For much of the last several decades, Lincoln’s haven’t had much clout. Cadillac, on the other hand, had and has the Escalade, the preferred ride of both celebrities and the supposed cool moms in the elementary school pickup line. Even a grade schooler could tell that the Navigator and Aviator were second fiddle to General Motors’ high-end offerings, at least as far as ostentatiousness was concerned.
Lincoln has now made great strides to improve its reputation, thanks to an assault of new products bearing fresh names and sharp styling. The Aviator, particularly in its Black Label Grand Touring guise, is perhaps the most well-honed weapon in Lincoln’s new-car onslaught. The three-row Lincoln SUV still shares its platform with the Ford Explorer, but you are hard pressed to find many visual cues to give away that fact, whether inside or out.
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label Grand Touring press car’s sheetmetal remains emblematic of Lincoln’s new form. It has a square jaw and a grille that manages to avoid gaping wide in the same way as luxury rivals BMW, Genesis, and even Volvo. Its roofline drops off with an elegant taper, making it look ever so much more elegant than its larger stablemate, the Navigator. Those who hate chrome may be appalled by its styling, but in my opinion the silvery strips highlight its body lines and endow it with an overall appearance not unlike that of a concept car. In no way does it give away its shared platform with the Explorer, beyond having swept-back rear-wheel-drive proportions.
Lincoln Aviator interior Flying Theme is “Whoa!”
On the inside, the only big tell that this product has anything to do with Ford is a reskinned version of the Sync 3 infotainment system, which happens to be a great interface – no harm there. Outside of the screen, materials are phenomenal. Soft-touch surfaces wrap much of the cabin, and Aviator’s interior appointments depart from Ford in an even greater way than the Navigator’s cabin. As someone who’s not typically a fan of piano black surfaces, the Aviator’s shiny plastic seems to be executed beyond my expectation. There’s also a great bit of polished metal in the cabin, thanks to the so-called Flight Theme, adding an overall aesthetic that made my younger brother say, “Woah!” when he peeked inside the car. This interior is on par with the Aviator’s German rivals; the fit and finish are just that good.
Its dynamics don’t belie its athletic appearance, either. Our test car boasts a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine under the hood, which turns out 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. It also gets some help in the form of a permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, which provides 101 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, for a combined output of 494 hp and 630 lb-ft. On the road, that translates to a lot of capability. It’s all routed through a 10-speed automatic gearbox that works in tandem with a hybrid transmission.
Off the line, this translates to a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. That’s a huge feat, literally, because the Aviator tips the scales at a hefty 5,673 pounds. Freeway pulls feel just as forceful. In fact, Lincoln’s SUV feels a bit like a pugilist in a suit, brandishing its strength in a package that conceals its might.
Lincoln Aviator battery power and range
I drove the Aviator Grand Touring both with and without charge in the battery. When charged, it can drive entirely on electric power at speeds up to 80 mph. When depleted, acceleration is still quite mighty. I also was able to gain about a mile of charge for every 20 minutes, and it’s great to get some more torque after there’s juice in the battery. Unfortunately, the Aviator can only charge with a Level 2 charger, meaning that I was only able to get a mile back of its 23-mile total range in a 20-minute session.
I quickly forgot about this drawback when I hit the road again. Thanks to its adaptive suspension and multiple drive modes, it’s easy to configure the Aviator to ride in a manner most pleasurable for a given situation. I tended to switch the drive mode over to “Excite—sport mode in regular car-speak. This makes the steering a lot more responsive and stiffens up the suspension. The Aviator becomes pretty nimble in this drive setting, and I was able to chuck the big SUV through almost any freeway ramp I could find with the utmost confidence. It’s easy to appreciate that in general Lincoln has set out to make luxury cars that drive well without also expecting them to also miraculously be track rats as well. The envelope of performance seems focused on what’s attainable within a reasonable limit on the street, meaning that very little comfort or convenience is sacrificed in the name of sporty driving.
Black Label trim is worth the money
Everything I’ve raved about comes standard as part of the Lincoln Aviator Black Label trim level. As equipped, this test car bares a price tag of $88,895 after destination and delivery charges. For the money, it’s loaded to the teeth. Just about every expected luxury feature is present, from heated, cooled, and massaging seats to soft-close doors. The B&O sound system is enhanced by the whisper-quiet cabin, and the air suspension offers a well-damped but compliant ride. Not to mention, the Aviator has a robust compliment of parking technology, including a 360-degree-view parking camera
For the sake of comparison, build a Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription in the online configurator. It’s one of the Lincoln’s closest competitors, due to its hybrid system. In order to match its features to the Aviator, the price ended up soaring to just more than $91,000. When I price-checked similarly equipped German cars, these too zoomed past the Aviator’s MSRP with ease. Not only is Lincoln’s offering exceedingly well-executed, but its top-trim level delivers on value as well.
From my full week with the Aviator, it has become apparent Lincoln is working hard to ditch the reputation it rightfully earned in the ’90s and 2000s. The Aviator Grand Touring succeeds by embracing new technology and blending it with traditional luxury. The mix of electrification and old-school gas-powered muscle offers experiences that range from silent cruising to brutal acceleration. High-quality materials, state-of-the-art safety systems, and modern convenience features leave little to be desired. Now it’s Cadillac’s turn to start chasing clout.
|2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label Grand Touring Specifications|
|PRICE||$88,895 (base)/$88,895 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/400 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 415 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|MOTOR||Permanent magnet/101 hp, 221 lb-ft|
|COMBINED OUTPUT||494 hp, 630 lb-ft|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 6-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||23 mpg (combined)|
|L x W x H||199.3 x 82.3 x 69.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.4 sec|
|TOP SPEED||145 mph (est)|