Auto review: With the 2020 Aviator SUV, Lincolnís renewal quietly takes flight

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

September 30, 2019

           

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator's standard twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, delivers 400 horsepower and 415 ft.-lbs. of torque.

If you remember your high school prom, youíll remember that when one girl went to the bathroom, all of her friends went with her. Car designers are much the same way, which explains why so many cars wear exterior styling that resembles a Kabuki mask, while most instrument panels have the feel of a video game controller. This even extends to luxury cars, where the sense of adolescent design robs interiors of any sophistication ó you wonder if there are any adults overseeing design at many automakers.

Thatís what makes the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator a welcome relief.

Using a name last seen in 2005 on a rebadged Mercury Mountaineer, the newest Aviator replaces the ungainly MKT, Lincolnís rotund three-row luxury crossover that will live on for the time being as a fleet vehicle for limousine and car service use. Its replacement, the Aviator, is far more remarkable.

Looking somewhat like a Navigator thatís been left in the dryer too long, the 2020 Aviator wears crisp lines offset by a sporty sloping roof and distinctive Lincoln grille. Itís urbane and elegant, like the finest Lincolns of yore.

Inside, youíll find three rows of seats and enough legroom for real adults, as well as generous headroom, despite the sloping roofline. The unabashed extravagance of its interior is much like the larger and pricier Navigator, imparting the same feeling of opulence. And itís not just the lavish accents or plush leather; itís the little touches that make living with this Lincoln more manageable. Of course the second row comes with its own climate controls and USB ports, and the seats can be had as Captainís chairs rather than a second row bench seat. But there are other touches that go beyond what you might expect, like an app that can be configured to act like your key fob, so you can leave the fob at home. Or the simple row of automatic transmission buttons that are easily reachable but tucked out of the way to free up space elsewhere in the interior. Thereís even a configurable electronic instrument cluster, not to mention the easiest version of Fordís Sync infotainment system yet devised.

When it comes time to move, most 2020 Lincoln Aviators will have a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 generating 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. But if you want to experience true automotive nirvana, pop for the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid instead, with the same 3.0-liter V-6 mated to an electric driveline that produces 494 horsepower and a mammoth 630 pound-feet of torque. Both drivelines mate to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Power is routed to the rear wheels, although all-wheel drive is optional; itís standard on the hybrid. As with many other vehicles in this segment, the Aviator offers a number of different driving modes depending on your mood and the driving conditions, including Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep. In addition, hybrid models get a Preserve EV mode that recharges and saves battery power for use at a later time.

So what makes this Lincoln so unique? The total package, one that lives up to Lincolnís marketing theme of ďQuiet Flight,Ē a term company officials use to describe Lincolnís driving persona.

In reality, this is the classic American luxury cruiser, large, in charge and oozing with comfort and power. Yes, the standard model with the gas-powered-engine and steel spring suspension is excellent, furnishing effortless power without the noise and fuss too typical of powerful vehicles these days. You feel the engineís power, but you donít hear it. Yet as it good as it is, nothing prepares you for how much better the Hybrid proves to be. Engineered with an eye to performance as well as fuel economy, the Hybrid proves to be the Aviator truly worth piloting. Itís the strong silent type, easily furnishing instant torque with the silent efficiency youíd expect from a hybrid, yet doing it so effortlessly, you wonít mind keeping your right foot planted to the floor.

And you can make it even better with the Air Glide Suspension, which replaces conventional springs with air bladders, endowing the Aviator with an effortless grace that makes for a transformative luxury experience. Itís enhanced by the Adaptive Suspension with Road Preview, which uses the front-mounted camera to read the road up to 50 feet ahead pre-emptively reading the road and adjusting the suspension from two to eight inches in height to maintain optimal ride and handling characteristics.

Interestingly, the Hybridís battery pack, placed low in the Aviatorís platform, adds weight. It gives the Hybrid model a better driving feel than the standard model, with improved steering feel and weight, although all Aviators handle with a sublime attitude that balances great performance and handling, but not at the expense of civility. Being rear-wheel drive, it is naturally nimble and easy to drive, unlike many of its front-wheel-drive competitors. The Aviator drives smaller than it actually is, keeping body lean in check and banishing excess body motions over crumbling arteries while still delivering the posh ride youíd expect. Itís a true grand touring machine, one of the best Lincolns made in recent memory.

It takes the fine qualities that make the Navigator such a standout and extends them that much further. Itís so good, you know why the Aviator wears a simple eloquence so lacking in the midsize SUV segment. Its quiet flight says all that it needs to, in classic Lincoln understatement.

In fact, itís so good perhaps Lincoln got the name wrong. Maybe they should have called it the Continental.

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2020 Lincoln Aviator

Base price: $51,100

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged DOHC V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 400/415

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 17/24 mpg

Fuel required: Regular

Wheelbase/Length/Width: 199.1/199.3/79.6 inches

Cargo capacity: 18.3-77.7 cubic feet

Towing capacity: 6,700 pounds

Curb weight: 4,892 pounds