2021 Lincoln Aviator

By December 2, 2020

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator is a handsome seven-seat crossover SUV that has a lovely sportwagon profile and a cabin that brilliantly combines high technology with retro themes.

For 2021 it drops a few colors and adds a panoramic sunroof on the Reserve model.

The Aviator couples a 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 with a 10-speed automatic for enough power to carry its 4,774-pound curb weight (in base trim). The ride is calm and collected, if not completely ready to challenge complicated roads.

The Aviator Grand Touring takes the twin-turbo V-6 and hooks it up with a 13.6-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and a 75-kw electric motor for a net of 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque, good enough to cut its 0-60 mph time to about six seconds. Weight goes up to 5,673 pounds, so towing goes down to 5,600 pounds.

The Aviator is made in Chicago, and it’s 199.3 inches long with a 119.1-inch wheelbase.

The EPA rates the rear-wheel-drive Aviator at 18 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined. With all-wheel drive, it’s 17/24/20 mpg. The Grand Touring plug-in hybrid is rated at 21 miles of electric range, 56 MPGe, and 23 mpg combined.

The NHTSA gives it five stars for safety but the insurance industry is less generous than the government, as the IIHS doesn’t give it a top score for front-impact protection; it says driver protection is “Acceptable” and the headlights only “Marginal.”

Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams. Most models have optional front parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, and automatic park assist, which will park the car with the steering wheel as the driver controls the brake and throttle.

Model Lineup

The base Aviator costs a bit more than $52,000 and comes with synthetic leather upholstery, power features, 10-way power front seats, a big touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Options include 28-speaker Revel audio, 30-way adjustable front seats, and leather upholstery.

The Aviator Reserve starts at about $60,000 and adds 20-inch wheels, a surround-view camera system, 14-speaker Revel sound, premium leather, and a panoramic sunroof.

The Grand Touring plug-in hybrid, for about $70,000, is equipped similarly.

The Black Label, for about $80,000, adds 22-inch wheels and an available middle-row bench seat.

The Grand Touring version of the Black Label costs about $90,000 and gets 21-inch wheels, with options for a tow package and a rear-seat entertainment system.

A loaded Aviator Limited approaches $90,000, and includes a power tailgate, LED headlights, synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, navigation, keyless start, and a 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Exterior

The Aviator is clearly related to the bigger and bolder Navigator, but it has a more slippery shape. It shares its platform with the Ford Explorer (the Navigator shares with the Expedition), boasting a swept-back, low-slung profile.The roofline suggests Range Rover.

The front end has a wide mesh grille with a brilliant with a light-up logo; LED lighting contributes to the clean and uncluttered look. The rear lights are also LED, and it would be clean if it weren’t for the giant tailgate lettering.

Interior

The throwback design shows in the repetition of rectangles across the dash. The high-tech framework wraps digital gauges and touchscreens in simple outlines of metallic trim and warm wood. It’s glamorous and rich, while the fit and finish is excellent.

The cabin soars in Black Label trim. The style called Flight is black and tan trim, Destination is wood and red leather, and Chalet is nut-brown and white leather, highlighted by silvery wood-like trim.

In the front row, the base synthetic-leather seats also have a retro look. They are adjustable 10 ways, with 12 and 30 ways available. Above the base model, the seats are real leather, heated and cooled.

The second row is captain’s chairs, with the three-seat bench available. The captain’s chairs are more opulent, with square backs that suggest Lincoln’s 1960s glory days, as long as you ignore the cupholders and USB ports nearby. With 40.1 inches of leg room, the Aviator can carry tall people even under a panoramic sunroof in majesty.

However the third row gets tight, with a seat on the floor and a mere 29.2 inches of leg room.

Behind the third row the Aviator has 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space; with that row dropped there is 41.8 cubic feet,and with both rows lowered there’s a plentiful 77.7 cubic feet. The cargo floor is a bit high, but the interior space is usefully shaped.

In the third row, the hard plastics are easy to spot and the dull rumble of the V-6 can’t be ignored.

Driving Impressions

The Aviator can hit 60 mph in about seven seconds, thanks to its strong 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet torque. Even so, it could be quicker if it didn’t have so much mass to carry; the Aviator weighs 4,892 pounds with all-wheel drive. The exhaust note of the twin-turbo V6 is a bit disappointing; the sound is less impressive than the power.

The 10-speed automatic transmission delivers decisive shifts with no fuss. Drive modes allow the Aviator to shift its mood from comfortable to sporty, as the computer adjusts the transmission, throttle and steering response.

The all-wheel-drive system is rear-wheel based, and it moves the torque to the front wheels as traction is needed there. With the tow package, the Aviator can pull up to 6,700 pounds.

The standard suspension is front strut and rear multi-link suspension, but there is an available active suspension with air springs; the package also includes adaptive steering. Even with stiffer-riding 22-inch tires, this suspension provides a more sophisticated ride. It’s excellent in long, wide curves. However in tighter corners, in the Sport mode, the Aviator’s bulk is too much to overcome, and it feels bouncy and stiff. It behaves best in comfort mode.

The Grand Touring has a quiet EV mode, but in every other mode it’s noisier than a luxury car at this price should be. The battery enables only 21 miles of electric driving.

The Grand Touring’s weight and smaller wheels give it a slightly better ride. But apparently the programming of the 10-speed automatic transmission is changed for the hybrid powertrain, and not for the better; the transmission clunks and misjudges shifts frequently.

Final Word

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator almost has it all. The twin-turbo V-6 has enough power to carry the Aviator’s weight, and the cabin is lovely, although the third row is too cramped for adults. We’d pass on the Grand Touring hybrid until it can deliver more electric-only miles.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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