Behind the Wheel
2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Black Label Review: Not quite alright, alright, alright
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator debut to almost unanimous accolades. It was heralded as good looking, a fantastic step in the right direction for the resurgence of the brand, and possessing a touch of the future with its promised hybrid powertrain. Then, it was driven and the competition stepped up its game.
The Aviator sits in Lincoln's lineup between the smaller Nautilus, itself larger than the Corsair, and below the full-size Navigator. It's technically a midsize SUV with three rows of seating - two of which are usable for adults. The Lincoln Aviator Black Label Grand Touring is the pinnacle of the lineup. It's a new SUV for the 2020 model year and part of the lineup featured in commercials starring Matthew McConaughey.
Under its hood is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that provides 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid powertrain is completed by a 10-speed automatic transmission. The power is delivered smoothly and efficiently but lacks any robustness a driver may be wanting from a 400-horsepower vehicle. The problem isn't simply off the line, but also down the line.
The car doesn't particularly spark joy to drive. It has all the technology one would expect to make the drive pleasurable, but it's not anything that differentiates it from the rest of the crop.
The interior of the Aviator is a replica of the Navigator's. Though elegantly designed, it lacks the execution to make it arise to the next level of luxury that the tester's over $80,000 price tag would make you want. The good news is that the price tag reflects the fact that nearly all options boxes come checked on the model.
Lincoln's 30-way adjustable front seats are in the model and offer massage capability and lumbar support in addition to a sizable amount of cushion movement. Despite all the adjustability, it's not easy to get comfortable. The same problem persists in the Genesis G90, which has nearly the same level of adjustability. Maybe less is more in this respect?
The car's long list of standard and available features makes riding in the Aviator a pleasurable experience. Getting a top-tier model adds a panoramic sunroof, quad-zone climate control, wireless device charging, a 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D audio system, HD Radio, navigation, six USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen, and satellite radio.
The Lincoln Co-Pilot360 safety offerings are especially well executed and it's earned some of the highest marks possible from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
There are several parts of the Aviator that win it points, but those are mostly the same as in the Navigator. It is well-appointed, has unique infotainment text that makes the system look more refined, abundant cargo space, and phone-as-key functionality. But, it's not as upscale as its German and Japanese rivals and not as invigorating to drive.
Simply put, the Aviator doesn't live up to its price tag. When compared to the redesigned Acura MDX, the Aviator costs $20,000 more and is not nearly as nice to ride in or drive. The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, though not in the luxury category, offer a similar level of styling for far less as well. The Mercedes-Benz GLE is available in a number of trim levels that cost less than the Aviator but delivers more power coming from its mild-hybrid powertrain in some grades. Those seeking a hybrid powertrain and well-appointed interior for less money than a Benz should shop the Toyota Highland Hybrid.
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