If you remember your high school prom, you’ll 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 — you wonder if there are any adults overseeing design at many automakers.
That’s 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, Lincoln’s 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 that’s been left in the dryer too long, the 2020 Aviator wears crisp lines offset by a sporty sloping roof and distinctive Lincoln grille. It’s urbane and elegant, like the finest Lincolns of yore.
Inside, you’ll 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 it’s not just the lavish accents or plush leather; it’s 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 Captain’s 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. There’s even a configurable electronic instrument cluster, not to mention the easiest version of Ford’s 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; it’s 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 Lincoln’s marketing theme of “Quiet Flight,” a term company officials use to describe Lincoln’s 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 engine’s power, but you don’t 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. It’s the strong silent type, easily furnishing instant torque with the silent efficiency you’d expect from a hybrid, yet doing it so effortlessly, you won’t 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. It’s 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.
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 you’d expect. It’s 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. It’s 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, it’s so good perhaps Lincoln got the name wrong. Maybe they should have called it the Continental.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Base price: $51,100
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged DOHC V-6
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