2021 Aviator Grand Touring AWD Review

Modern American luxury


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Looks like nothing else from the competition, truly opulent interior, huge second row, has all the luxury of the larger Navigator, strong acceleration aided by the electric motor.
Negatives: Powertrain feels rough at times, tight third row seat, gets pricey with options.
Bottom Line: The Aviator is the brand's best vehicle, in our opinion. Not only is it powerful and polished, the unique style, inside and out, makes it the American version of the Land Rover Range Rover.
The Lincoln Aviator in its first generation was a bit of a joke. Based on the Ford Explorer, it was a Navigator lite. But the resurrection of the nameplate has resulted in an altogether fresh approach to the midsize luxury three-row, now with a hybrid powertrain and more luxury than we've ever seen at this price. The hybrid pairs the twin-turbo V6 with an electric motor for a total of 494 horsepower. We drove it for a week to see how it fared as a premium luxury SUV. Read our detailed review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.2

 

The Aviator excels at comfort rather than performance. While it's not incompetent when it comes to handling, there's some definite heft and body roll. The hybrid powertrain can be a bit clunky at times, but the power delivery is impressive nevertheless.

Ride Quality: The Aviator provides an incredibly smooth ride and manages bumps and gaps wonderfully. It's an impressive cruiser that feels like you're riding on a cushion of air.

Acceleration: The Aviator will do 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, which is pretty quick. 100 extra horses from the electric motor is significant. It's too bad the transmission shifts from between park, drive, and reverse are slow to respond.

Braking: The brake pedal is a bit too soft for our liking, and it makes gauging braking power and corresponding distances a bit difficult.

Steering: Steering is light and devoid of feedback. At least keeping it on center at highway speeds doesn't present a challenge.

Handling: The Aviator is better in a straight line than it is in the turns. The heft and body roll are very noticeable.

Technology

7.8

 

Lincoln's system is based on Ford's excellent Sync 3 system that we've praised so much here. While it's still great to use, Lincoln has made it a bit too dressy and festooned for us to love it. While it looks nice, it reminds us that less is oftentimes more when it comes to in-car tech. Some of the controls are also a bit frustrating.

Infotainment System: The Aviator's 10" screen in the center stack looks good and operates well, but it seems a little slow to respond compared to Ford's system. Graphics are clean and clear, but we're not big fans of the font.

Controls: We really hate the long toggle button transmission controls that are linear along the top of the center stack. They're not intuitive, and you have to look to operate it accurately, not something you want to have to deal with when you're doing a three-point turn. The joystick on the steering wheel for the large instrument cluster is made with slippery chrome, and it's frustrating to use.

Styling

9.1

 

The Aviator is a genuinely beautiful SUV that looks elegant inside and out. We really love the styling that makes it look opulent and refined. There isn't an American SUV that looks this good, not even the new Cadillac Escalade or even the bigger Lincoln Navigator brother.

Front: Lincoln showed some restraint with the size of the grille. The unique badge pattern looks good here, as do the headlights and the lower fascia. We like the fact that it's not overstyled.

Rear: The full-width taillights are handsome, and the quad tailpipes are a nice touch. The numerous horizontal lines help reduce the height and make the Aviator look wide from the back, which is nice.

Profile: The creasing and sculpting are nicely cohesive, and the Aviator has one of the best fender badges we've seen. The 21" turbine wheels are excellent.

Cabin: The interior of the Aviator is unique and special with high-grade materials and a great linear layout. The matte wood on the center console and dash are lovely, and even the door panel is an exercise in great design.

Comfort

8.5

 

The interior of the Aviator is a great place to spend time, at least in the first two rows. The materials are excellent, and so are the seats. Combined with the cushy ride, the level of comfort is top notch for this class.

Front Seats: The seats that come over directly from the now gone Lincoln Continental are remarkably comfortable and have great adjustability to find that perfect level of comfort. The individual thigh bolsters are brilliant.

Rear Seats: 40.4 inches of 2nd-row legroom is bigger than just about any of the competition, but the 29.9 in the 3rd row is too tight for actual adults. They could've given up a couple of inches to the back row.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Aviator is quiet, even at high speeds. Its slippery shape and excellent sound deadening help provide a peaceful atmosphere.

Visibility: The view all around is very good thanks to manageable pillar width and a great seating position.

Climate: The HVAC vents could be larger, but it had no problem delivering good volumes of cold air on hot days. The heated and cooled seats also worked very well.

Safety

9

 

The Aviator is not only packed with great standard and optional safety features, but it also scores very well in crash test and safety ratings.

IIHS Rating: The Aviator in both gas and hybrid trims rated Top Safety Pick with the IIHS, with "good" in all crash tests. It only got dinged on headlights ("marginal") in some trims. LATCH ease of use received an "acceptable".

NHTSA Rating: The Federal Government gave the Aviator five stars overall. It only got dinged in the rollover risk test with four stars, which is still very good.

Standard Tech: The Aviator Grand Touring comes standard with Lane Keeping Assist, Rearview Camera, Personal Safety System (airbags, crash sensors, seatbelt pretensioners), Pre-Collision Assist w/ Automatic Emergency Braking, and a Tire Pressure Monitor.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with the Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus Package that includes a 360-Degree Camera, Active Park Assist Plus, Evasive Steering Assist, Reverse Brake Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist.

Storage/Cargo

8.6

 

Overall storage space is pretty good. It's not class-leading, but there are enough options in both rows to accommodate a moderate amount of small gear items. Cargo space is, on the other hand, very good. Optional air suspension helps lower the load height.

Storage Space: Front occupants have two retractable door cubbies in the center console, moderately sized door pockets and armrest compartment, and a large side-loading binnacle underneath the center stack.

Cargo Room: The Aviator's cargo space consists of 18.3 cubic feet behind row three and 77.7 cubes with the seats folded flat. That's more than the Volvo XC90 and the Cadillac XT6.

Fuel Economy

7.3

 

In combined driving, we were able to get 32 mpg, which isn't terrible but not quite close to the EPA estimates. We didn't run it on purely electric power, so our MPGe data is non-existent.

Observed: 32.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 112 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove it in sport mode most of the time, which explains our numbers.

Audio

9

 

Our Grand Touring tester came with the excellent 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D premium audio system, which immerses all occupants with high quality sound. Bass and clarity were excellent. The metal speaker covers are stunning, as well. It's standard on this trim level, thankfully.



Final Thoughts

We really loved the Aviator Grand Touring in Hybrid trim for its luxury, styling, seating comfort in the two front rows, and for its tremendously comfy ride. It's a great American SUV that carves its own path. While it might be best to go with a higher trim gas version, the Aviator makes a compelling premium SUV that can go toe-to-toe with the Germans and the other American brands. It's worth a look.
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