by Frank A. Aukofer

With its all-new 2020 Aviator crossover SUV, it appears that Lincoln has gone all-in to recapture its traditional reputation as a tier-one luxury brand, one vehicle at a time.

Joining the Navigator, Nautilus and upcoming Corsair, this is a noteworthy piece of automotive engineering and styling, as expansive as it is expensive, and fully comfortable and competitive in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities named Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and BMW.

"Fresh Take" Aviator CampaignThere was a 20th-century era when Lincoln automobiles competed against the most exclusive nameplates, including Packard, Duesenberg, Bentley, Chrysler and Cadillac. Though Lincolns were not the most expensive, its Zephyr models with V-12 engines were among the most beautiful and sought-after by wealthy artistes.

The new Aviator mimics that template, with a range of high-achieving models that somehow manage to undercut competitors on price — not that most of its buyers would worry about that. Some competitors of the priciest Black Label trim level of the Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid, with a sticker of  $90,645, run well into six figures.

2020 Lincoln AviatorFor those who can’t or won’t spend that much but still seek to motor behind an Aviator grille, the base rear-wheel drive model starts at $52,095 — almost reasonable in an era when the average new car goes out the door for somewhere around $36,000.

Though the Aviator starts out with rear-drive, it is not a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Like the vast majority of sport utility vehicles these days, it is a crossover, built with a frameless unit body like an automobile.

Of course, few manufacturers show their entry-level vehicle at the introduction so Lincoln rolled out a bevy of its best in Napa Valley, California. They included three versions of the non-hybrid Aviator: Reserve starting at $57,285, Reserve all-wheel drive at $59,795, and the subject here, the all-wheel drive Black Label with an opening sticker of $78,790 and a tested price of $83,540.

2020 Aviator Grand TouringThere also were two versions of the all-wheel-drive hybrid: Grand Touring at $84,365 with options and the aforementioned Black Label AWD at $90,645.

The plug-in hybrid Grand Touring is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers linked to a 75-kW electric motor. A 13.6-kWh battery pack is stashed under the floor and can deliver up to 18 miles of driving on electricity alone. Altogether, the system delivers 494 hp and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

Never mind the Grand Touring’s 5,673-pound curb weight, this hulk is plenty fast, with neck-snapping acceleration off the line and powerful passing on two-lane roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorBut the non-hybrid Aviator is no slouch. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, sent through the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the hybrid. There’s a manual-shifting mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 17/24/20 mpg for the all-wheel drive versions.

Driven for this review was the Black Label edition with all-wheel drive. Given its nearly 17-foot length and heft, it handled beautifully and rode serenely on a variety of twisting, hilly roads and high-speed straightaways. Mechanical and wind noises were nearly nonexistent and foam-infused tires helped muffle noise from rough roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe tested Aviator looked the part of a luxury sport utility vehicle, with a sumptuous interior and fashionable appointments of high quality materials and careful workmanship. Among them: a Revel Ultimate 3D audio system with 28 (count ‘em) speakers, panoramic vista glass sunroof with powered shade, acoustic sound-deadening side glass, second-row captain’s chairs separated by a functional center console, and Lincoln’s Phone As a Key technology.

With the optional Air Glide suspension system, the Aviator automatically lowers to ease entry. Owners then can use their smart phones to unlock and unlock doors, start and drive the Aviator, open the tailgate and program settings for seats, mirrors and steering wheel adjustments as well as entertainment preferences.

2020 Lincoln AviatorIf a phone battery dies, a passcode can be entered on an exterior keypad and another code can be entered to start and drive. Extra key fobs also are provided and if a smart phone is lost or stolen, Phone As a Key can be deleted.

The Aviator comes with full safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking, an adaptive suspension system that reads the road ahead to adjust for irregularities, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert.

"Fresh Take" Aviator Campaign

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 400 hp, 415 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 150/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,673 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,790.
  • Price as tested: $83,540.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Photos (c) Lincoln

 

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