by Deiondre van der Merwe
Based on the Ford Explorer's platform, the Michigan-born Lincoln Aviator is causing some real problems for luxury hybrid SUVs. When you hear "based on", it's easy to assume that Lincoln just threw some repurposed metal and chrome bits onto the Explorer and called it a day. That isn't the case. The Aviator isn't short on luxury and a unique identity thanks to a monstrous electrically-assisted V6 that pushes out 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. If you look closely, the Aviator hybrid diversifies itself in more ways than one with subtle blue accents and unique features like the piano key shifter that is unique to Lincoln. That being said, it's a tough market to break and it doesn't come in at a very affordable price compared to the highly competent Volvo XC90 Hybrid.
The Lincoln Aviator is all new and the second generation is in its very first year of production, so the entire hybrid SUV is fresh for 2020.
When going up against esteemed rivals from Volvo and BMW, it's easy to get carried away with design to make a statement. Lincoln didn't fall into this trap with the Aviator, and the SUV blends elegance and creativity perfectly. Lincoln has a few unique approaches to styling for the Aviator, like the badging in the side grilles and the blue emblem alluding to its electrified nature. A three-dimensional chrome grille is flanked by full-LED headlights. Adaptive pixel LED lighting is additionally available on the base model, along with the Lincoln dynamic signature lighting, although both are standard on the upper trim. The rear end is dominated by a seamless connection between LED taillights, and quad exhaust tips poke out from underneath. A hands-free liftgate is standard. The Aviator rolls off the factory floor with 20-inch wheels, but additional options go as large as 22 inches.
The Aviator is larger than the Volvo XC90, and has a total length of 199.3 inches and a 119.1-inch wheelbase, which is 2.4 inches longer than the XC90. From side to side, the Aviator comes in with an 89.9-inch measurement including the mirrors, and stands 69.8 inches tall. A few pounds are added to the Grand Touring in comparison to the gas-only Aviator thanks to the hybrid system, and the electrically-assisted model has a curb weight of 4,863 pounds.
The Aviator is a fitting name for this Lincoln in particular, as its power resembles a jet that may not ever reach the sky but will provide plenty of exhilaration of the ground. The Grand Touring plays host to a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that teams up with a powerful electric motor and a 13.6 kWh battery. The combined effort delivers monstrous power outputs of 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque, leaving the Volvo XC90's 400 hp and 472 lb-ft figures for dead. In independent testing, the Lincoln hybrid launched from a standstill to 60 mph in around five seconds, which is three tenths faster than its Swedish counterpart. The powerhouse is mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission that can also be controlled via the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
With a total of six modes to choose from, it's highly unlikely that you'll struggle to find a suitable personality for the Aviator. Normal mode is just that, normal, until it detects aggressive driving, then it will adjust chassis settings for a sportier approach. Conserve mode stays true to its name and delivers a softer pedal response along with some fine-tuning to improve fuel economy. Unsurprisingly, our favorite mode is Excite and you can guess why. Improvements to steering feel and response along with stiffened suspension make the Aviator even more exciting to drive. Slippery mode offers increased capability in wet weather and Deep Conditions mode is better equipped at handling roads less traveled. A soft ride is boasted by the Aviator as is, but the optional air suspension is wonderfully adept at soaking up the lumps and bumps of everyday travel.
It's usually tough to beat a Volvo's fuel economy figures and this time around, it's no different. The Volvo takes the cake for gas-only figures, however, and the Aviator manages to best the Swede in terms of electric-only range. The Lincoln gets an EPA-estimated city and highway combined figure of 23 mpg, while the XC90 gets 27 mpg. That's a big difference to consider when you're looking at total range figures. The former will allow for around 460 miles on a full tank, with the latter increasing range significantly to 520 miles. Still, the Volvo has a smaller tank, showing just how efficient it really is. In electric mode, the Aviator hybrid will allow for a combined MPGe of 56 miles, which is slightly better than the XC90 Hybrid's 55 MPGe figure. An electric-only range of 21 miles is offered by the Lincoln, the Volvo offers 18 miles.
A level two charging station can juice the Aviator up in around three to four hours and a 110-volt home outlet will take just over 12 hours.
The Aviator's bigger size in comparison to the XC90 affords it some extra interior space, allowing it to beat the Volvo in every single space measurement barring third row legroom, where the XC90 is superior. Still, the Aviator takes the cake and offers enough space in the front and second rows for six-footers to feel right at home. Heated front seats are 12-way power-adjustable with power lumbar support and memory, and a remarkable 30-way power-adjustable option is available, but we couldn't recommend it. It takes three months to find a comfortable position and we use the word "comfortable" loosely. Heating and ventilation are additionally available for both front and second-row seats.
A cavernous trunk pushes the Aviator ahead once again, proving that the American SUV is worth considering amongst elite players from well-respected brands like Volvo. With all seats up, it offers 18.3 cubic feet of space for luggage and golf clubs. The XC90 trails way behind with just 11.2 cubes to offer, but does offer more total cargo space with the seats folded at 85.7 cubes. With all seats folded in the Aviator, 77.7 cubes can be utilized for hauling large items.
