Flying high with fresh tech and a clean look

First introduced for the 2003 model year, the Lincoln Aviator was initially offered as a luxury sport utility vehicle for the mid-size segment. After failing to meet sales expectations, Lincoln axed the nameplate in 2005 after just a few years in production. Now, however, as nationwide SUV sales continue onwards into the stratosphere, the Aviator makes its triumphant second-generation return for the 2020 model year, slotting in between the Nautilus and the standard wheelbase Navigator in Lincoln’s lineup. The latest model offers elegant styling, a top-notch interior layout, oodles of comfort, the latest tech, and a super torquey hybrid engine option.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Exterior Styling

  • Clean aesthetic inspired by airplanes
  • Attractive 3D grille
  • Navigator-inspired design cues
  • Does not have the door layout of the concept
2020 Lincoln Aviator Exterior
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We think it looks pretty good, with a tall SUV stance, large proportions, and an attractive front grille. All told, it’s clean and simple.

As far as exterior aesthetics are concerned, the Aviator takes similar cues as those found on the latest Lincoln Navigator, with a large front grille, upright features, and straight lines front to back.

What’s more, considering the name is an allusion to the aeronautic adventures of the past, it should come as no surprise that Lincoln also decided to pull from the world of airplanes for the exterior design as well.

“In Aviator, the lines of the vehicle are streamlined. You have the stature and presence of the grille at the front, then the body and tail taper off - creating a distinct aerofoil analogy,” says Lincoln Design Director David Woodhouse.

2020 Lincoln Aviator
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The look definitely pulls the eye towards the rear, which Lincoln says was designed as an indication of the SUV’s RWD platform.

“If you look at a bird or plane in flight, the wind is always at an angle to the air and falling downward toward the rear,” Woodhouse emphasizes. “You see that in the main bodyline of Aviator. From the headlight to the taillight, there’s a beautiful undercut feature varying in depth that connotes poise and grace.”

While we think it looks pretty good, we wouldn’t call it the most innovative design of all time. It’s more of a standard SUV stance, with large proportions and tall features throughout. The grille, however, does stand out to us thanks to its cool 3D shape. The signature Lincoln grille treatment is done up in a high-gloss black and finished with chrome accents.

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Outside, the body panels on this preview vehicle are covered in a hue dubbed Flight Blue

All told, it’s clean and simple, and we think buyers will appreciate it against the more angular competition.

Outside, the body panels on this preview vehicle are covered in a hue dubbed Flight Blue, which is an iridescent color that definitely gives off that stylish refinement Lincoln seems to be chasing after.

In back, the taillights wrap around into the lift door in long horizontal lines, while a quartet of exhaust tips are framed by the lower bumper treatment and topped by an additional chrome embellishment. The wraparound windshield once again gives a nod to aviation theme.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Interior Design

  • Seating for seven
  • Aluminum, brushed metal, and leather
  • Recline and slide function for second row
  • 12-inch display screen in the gauge cluster
  • Phone as a Key technology with tons of remote features
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Co-Pilot 360 suite of driver assists
2020 Lincoln Aviator Interior
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In terms of layout, horizontal lines dominate from front to back, particularly on the dash, where a long, thin trim strip is drawn from door to door.

For starters, the 2019 Lincoln Aviator is offered with a three-row interior layout with seating for seven, including two up front, three in the second row, and two on the rear bench.

In terms of layout, horizontal lines dominate from front to back, particularly on the dash, where a long, thin trim strip is drawn from door to door, set with a number of rectangular air vents. Lincoln says it wanted to offer a simple design devoid of too much “clutter, ” and overall, we’d say it achieved that goal.

Materials used include machined aluminum appliques and brushed metal, with the seats covered in a soft leather upholstery. The seats themselves are Lincoln’s Perfect Position sitters, offering 30-way adjustability and a massage function. Meanwhile, a multi-function steering wheel is used to operate the various infotainment functions.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Interior
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Passengers seated on the second row can refine their comfort with a recline and slide function, something that also provides access to the third-row seating.

The whole thing is draped in a Lincoln Black Label-inspired theme and features color schemes like Shearling Beige and Lunar Gray to add a bit of spice.

On the technology front, the Aviator runs off a standard Sync infotainment platform. A 12-inch display screen in the gauge cluster also comes as standard, while a 12.3-inch touchscreen is mounted high on the dash. This unit also sends prompts and “useful information” to the driver just behind the steering wheel, for example, if you’re running low on fuel, it’ll display a list of nearby gas stations to get you there without trouble.

One of the Aviator’s primary features is a smartphone key function, which offers owners additional remote functionality, such as locking and unlocking the door, opening the trunk, and engine start.

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The system is put to good use thanks to the Lincoln Way app, and comes with additional features like a locator chirp to find the SUV in a crowded parking lot.

What’s more, the app can tweak and tune various settings for a customized experience, which is great if multiple drivers are sharing the same vehicle.

Of course, a smartphone key works great - right up to the point you run out of battery juice. In that case, the Aviator comes with option to input a backup passcode on an exterior-mounted keypad, which will then provide access to the vehicle and the ability to start the car and drive it. Your personal Phone as Key profile can also be deleted if your phone is stolen or lost.

