tangible similarities are few and insignificant enough not to matter.
Aviator can be hustled quite capably around some pretty serious mountain roads thanks to the advanced suspension and inherent chassis balance afforded by its rear-drive-based architecture (all-wheel drive is optional). Though the standard steering ratio and tuning is unique to Aviator, we sampled the available adaptive steering, which is paired with the air suspension and alters the ratio and effort based on speed. Thankfully, it’s not overt in this adaptability. Its effort is consistent and natural, there’s no slack on center, and turn-in is crisp in the Normal driving mode. Selecting Sport mode, or rather “Excite,” dials in exactly the right amount of extra weight to provide additional confidence and control when on a twistier road.
Those drive modes also change pedal feel from the electronic brake-by-wire system, with distinctive setups for Normal/Conserve, Excite and the two inclement weather modes. It’s a subtle difference and you may not even notice it, yet it’s important to note that there’s no Individual mode that allows you to mix and match different control calibrations. Lincoln engineers thought that sort of enthusiast-oriented fiddling really wasn’t in keeping with the Aviator’s character and purpose. Either way, the settings as-is are well calibrated and appropriate for the situations they’re intended for. We wouldn’t have fiddled with them anyway.
POWER AND ENGINE
The standard twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 is a powerful part of the Aviator’s appeal. Making 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, the base engine outguns the competition’s—in many cases by more than 50 horses. The engine operates silently enough to be forgotten at cruising speeds. With a poke of the accelerator, the V-6 roars to attention and rockets the Aviator down the road. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission continues to improve with every new application, including this one. In the Aviator, the transmission picks gears assertively yet executes shifts with a gentle smoothness.
Most of the Aviator’s competitors trail it in terms of standard power and even when equipped with their optional engines they can’t match the Lincoln’s grunt. In fact, some of the German competitors in this segment, like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, have four-cylinder base engines, giving Lincoln a clear edge.
The 2020 Aviator surrounds the five adults who sit in rows one and two in dapper design and in excellent space. Lincoln fits basic 10-way power front seats with synthetic leather in the base Aviator, but everything else ratchets up into real leather and in many more ways of adjustability. We spent the day in the cosseting 30-way seats that come in the most expensive Lincolns; they’re like a dentist’s chair without all the painful side items, in the way they support every point of the body they touch. The center console between them has sliding covers for cupholders and hidden USB-enabled bins, and the panoramic sunroof only nibbles a bit of head room. Some of the metallic trim’s underpinned by plastic.
In row two, a three-person bench sits somewhere on a configurator; most Aviators will come with square-backed captain’s chairs that look like mid-century furniture and feel better than the sculpted pieces in rivals; more surface area means more support. Some versions even get heating and cooling to go with ample knee and head room. Row three doesn’t offer much in the way of any space for adults; it’s tiny, with low cushions and no support under the legs. But it power-folds down to expand the Aviator’s 18.3 cubic feet of space behind row three to 41.8 cubic feet behind row two—or 77.7 cubic feet behind row one.
Pricing for the 2020 Aviator begins at a very affordable $51,000 for the Standard RWD trim (AWD adds around $2,500) but prices can inflate rather quickly. The Reserve trim pushes the price up to $56,190but adds 20-inch wheels, quad-zone automatic climate control, a 14-speaker Revel audio system, and additional option packages such as the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus. Black Label is the highest trim level at $76,595 and adds unique interior themes, 22-inch wheels, and both the luxury and convenience packages included.
If you fancy the added power of the hybrid drivetrain, the Grand Touring model starts at $68,800 and includes substantial upgrades in standard equipment along with a healthy output increase to justify its higher starting price. The Grand Touring Black Label is the priciest Aviator with a starting price of $87,800