Storage inside of the cabin is certainly manageable, and the Aviator offers a deep bin in the center console along with a large glovebox.
As expected, the pricey SUV comes appropriately laden with standard-fitted indulgences. A panoramic sunroof, keyless access and push-button start are standard along with remote start. A leather-clad power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel is standard, as is 12-way power-adjustable front seats. Quad-zone climate control and ambient lighting add to the atmosphere of the cabin. A unique piano-key style shifter is standard, and displays the typical selector in a fluid, horizontal setup. A host of additional options allow for a heated steering wheel, the ability to use your phone as a key and wireless charging. Standard safety features include a 360-degree camera, front and rear park sensors and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. Automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning join the list along with pedestrian monitoring. Extra safety features include traffic jam assist, lane keep assist and speed sign recognition, but these come with an additional cost.
We like the way the infotainment has been laid out on the inside of the Aviator, everything is clean and simply-accessible. A 10.1-inch touchscreen serves as the hub of infotainment and enables its sister brand's Sync 3 system as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM functionality, HD Radio, and Bluetooth streaming. A 14-speaker Revel sound system is standard on the base trim, but a 28-speaker Revel Ultima system is additionally available, but is standard on the Black Label variant. It doesn't hold a candle to the XC90's optionally available Bowers and Wilkins system, though, and we recommend sticking to the original setup and saving your cash. Four USB ports are standard along with a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Not off to a particularly great start, the 2020 Aviator has been on the receiving end of three recalls for issues including the possibility of the fuel lines chafing together and causing a fuel leak, vehicles remaining in factory mode, and inadequate seat back strength.It's worth noting that these recalls were for the gas-only model. Lincoln makes four-year or 50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranties standard for the Aviator, along with a 12-year corrosion warranty. Roadside assistance is standard for four years.
The NHTSA gave the Aviator a score of five out five for overall safety and the IIHS gave the Aviator scores of Good in most categories. As standard, safety features are inclusive of a 360-degree camera, front and rear park sensors, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning and cross-traffic alert. Automatic emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring round off the list. Additionally available features include traffic jam assist, lane keep assist and speed sign recognition.
The Lincoln Aviator excels in all the right categories, so much so that it's an undeniably worthy rival to offerings from Volvo and Lexus. Possibly its biggest motivator would be the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that pairs up with an electric motor to thwack out unbelievable outputs of 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. While it comes with a steep asking price, the Aviator offers an extensive list of standard safety features and the same generosity is applied to convenience and tech. The cabin of the Aviator is well put-together with premium materials and we're a fan of the infotainment layout, and aside from the generous standard features, the Aviator offers an excellent amount of space for passengers and a larger trunk than most. The only area we're left wanting in is fuel economy. The Aviator is an excellent choice if you value power and luxury from an SUV.
The entry model into the hybrid range is the Grand Touring, with a starting MSRP of $68,800. This is slightly more expensive than the Volvo XC90 at base level. Upgrading to the more exclusive Black Label trim will set you back by $87,800, and both of these prices exclude the $1,095 destination and handling fee.
We don't believe that the enormous price hike from the Grand Touring to the Black Label trim is worth it, so it's best to stick to the entry-level model. We'd opt for the Blue Diamond exterior paint and the Slate Grey leather upholstery. We only recommend adding the additional packages if you have a particularly stretchy budget. If you have the extra cash lying around, the Grand Touring I equipment group adds ventilated front and rear seats, and adds heating to the latter as well as the Convenience Package. Adding the package will bring the final asking price to around $77,000.
Both of these SUVs are based on Ford platforms, but the Navigator is larger in size. The Aviator's interior is tighter, especially in the third row in comparison to its larger relative, and the Navigator's boxy shape affords it some extra interior space. Given the shared DNA, the two have similar interior setups, and both cabins give off a luxurious feel. Similarities aside, the two are vastly different when we have a look at what's under the hood. The Navigator relies on a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 without any electrical assistance, separating it from the smaller but more potent hybrid engine found in the Aviator. The better SUV will depend entirely on what you're looking for. Given that the Aviator isn't exactly small, you'll need to be after a truly large SUV to consider the Navigator. And if you're after hybrid technology, you'll need to opt for the Aviator.
The Aviator may be based on the Ford Explorer in many ways, but the latter costs half the price.
If you didn't already know about their mutual DNA, it'd be rather difficult to spot it because their goals are very different. The Explorer is devoted to being a dependable family SUV that's accessible to many, and the Aviator is aimed at well-off families with too much money to consider what the best option really is. Still, one can tell that the Aviator is a much more luxurious offering, even when you base your opinion exclusively on outward appearances. On the inside, the only thing they really share in the Sync 3 infotainment system. Everything else is starkly contrasted, with the Grand Touring only offering leather upholstery and soft-touch materials. It must be said that the Explorer offers better fuel economy figures despite not being electrically assisted, and offers better value for money if you can do without the grandeur. But the Aviator is the better choice of the two in terms of power and luxury.