2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD Review - Getting It Right

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2020 Lincoln Aviator Fast Facts

3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (400 horsepower; 415 lb-ft)
Ten-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
17 city / 24 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
13.7 city, 9.7 highway, 11.9 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$58,700 (U.S) / $62,000 (Canada)
As Tested
$76,620 (U.S.) / $78,985 (Canada)
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $2,250 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 lincoln aviator reserve awd review getting it right

Defining what makes a large luxury SUV “good” can be harder than it looks.

Sure, some things are obvious – are the materials nice enough to justify the price? Is the ride comfortable? Are the seats nice and relaxing? Is NVH kept to a minimum? Is the features list long, with many items that are optional on cheaper vehicles standard?

But some things aren’t so obvious, and/or hinge on subjectivity. Styling, of course, is subjective. But there’s also an “it” factor at play. Basically, buyers want to know that when they pull up to dinner, the valet will compliment their ride. Or, at the very least, that Muffy and Buffy won’t whisper about the driver’s questionable taste after a round of tennis at the club.

There was a time, not so long ago, when driving a Lincoln SUV might get you a bit of side-eye. “Couldn’t afford a Lexus or a BMW, even on her salary?” “You’d think a guy like him would drive an Escalade”.

Lincoln seems to have solved that problem with the Aviator. Turns out that the product is the point, and ads starring Matthew McConaughey – ads that were produced as if the writers sat down with the Lincoln Lawyer himself and sampled some peyote – aren’t. Best to let them be mocked by Saturday Night Live.

It starts with the styling, here. Lincoln has penned a classic luxury look, with clean lines and a big grille that announces your presence. A roofline that slopes towards the rear along with a rakish roofline and a curved front help give what’s essentially a rolling brick a hint of sportiness.

The interior styling is a bit more mixed. Lincoln tries to continue the clean-sheet theme with a cockpit that’s a bit minimalist, and it might work if not marred by the use of the trendy-but-ugly tacked-on infotainment screen. Materials at least feel class-appropriate, if not best-in-class. And exterior noise is mostly well filtered out.

Luxury isn’t limited to look and feel, especially these days. There was once a time luxury buyers, especially those shopping for SUVs, would tolerate soft rides and sloppy steering. But thanks to underpaid and overfed scribes like me shouting into the void about poor performance, a basic standard of competence, if not fun, is to be expected.

Lincoln meets this standard with the Avi. It manages to handle relatively well for its size while sacrificing little in the way of ride. It’s not perfect – some wallow appears on occasion, as does the occasional ripple after encountering a particularly rough bump – but it’s good enough to satisfy most buyers at this price point.

Underhood sits a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to keep up with traffic, though anyone entertaining any fantasies of surprising sport-sedan drivers in stop-light drags need to be disabused of that notion. The Aviator feels every bit of its nearly 5K-pound curb weight.

The standard features list shows the usual suspects in terms of expected items – hands-free power liftgate, dual exhaust with quad tips, LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, ambient interior lighting, heated front seats with driver memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, four-zone climate control, 360-degree camera, keyless entry and starting, lane-keeping system, wi-fi, rain-sensing wipers, Revel audio, automatic high beams, Sync 3 infotainment, and blind-spot detection.

The options list is where it gets wild. Spend 11 large and get the Elements Package (heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled second-row seats) plus Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 (park-assist, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, and other driver-aid tech) and add a panoramic sunroof, 22-inch wheels, a towing package, and the Luxury Package (rear sunshades, upgraded seats and audio).

Another 3 grand adds a Dynamic Handling Package with the adaptive air suspension that gives our rig its smooth ride and is height-adjustable. Finally, 2K more adds the Convenience Package: Head-up display, wireless phone charger, and the use of your phone as a vehicle key.

That puts you at $75K. Oh, and save some dough for fuel – the EPA numbers are 17/24/20.

So, it’s not cheap. But it’s pretty dang good. Good enough to challenge the Escalade, and the aging Lexus GX/LX (although the LX, being based on Toyota’s Land Cruiser, can do some off-roading that the Lincoln likely can’t).

Lincoln has been slowly crawling out of a bad spot, and it’s on the right track. Consistent production of strong vehicles like the Aviator is what’s needed to keep Lincoln in the luxury conversation.

Somewhere, McConaughey approves.

What’s New for 2020

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is all new, debuting in both gas and hybrid versions.

Who Should Buy This Car

Luxury-SUV shoppers who are happy to see Lincoln is back.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 49 comments
  • Pb35 Pb35 on May 13, 2021

    With 75k in my pocket, I went shopping for a new luxury crossover for my wife in late 2019 to replace our 12 year old V8 XC90. After selecting all of her cars for the past 25 years, I told her to pick whatever she liked while gently suggesting the Aviator. She didn't even give it a second thought, saying "I don't like the grill..." While smaller, she picked a 2020 F-Pace S. She loves it and if/when it breaks I can tell her she should've gotten the Aviator. Or not. The Jag is pretty sweet and I like driving it. I should also mention that it's been bulletproof.

  • Swilliams41 Swilliams41 on May 13, 2021

    Rather get a base Aviator than a loaded Explorer. Understand the suspension tuning and NVH is much better in the Lincoln. Not to mention fit and finish.

  • SCE to AUX Another outsourced battery goes awry.
  • Jkross22 Nah, If I needed a truck, I'd get a Nissan titan or for nearly the same money a 20 yr old SR5.
  • Kwik_Shift No. It is hideous and jarring to look at. Why would I need this anyway?
  • Jeff From the side profile this gives off Taurus wagon vibes. Nice looking wagon love the exterior color and the interior. The burled walnut interior trim is beautiful.
  • Jeff I think initially there will be a lot of orders for this truck and then sales will crater. Those that want this truck mainly the Tesla fans will buy them and then anyone that wanted one will have already bought one. The Cybertruck kind of reminds me of the Delorean which was widely anticipated and once it was out and those who wanted a Delorean bought one that was the end. Both the Delorean and Cybertruck are stainless steel and both are weird looking. Maybe they could release a new Back to the Future sequence and have Doc drive a Cybertruck.