By Shari Prymak
For as long as it mattered, Lincoln was in a slump with a lineup of blatantly rebadged Fords with weird names that were just plain undesirable. More recently, however, the brand has undergone something of a rebirth, and has worked hard to reestablish itself within the luxury car market. Following in the footsteps of the well-designed Continental and Navigator models, the Aviator serves as yet another example of Lincoln taking things seriously.
The Aviator occupies the upper-end of Lincoln’s SUV-heavy lineup, sitting between the smaller, two-row Nautilus and the larger, full-sized Navigator in both size and price. Built on a longitudinal engine platform shared with the Ford Explorer, the Aviator hides its Ford bones well with a unique design that’s quite eye-catching and stylish. The sculpted, streamlined sheet metal, combined with intricate details in the lighting and prominent front grill, give it an unmistakably luxurious look. It’s quite a sizeable crossover as well with seating for up to seven and a reasonably spacious cargo area.
For an added touch of theatre, the Lincoln logo, headlights, and puddle lights illuminate to greet you as approach and open the door. The overall look and feel of the interior is undeniably upscale and about on par with a comparable BMW or Mercedes. There are plenty of luxurious touches including massage settings for the 30-way “perfect position” seats and an impressive-sounding 28 speaker Revel 3D audio system. The large infotainment screen is refreshingly easy to use with visually pleasing graphics, but I did notice some lag when navigating menus. The system is complimented by straightforward buttons and tuning knobs which is a nice touch. The spacious second row seats are comfortable and easy to fold for access to the admittedly tight third row seats which are best suited for children.
Lincoln’s have long been known for their comfortable ride and the Aviator is no different. The available adaptive air suspension delivers a smooth, compliant ride thanks to the help of a road preview camera system which scans the road ahead for imperfections and prepares the suspension accordingly. Various drive modes are available, but the Aviator is best left in comfort mode and driven in a relaxed manner. Adding to the sense of relaxation are a number of active features bundled into Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus. Some of the helpful features include evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist, traffic sign recognition, lane centering on the highway, and active park assist plus.
The standard drivetrain consists of a twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine matched to a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. With 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, the engine produces plenty of power, and it does so in a rather refined, quiet manner. The Aviator is also offered in a plug-in hybrid version with 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. Although the massive power numbers may sound tempting, the hybrid is also very complicated, heavy, and only offers 25 kilometres of electric range. It is also only marginally more fuel efficient than the standard Aviator, which manages around 15.0L/100km in the city and 10.0L/100km on the highway.
All things considered, the Aviator is a highly impressive luxury crossover that’s more than a match to competing three-row SUVs such as the Volvo XC90, Lexus RX 350 L, and Acura MDX. Like most Lincoln models, the issue comes down to price. The Aviator Reserve starts at $68,500, and can easily exceed $75,000 with options. The plug-in hybrid-powered Aviator Grand Touring is even pricier with a starting MSRP of $80,500. Lincoln is commanding top-tier brand pricing for a second-tier brand that isn’t quite there in terms of prestige and quality, which means that buyers looking for value will be better served elsewhere. For those who are simply won over by its compelling package, the Aviator offers a proper luxury crossover experience with looks to match.