The Lincoln Motor Company's all-new Aviator crossover garnered a clear, finish-first win, earning the Chicago-based Midwest Automotive Media Association's 2020 'Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year' award announced at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show's kick-off breakfast. Representing cumulative voting of regional writers (this scribe included), four-wheeled contestants must be all-new or a significantly refreshed sporting at least four doors and adorn upscale badging.
Aviator's honor hits close to home since this vehicle's production hub resides about nine miles from McCormick Place (the Auto Show's showroom) along Chicago's southeast side at Ford Motor Company's historic Torrance Avenue Assembly complex first opened when Calvin Coolidge occupied the White House in 1924. Aviator shares assembly time with the sixth-generation Ford Explorer and Ford's Police Interceptor, a five-door crossover designated for local municipalities and their law and order divisions.
This mid-size Lincoln crossover comes with rear-wheel based architecture standard and all-wheel drive a $2,510 option. Three seating rows come standard.
Aviator slots below the long-established, full-size, Navigator Sport Utility Vehicle and Nautilus crossover. A newly introduced two-row Corsair compact crossover also joins Lincoln's lineup in 2020. Compared to other mid-sized five-door crossovers, Aviator skews towards the larger end with a thumping V-6, luxury appointments and enough technical wizardry to keep things interesting.
If the Aviator name rings familiar, it's because Lincoln first utilized the moniker from 2003 through 2005. Then, it constructed from a heavier, body-on-frame design and sported V-8 grunt.
Flash forward 15 years to find the latest-generation Aviator now boasting lighter-weight, uni-body framework.
Aviator's reboot also welcomes back a less garbled name game. Since Aviator's first retirement, Ford's upscale division trudged out marketing methodology utilizing an array of hard-to-distinguish lettered trios for product IDs. Aviator Gen Two replaces the slow-selling MXT in Lincoln's mix. The company recently resurrected the 'Continental' name absent since 2002 for its flagship sedan previously referred to as MKS. Lincoln's new Corsair crossover replaces the MKC five-door.
Aviator enjoys a premier engine under hood. The 3.5-liter twin turbo V-6 generates an impressive 400 horses, one of the most powerful standard engines in the mid-size luxury crossover segment. It's well-tested, well-executed technology parent company Ford perfected during the past 10 years.
This same V-6 resides in Lincoln's flagship Navigator. It's also in select Ford Motor Co. products badged as the 3.0-liter EcoBoost. The Aviator's teams with a class-exclusive, very smooth shifting 10-speed automatic transmission.
Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine pumping concentrated air into the engine, increasing horsepower. Each one of Aviator's two turbos frame the V-shaped cylinder bank, increasing response time and reducing turbo lag/hesitation due to less piping needed for intake and exhaust layouts. Relatively un-intrusive start-stop technology comes standard, quieting the engine at prolonged stops and restarting once the right foot lifts from the brake pedal.
This engine powers three trim choices: Standard, Reserve and Black Label. In addition, Aviator offers a plug-in hybrid electric version (PHEV) combining this V-6 propulsion with a 75 kilowatt electric motor and 13.6 kilowatt-hour battery pack. This hybrid combo pack graces Grand Touring and Black Label Grand Touring trims generating 494 of combined horsepower.
Our Silver hued, Reserve all-wheel-drive tester started at $58,700. Option packages included a $10,125 Equipment Group with long, panoramic sun roof, 22-inch alloy wheels, high-tech adaptive suspension, dynamic bending headlights and heated wipers squirting solvent from the blade housing. A $3,390 Convenience Package (heads-up windshield display, soft-close doors) and $3,000 Dynamic Handling Package (air glide suspension, adaptive steering) brought the bottom line to $76,310 including $1,095 destination charge.
Pricing starts at $51,100 for a rear-drive Standard model which, for an entry selection, enjoys a nice slate of standard ware.
One aspect immediately apparent upon entering the first time and quickly scanning the dash and doors, electronics have smoothed out surfaces. For example, side doors trade in traditional interior door handles in favor of square electronic push-buttons. Plus, the all-new 10-speed automatic transmission exchanges a T-bar type mechanically sliding handle for large in-row push buttons nested into the lower central dash, which Lincoln poetically describes as a 'Piano Key Shifter.'
This relocated shift opens up new design opportunities between the front buckets with two long, side-by-side compartments each with its own sliding privacy cover. Rearward, one finds an electronic parking brake and tactile dial for requesting several drive mode selections (normal, conserve, excite, slippery and deep conditions). A large, square, back-hinged storage bin/arm rest also includes USB ports inside.
The multi-steeped dash features a flat upper tier gently slopped forward towards the next narrow tier stretching horizontally and serving as the containment zone for stylized narrow air vents. A central 45-degree-angle bridge with chrome highlights connects the second tier with the open region between front bucket seats. It's home to two audio dials (volume and station select) working with the flat-screen. Rather diminutive, color-coded HVAC push tabs, buttons and a dial also call this slate home.
No mechanical ignition either as the button design requires a downward push rather than an inward motion with local atop the dashboard's first down step just right of the 10.1 inch multi-function flat screen.
The all-digital, 12.3-inch instrument cluster and touch screen greet entrants with a welcoming blue-sky-and-cloud animation and music sequence upon entering, playing upon the up-in-the-air Aviator theme. The flat screen touch screen jets up from the second step with a well-organized, easy-to-figure swipe-type interaction with the latest version of Ford/Lincoln SYNC infotainment software. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity come standard, allowing Smartphone interaction of stored music and apps to play seamlessly through the SYNC system.
Lincoln's optional adaptive suspension works with 12 sensors monitoring vehicle activity and setting adjustments up to 100 times per second, lessoning the harshness of pot hole encounters. Available Air Glide Suspension replacing traditional coil springs with guided air springs, enabling several preset ride heights. Both enhance a smooth ride quality.
The fuel tank holds 20 gallons of fuel slotted through a self-sealing barrier negating the need for a clumsy twist cap. The twin turbo's 400 horsepower generates when factoring premium-grade unleaded. Regular, 87-octane fuel may be utilized, but horses may be less peppy.
Handsome and elegant best describe exterior highlights, borrowing a not-so-subtle family resemblance from Big Brother Navigator. Aviator's prominent front grille includes Lincoln's vertically elongated cross front and center, a familiar icon backlit at night. The grille fill pattern inside the squar-ish frame mimics and repeats the logo's outline. The roof reaches its apex above the A pillar, then gently slopes backward. Side mirror flood lights project Lincoln's logo groundward after dark.
A second-row 60-40 split bench comes standard, delivering seating for seven. Optional second-row captain's chairs reduce seating capacity by one. Our Reserve tester included the optional captain's chairs, with a power sliding feature moving the unit forward (when tilting the backrest fore) allowing third row access. My aging, sometimes aching six-foot one-inch frame enjoyed ample third-row headroom despite the roof's sloping design. The same can't be said concerning legroom; leaving this way back option best utilized by pre-teens, not unusual for a mid-size three-row choice.
Standard in all trims, a power rear hatch; optional...a hands-free power lift gate. Power-folding 50/50 split rear seats also come standard (with buttons in the cargo region accessible with the lift gate open), as one would expect in a luxury-badged offering.2020 Lincoln Aviator
Price as tested: $76,310
Engine: Twin Turbo 3.0-liter V-6
Wheelbase: 119.1 inches
Overall Length: 199.3 inches
Overall Height: 69.8 inches
Overall Width: 82.3 inches
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Curb weight: 4,742 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five years/70,000 miles