Review update: The 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve simplifies luxury

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Many luxury vehicles have become overly complicated with multi-layer infotainment systems, digital gauge clusters, head-up displays, driver-assistance systems, and drive modes. It can be daunting to figure out which information to look at and which settings to choose. The 2020 Lincoln Aviator says enough with all that.

Lincoln revived the Aviator three-row SUV for 2020 for the first time since 2005. It’s the same formula from the first generation except this time it has moved upmarket squarely into luxury territory and it’s worth the price tag.

I spent a week with the 2020 Lincoln Aviator and appreciated its gorgeous design, luxurious interior, and simplified technology. I also found a few issues, including a small third row. Here are the hits and misses of the 2020 Lincoln Aviator.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Hit: It’s gorgeous

Emotion plays a big role in vehicle choice, and one look at the 2020 Aviator can inspire love at first sight. The exterior doesn’t rely on visual tricks or complicated curves to draw attention. It’s a simple formula of a clean design with a long dash-to-axle ratio. The tall, blunt front end says you’ve arrived with its large, chrome-plated, mesh grille and illuminated Lincoln logo. The hood’s spine-like center crease has old-money flair, and the Aviator’s only embellishments are the fake vents in the front fenders. The fast rear roofline flows beautifully into the tailgate above flared fenders that impart a muscular stance. A full-width, LED taillight creates a distinct signature at night. On the whole, the Aviator is bold, brutish, and pretty all at once.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Hit: It’s simple

In an era of touch pads, steering wheel controls, rotary dials, and complicated multi-layer interfaces, the Aviator’s control interface is a breath of fresh design. Glossy black buttons trigger essential climate and audio functions, an easy-to-use touch interface with large virtual buttons controls the tablet-like 10.1-inch touchscreen, and a row of simple yet gorgeous toggles selects gears electronically. The slim 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster shows only necessary information without map data from the navigation system like in an Audi or BMW. That creates a very simple display that won’t overwhelm with information, but some will want the map front and center. The lane-keep assist system icon transfers from the digital gauge cluster to the available head-up display to further limit the information in the IP. Both the air suspension and all-wheel-drive system take their cues from the chosen drive mode and don’t have separate controls. Those drive modes—Excite, Normal, Conserve, Slippery, Deep Conditions—are easily chosen via a rotary controller on the center console.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Miss: Missing tech

The Aviator has most of the tech expected in a luxury vehicle, but it doesn’t offer everything available in the competition. It lacks a night-vision system, augmented reality in the navigation system, an ionizer for the climate control system, and headlight washers. Buyers don’t need any of these features, but all are either useful or comforting features available in the 2020 Audi Q7.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Miss: That’s a third row?

The Aviator can seat up to seven people, but most models, including my Reserve tester, have seating for six with second-row captain’s chairs that are as comfortable as living room furniture. Two adults can squeeze into the token third row for short distances in a pinch, but they’ll find little leg room. With car seats mounted in the second row and an optional center console between the second-row captain’s chairs, getting into the third row is an adventure that requires crawling over a center console. Those in need of a third row on a regular basis should opt for the Aviator’s big brother, the Navigator, or the BMW X7.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Hit: It’s welcoming

Approach the Aviator and LED lighting slowly comes to life as if the vehicle is waking from a slumber. The available air suspension drops the Aviator two inches in an entry/exit mode to make life easier. The electric door releases unlock with a satisfying click, and the glitzy interior is bathed in cool LED lighting. It’s as if the Aviator exists to serve at the pleasure of the owner.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Miss: Finishing school

My Reserve model tester arrived nicely optioned at $76,015. However, as a pre-production vehicle with production content, it suffered from quite a few fit and finish issues, some of which may make it into production. Turning the pretty chrome-plated volume knob felt like rubbing cardboard against sandpaper. A clip in the B-pillar trim wouldn’t lock in, which meant the trim wasn’t securely fastened. I also found a gap between the plastic cowling at the base of the windshield and the dashboard. You’d never find these issues in an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz. The Aviator hits on many other notes, but a true luxury automaker eliminates fit and finish issues. Hopefully, I won’t find such problems when I get seat time in a production model.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Hit: Adequate power

At 4,774 pounds, the Aviator isn’t light, but its 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet torque are more than sufficient. The power from the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 rolls on like a wave and the turbos spool up quickly to create minimal lag. Low-end power is its strong suit, and the smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission quickly settles into highest gear for the speed to minimize engine noise. The Aviator gets up to speed smoothly and is a perfect cruiser on the highway. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but rear-wheel drive is available for those in the south.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Miss: Inefficient

It may be powerful, but the Aviator isn’t thrifty. Its 17 mpg city, 24 highway, and 17 combined EPA ratings are right in line with the Audi Q7 and other competitors, but those numbers are nothing to brag about. I averaged 19 mpg in suburban highway and residential driving and 21 mpg on a road trip in the Minnesota cold. Those looking for better fuel economy may consider the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid model, but Editorial Director Marty Padgett found its powertrain to be jerky and unrefined in his first drive review.

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator isn’t the quickest or most tech-filled luxury crossover SUV on the market, but it’s one of the prettiest and it proves a luxury vehicle doesn’t have to be complicated.

______________________________________
2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD
Base price: $52,195
Price as tested: $76,015
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 24 combined
The good: Gorgeous, refreshingly simple, luxurious
The bad: Small third row, inefficient, we hope for better fit and finish in production form

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