Very Nice To Drive
That engine we love so much is only part of what makes the Aviator so nice to drive. With all-wheel drive and the optional Dynamic Handling package ($7,430) on our tester – which adds an adaptive air suspension and adaptive steering – the Aviator is surprisingly agile in the turns.
The steering is well-weighted and responsive, and body roll is less noticeable compared to some of the alternatives. Not only does the Aviator corner well, but it also has a supremely comfortable ride in everyday conditions. The air suspension soaks up bumps and potholes, making the big SUV feel like it's gliding atop the road.
The Aviator does have a plug-in hybrid option, but at $68,800 to start, the electrified Grand Touring model is a pricey proposition. For most buyers, the standard twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 should be more than enough.
The Aviator's 400-horsepower six-cylinder is a phenomenal engine that produces lots of grunt in a straight line, and the standard 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly and efficiently. The combination makes for a really impressive powertrain.
The Aviator and Navigator both represent a new direction for Lincoln, and that's obvious by looking at them. One could argue that the Aviator in particular – outside of something like a 1961 Continental – this is the brand's best looking vehicle ever.
The Aviator has clean and elegant lines, a handsome front fascia centered around the brand's signature grille, a seamless floating roof feature that visually shrinks the vehicle's overall footprint, and, in this particular spec, a very nice set of optional 22-inch wheels. The “AVIATOR” wordmark on the front panel, just below the side mirror, is a nice touch too, and the liberal use of chrome trim on this model works well.
The inside of the Aviator is equally stunning, highlighted by a 10.3-inch central touchscreen and a nice matte wood finish on the center console and across the dash. The ebony-colored seats match the wood feature nicely, and the limited amount of buttons on the dash help reduce clutter. All in all, the Lincoln Aviator is a very handsome vehicle, both inside and out.
Expensive With Options
This is true of almost every car in the class, but the Lincoln Aviator gets especially pricey with options. The Aviator has a base price of $51,500, while the Reserve model we tested starts at $56,190. But this particular car costs a whopping $75,660 after options – and it doesn’t feel totally worth it, especially with those two earlier cons mentioned.
At that price, the Aviator inches into larger luxury three-row territory, rivaling the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS. And both of those SUVs are much better than the Aviator.
Some Chintzy Materials
For an SUV that costs more than $75,000, there are some unusually cheap pieces. The textured aluminum knobs controlling volume, tuning, and fan speed look nice but feel flimsy.
The shiny black buttons surrounding those dials (for things like temperature and seat heating and cooling) look and feel cheap, too. And the “chrome” trim that outlines the center console and the touchscreen is really a cheap plastic that feels like it could fall off in your hand.
In most vehicles we test, hard plastic near or below the knee is fine. But again, for a $75,000 luxury SUV, this many hard materials on the door panel and center console is almost inexcusable. Alternatives like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GLE do have some hard plastic, but not this much.
Confusing Interior Layout
We're all for a clean, minimalist cabin, but the Aviator takes that oversimplified approach too far in the wrong direction. There's no physical “Home” button for the screen, which makes switching between Apple CarPlay and Sync difficult. There's no “Automatic Stop/Start” button either, and even the headlight switch is an overly complicated, hard-to-reach silver dial located well below the driver’s knee.
But most confusing are the gear shift buttons, which Lincoln hides away under the touchscreen like a problem stepchild. Even after a week with the car, we still reached for the stalk behind the steering wheel first, then the big fan speed knob before remembering where the gear selector buttons were located.