The Lincoln Aviator brings Lincoln’s design vision to life, elevating beauty and performance in the brand’s newest SUV. Photo: Lincoln

The Lincoln Aviator brings Lincoln’s design vision to life, elevating beauty and performance in the brand’s newest SUV. Photo: Lincoln

Lincoln flies high with its latest first-class utility vehicle

Lincoln has just four vehicle models to sell – all utility vehicles – and that’s it. That means every one of them has to pull its weight.

Where did the rest go? The Continental and MKZ sedans were deleted from the lineup for the 2021 model year.

The Aviator — a nameplate originally attached to the Ford-Explorer-based Lincoln sold from model years 2003 to 2005 — slots between the giant-size Navigator and the midsize Nautilus. The entry to the lineup is the compact Corsair.

The Aviator, which arrived for the 2020 model year, is built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Ford Explorer. That means the available powertrains are positioned longitudinally – front to back – and not sideways, as was the case with the Explorer’s previous front-wheel-drive architecture.

A regular springs-and-shocks suspension is standard, but upper trims come with air springs with active (constantly adjusting) dampers. They work in combination with a camera that scans the road surface to assist the active suspension in smoothing out the ride.

The Aviator uses the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Ford Explorer. This means their powertrains are positioned longitudinally instead of sideways, as was the case with the previous front-wheel-drive Explorer platform. Photo: Lincoln

The Aviator uses the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Ford Explorer. This means their powertrains are positioned longitudinally instead of sideways, as was the case with the previous front-wheel-drive Explorer platform. Photo: Lincoln

The bodywork is decidedly elegant, from Lincoln’s signature grille (reminiscent of Jaguar’s, actually), on back to the slightly angled liftgate. Instead of squaring off the roofline as the designers did with the Navigator, the Aviator’s slopes downward toward the rear. That plus the slight creases around the fender openings contribute to the vehicle’s shapely appearance.

The extended-length rear doors aid access of the two-place 50:50 split-folding (and power-folding) third-row seat.

There’s abundant space for seven passengers, or six if the available second-row bucket seats are ordered in place of the standard three-person bench. The individual seats can be separated by one of two different types of floor consoles.

The driver and front passenger have a clear view of the standard 10.1-inch or optional 12-3-inch information screen that sticks out of the dashboard like a slice of bread in a toaster.

The base Aviator is fitted with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6 that makes 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Power is distributed to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. It plays a pivotal role when the optional plug-in hybrid powertrain is selected. The system’s 100-horsepower electric motor is connected to the 10-speed, increasing the twin-turbo’s output to 494 horsepower and 630 pound-feet. With the battery pack fully charged, the hybrid is claimed to provide up to 34 kilometres of electric-only range.

The base turbo V-6 is rated at 13.7 l/100 km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.9 combined. The hybrid is actually only slightly better at 10.3 l/100 km combined, but that increases to 4.2 l/100 km combined when factoring in the electric-only operation.

The screen popping out of the dash is the only distraction to an otherwise clean and elegant interior. Note the transmission is operated via a row of dash-mounted buttons. Photo: Lincoln

The screen popping out of the dash is the only distraction to an otherwise clean and elegant interior. Note the transmission is operated via a row of dash-mounted buttons. Photo: Lincoln

Of the two available trim levels, the Aviator Reserve, which lists for $72,200 including destination charges, comes with tri-zone climate control, heated 10-way power-adjustable front seats, forward and reverse object sensors and 19-inch wheels.

The Reserve also gets 20-inch wheels plus quad-zone climate control, premium 14-speaker sound system and a hands-free power liftgate. Optional are 22-inch wheels, 30-way power front seats with massage (also heated and ventilated), a 28-speaker sound package and a panoramic roof.

Along with the extra-potent hybrid power system, the Grand Touring is outfitted with a host of extras, including air suspension with a system that automatically lowers the body when the driver approaches.

As well, the two dozen or so audio alerts that sound whenever a seat belt isn’t attached or when a door is ajar, etc., have been created by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. How’s that for class?

Drivers can unlock the Aviator and start it via a Phone As Key app. An exterior keypad can also be used as a backup if your phone goes dead.

With plenty of choices in the full-size luxury-utility class, the Aviator manages to stand out as one of the most visually appealing. And when the plug-in hybrid is selected, it’s also one of the most powerful.

Before the Aviator, the only Lincoln with three rows of seats was the large and pricey Navigator. Photo: Lincoln

Before the Aviator, the only Lincoln with three rows of seats was the large and pricey Navigator. Photo: Lincoln

What you should know: 2021 Lincoln Aviator

Type: All-wheel-drive full-size utility vehicle

Engine (h.p.): 3.0-litre DOHC V-6, twin-turbocharged (400/494, with electric assist)

Transmission: Ten-speed automatic

Market position: Ford’s Lincoln division has fortified its tall-wagon lineup to include a range of sizes and power systems, while abandoning the luxury-sedan segment entirely. That leaves Cadillac as the sole domestic premium sedan supplier, along with a number of import-based automakers.

Points: Elegant upscale styling pulls out all the stops. • Spacious interior is appropriately well-dressed, but the information screen’s placement is jarring. • Twin-turbo V-6 pumps out plenty of power. The hybrid version does even better and is also more fuel-efficient. • Too bad the more expensive hybrid powertrain also requires the pricier upper trim level.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); lane-departure intervention (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 13.7/9.7

Base price (incl. destination): $72,200

BY COMPARISON

Cadillac XT6

  • Base price: $61,700
  • This three-row AWD model is the Aviator’s main rival among domestic brands.

Lexus RX 350L

  • Base price: $62,350
  • Seven-seat RX 350 model has style and space. Hybrid version is also available.

Volvo XC90

  • Base price: $66,850
  • Luxury Swede uses a turbo four-cylinder engine for all trims. Plug-in hybrid opt.

– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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