Having driven the 2020 Ford Explorer a few times this year, although I liked it, I certainly didn’t love it. Truth be told the Hyundai Palisade did it so much better, and for less money. When I picked up the key fob for the Lincoln Aviator Reserve I was thinking it might be equal to the Palisade – but with an even bigger price bump than the Explorer. Two minutes behind the wheel and I knew right away my preconceptions were wrong, oh so wrong.
The Lincoln Aviator is far superior to the Explorer and the Palisade – this is a serious step up in quality and feel. This SUV more like a Range Rover than a Ford. Would my new opinion about the Aviator continue for the rest of the week, however?
What Is It?
• Large SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) – based on the same platform as the Explorer, but so very different they might as well be from different manufacturers
• 3-Row seven-seater
• Two available models: Reserve and Grand Touring
How Does It Look?
• Like the Corsair, the Lincoln version of the Ford cousin is waaaay better looking – Lincoln have really got it together after years of it feeling like they weren’t really sure where they fit in the marketplace
• From the side at a glance it looks very much like a Range Rover Sport or Velar
• The size is just a little bit bigger than I would choose for an SUV, but it never felt too big or bulky
• There’s just enough chrome on the vehicle to give it a classy look without being tacky
• The beautiful 22″ Aluminum Wheels come with the 202A package, an extra $9,000 that includes the Luxury Package; Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus and other nice features
What’s It Like Inside?
• Having just driven the Lincoln Corsair the previous week, I was expecting the Aviator to be exceptional and it exceeded that – It’s gorgeous!
• I liked the steering wheel, but didn’t love it, probably because I’m more familiar with the Ford wheel. The voice control button on the thumb rest is very clever. Pressing the cruise control button and they illuminate. However, you use the buttons on the back of the steering wheel – it actually took me a few minutes to figure out they weren’t touch-controls on the face of the steering wheel.
• The two-tone interior colour is called Ebony Roast and actually does look pretty good – I wouldn’t have chosen it from the web pictures, but in the flesh it’s a nice combination
• The Heated and Ventilated front seats are 12-way power-adjustable and are phenomenal – by far the best seats I’ve ever encountered to date. (According to the info I could find, the seats in the test vehicle were the standard 12-way NOT the Perfect Position (24-Way) seats.)
• Driver’s seat, steering wheel and mirror memory for three different settings.
• Easy entry /exit feature where the steering wheel retracts and the seat moves back is a nice bonus.
• The interior is very quiet and hushed interior – probably in-part thanks to the “Active Noise Control” but depending on the pavement, it was a little noisier than expected
• The Head-Up Display is great – once you’ve used it you rely on it so much you really can’t live without it. It’s included as part of the optional Convenience Package.
• 10.1-inch LCD Touchscreen Centre Stack Display (See below for more info on all the tech features)
• Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System – I have to say, I’ve bashed the Ford/Lincoln Sync3 system for a while now, but it is an exceptionally easy system to use compared to other manufacturers’ version of the same thing. Credit where it’s due –Ford do it the best, it’s so easy to adjust and program everything using the screen or voice commands.
• Quad-zone electronic automatic temperature controls.
• The Revel Audio System with 13 speakers + subwoofer, a 12-channel amplifier and QuantumLogic Surround Sound technology comes standard and the sound is incredible – there’s even speakers in the ceiling!
• First- and Second-row Seats are Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather-trimmed
• Second-row seats are also heated and ventilated
• Second-Row Rear Seat Command & Control (+ $735) – includes Rear Moonroof Shade Controls for some crazy reason – WHY would you let/want the rear passengers to control the sunshade?!
• Second-Row mini console with a huge storage compartment
• Dual-Captain Chairs with Power Tip-and-Slide release for access to the Third-row seats – just push a button, and the second-row captain’s seat moves forward allowing easy access to the third row. As an adult it was a little tricky getting in and out, but once back there, there’s a ton of knee, foot and legroom – a third person would be a bit uncomfortable.
• Third-row has a 50/50 PowerFold Split-bench seat – the headrests fall forward and the seats fold or return by the simple push of a button
• Cargo space is 18.3 cu.ft. (300 L) 41.8 (685 L) behind row two and 77.7 (1,273) behind row one
So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?
• It’s plenty quick when you want it to be, yet sedate when you are light with the throttle
• Switching to Excite mode (Sport), didn’t produce as much drama as was expecting – yes, the throttle was more responsive, but the steering and suspension didn’t feel like it changed at all
• Steering input is very good – plenty of nice feedback at just the right weight
• It feels well planted – definitely nothing like a smaller vehicle, after all this is a huge beast (5,167-pound). To be honest the Explorer ST suspension is more along what I would want
• Brakes are superb, and they need to be!
• Standard engine is a Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine with 400-horsepower / 415 lb.-ft. of torque
• Aviator Grand Touring PHEV uses a battery-powered electric motor along with the standard engine to produce 494 hp (combined) and 630 lb.-ft. of torque (combined)
• Drive Modes – choose from Normal, Excite (aka sport mode), Conserve, Slippery and Deep (snow and mud)
• Intelligent AWD
• Auto Start-Stop
• Ten-Speed Automatic Transmission w/SelectShift (paddle shift) Auto Transmission
• Lincoln Co-Pilot + Co-Pilot360 Plus (see below)
• Maximum Towing Capacity – 3,040 kg (6,700 lbs) with Class II Trailer Tow Package (included)
By The Numbers…
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 415 @ 2,750 rpm
Top Speed: 233 km/h / 145 mph (estimate)
0-60 mph (sec): 6.0
What Does It Cost? For up-to-date pricing and options visit: LincolnCanada or lincoln
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve base price: $63,821
As Tested: $79,364
Included Options: 202A – $9,000 – Luxury Package; Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus Package; 22″ Ultra Bright Machined Aluminum Wheels; Illumination Package; Class IV Trailer Tow Package // Ceramic Pearl – $850 // Dynamic Handling Package – $3,500 – Adaptive Steering; Adaptive Suspension; Air Glide Suspension with Dynamic Lower Entry // Full Rear Console with Rear Seat Command & Control – $735 // Convenience Package – $2,000 – Head-Up Display; Soft Touch Doors with Light Touch Handle; Remote Start System with Phone as a Key (PaaK); Wireless Charging Pad
• Rated at (L/100 km): City -13.7/ Highway – 9.7
• I averaged 9.0 L/100 km on the highway (Conserve mode) at 115 km/h – better than Transport Canada rate!
• We got (two different drivers) 10.7 L/100 km in combined town/city/highway driving – MUCH better than expected because neither of us were gentle with the gas pedal
• Basic: 4 years/80,000 km
• Powertrain: 6 years/110,000 km
• Roadside Assistance + Travel Planning
Acura MDX, Audi Q9, BMW X7, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
• The Good: EVERYTHING about this SUV is perfect
• The Bad: I’m struggling to find anything bad. The only thing I’d add to the wish list would be to have the Explorer ST suspension as an option instead of the Dynamic Handling Package
• The Ugly: I can’t afford to own one
What’s The Verdict?
To be perfectly honest, I was expecting the Aviator Reserve to come in around $90,000 after driving it for a day or two. It wasn’t until I sat down and built it on the Lincoln website that I got the true price of the Aviator. For a vehicle that is competing directly with the Range Rover Sport ($130,000+) in luxury and size – it’s a downright bargain at $79,000! I can’t think of any vehicle in this price range that I would personally buy before this SUV.
It’s damn close to the best vehicle I’ve ever driven.
Copyright © 2021 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland