Behind the Wheel

2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Black Label Review: Not quite alright, alright, alright

The Lincoln Aviator is regal looking but not great to drive or ride in.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Co.

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.

2020 Lincoln Aviator & Aviator Hybrid The Aviator is a three-row midsize SUV. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

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?

2020 Lincoln Aviator & Aviator Hybrid The Aviator employs much of the same styling as the Lincoln Navigator. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

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.

2020 Lincoln Aviator & Aviator Hybrid Lincoln has given the Aviator a good amount of cargo space. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

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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The Navigator gets several updates for 2022, including new styling and tech.


The Lincoln Navigator was one of the first ultra-luxury SUVs when it launched over two decades ago, which helped kickstart the big-vehicle craze that still rages on today. Lincoln has continued improving the Navigator over the years to the point that it's now a rolling showcase of the latest and most impressive tech, staggering luxury features, and actual utility vehicle functionality. The vehicle was last fully overhauled in 2018, but the 2022 model picks up revised style, even more premium features, and new themes for the range-topping Navigator Black Label model.

2022 Lincoln Navigator Black Label is Lincoln's top trim offering, and is available in several of its vehicles. Lincoln

Lincoln introduced two new themes as part of the Navigator's Black Label offering for 2022. The Central Park theme features dark walnut open-pore wood trim, luxury leather in an exclusive Urban Green color, and an available Black Label-exclusive Manhattan Green Metallic paint color. The Invitation theme brings open-pore Khaya wood, Venetian luxury black leather, special interior lighting elements, and brandy-colored stitching. Both themes feature laser etching and other intricate detail work inside the vheicle.

2022 Lincoln Navigator The Navigator Black Label is offered with two new themes: Central Park and Invitation.Lincoln

Black Label launched in 2014 and is Lincoln's top-end end model offering. It's available in the Nautilus, Aviator, and Navigator, and brings several vehicle features and auxiliary services to Lincoln owners. Black Label vehicle features and services include:

  • Concierge access: The Lincoln concierge can schedule service or cleaning, answer vehicle questions, and help schedule dinners or other experiences. Black Label owners also get a complimentary dinner for two, which can be scheduled through the concierge.
  • Special airport and rental car services: Lincoln partnered with Avis to provide guaranteed rental car access, an exclusive and dedicated phone line for Black Label owners, and free rentals at select airports. Owners also get a membership to CLEAR, which offers expedited airport security passage and other perks.
  • Extended complimentary maintenance plan: Black Label owners receive four years of free maintenance. If the owner lives within 50 miles of a dealer, they will pick up and deliver the vehicle so that the owner does not need to leave home. Free car washes and annual detailing are also part of the deal.

We don't have pricing details for the 2022 Navigator yet, but we expect its price tag to be similar to that of the 2021 Black Label model, which started at around $100,000 after destination. Lincoln says that it will release more information closer to the Navigator's expected on-sale date early in 2022.

2022 Lincoln Navigator Black Label models feature a staggering level of attention to detail.Lincoln

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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