Further smartphone support is provided by a wireless phone charging function - just rest your phone in the right spot in the front armrest, and it’ll top itself off automatically. There’s also a “media bin” compartment offered for front passengers, and there are several power outlets scattered throughout the cabin as well. The Aviator will come standard with a Wi-Fi hotspot with web connections for all onboard.

Audiophiles will enjoy the optional Revel Ultima 3D Audio System with 28 speakers of power. To keep your attention on the road, the steering wheel gets multi-function controls at thumb’s length. The suspension system will also automatically lower when the driver climbs aboard.

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The Aviator comes with Lincoln’s Co-Pilot 360 system, which arrives as standard with a suite of safety features.

In terms of driver assists, the Aviator comes with Lincoln’s Co-Pilot 360 system, which arrives as standard with a suite of safety features such as automatic emergency braking paired with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, a reversing camera, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Finally, the Aviator also gets Reverse Brake Assist with a rear sensor and rear-facing camera, which will once again automatically brake if it detects an approaching object that might collide with the vehicle.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Drivetrain And Performance

  • Ford Explorer underpinnings
  • RWD standard, AWD optional
  • 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine
  • Hybrid model offers 400 hp and 600 lb-ft
  • Adaptive suspension
  • Pure EV mode available on hybrid model
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
2020 Lincoln Aviator Exterior
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Under the skin, the Lincoln Aviator is built on a new platform for the automaker, and in fact, it’s the same platform as the upcoming sixth-generation Ford Explorer.

And while the Aviator will be RWD, the platform used will also be available for adaptation to both AWD and FWD vehicles. All-wheel drive will be optional on the Aviator.

The suspension system set-up is also pretty high-tech, making for more comfort out on the road. Standout features include a forward-facing camera, which will actually read the road surface ahead and adjust the onboard adaptive suspension to more adequately soak up bumps as needed. Lincoln is calling it Suspension Preview Technology, and it will surely be appreciated by customers who frequent less-than-ideal blacktop.

On the engine front, there’s 3.0-liter V-6 making 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque as standard. Routing the output is a 10-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Lincoln Aviator
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However, the big news is the new Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring model, which includes the same twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, but with a dose of hybrid tech added on top. In this configuration, the Aviator produces an identical 400 horsepower, but ups the twist to a whopping 600 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid’s battery is mounted under the floor for optimal packaging.

Drive modes include Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, and Deep, while the hybrid offers Pure EV and Preserve EV.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Prices

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The 2020 Lincoln Aviator will hit dealers sometime in 2019, with a release for the global market, including China.

Pricing is so far unannounced but should slot in at around $55,000, placing it between the Nautilus and Navigator in Lincoln’s lineup.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Competition

Audi Q7

2017 - 2018 Audi Q7 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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When it comes to opulence and luxury in a tall-riding three-row package, the Germans have plenty to offer. Say hello to the Audi Q7, which comes stuffed with tech to rival the Lincoln, including all-digital instrumentation, optional 10.1-inch entertainment tablets in the rear, and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Power is provided by a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 252 horses in the base model, but higher in the range there’s a supercharged 333-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. Extra grip is standard thanks to Quattro AWD, while options include four-wheel steering and adaptive dampers. Pricing starts at $49,900.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi Q7.

Volvo XC90

2016 Volvo XC90 High Resolution Exterior
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Volvo has really cleaned up the last few years, and now it’s looking very sharp indeed with the latest XC90 SUV. Up to seven passengers can fit inside the well-appointed and handsome interior, which features top-shelf materials, a large touchscreen, and four-zone climate control. Motivation is derived from a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder making as much as 250 horsepower, while higher in the range there’s a twin-charged 2.0-liter and a hybrid, making 316 horsepower and 400 horsepower respectively. Pricing starts at $45,900, ranging up to $64,950 for the hybrid.

Read our full review on the 2018 Volvo XC90.

Final Thoughts

2020 Lincoln Aviator Exterior
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The Aviator offers a nice break from the usual Euro-sourced competition, bringing loads of elegance, presence, quiet, and smoothness. Overall, we’re liking what we’re seeing.

As a fresh entry in the luxury SUV segment, the Aviator has a lot to offer. Not only is this segment red hot at the moment, but the Aviator offers a nice break from the usual Euro-sourced competition we see here. Lincoln says it’s focusing on elegance, presence, quiet, and smoothness, and overall, we’re liking what we’re seeing.

Indeed, this latest Aviator provides “a glimpse into the brand’s future, which is moving toward a broader portfolio of utilities and electrification in conjunction with effortless services,” says Lincoln.

That all makes sense to us. We also like the fact that Lincoln went with an appeal “to millennials starting families,” especially considering the brand is typically associated with an older crowd (that is, retirees). However, as the brand points out, most medium-sized premium SUVs are getting scooped up by buyers aged between 35 to 44, so stuffing in new tech, a clean interior, and an optional hybrid is surely a good way to get noticed.

  • Leave it
    • Plenty of competition
    • No specs out yet
    • Brand associations need a refresh

Further reading

2020 Lincoln Aviator
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The New Lincoln Aviator Offers Third-Row Seating, Advanced Technology

2004 Lincoln Aviator
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Read our full review on the 2004 Lincoln Aviator.

The New Lincoln Navigator is Here, and You're Going to Want One High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.

Press release

Aviator glides into New York this week, offering a preview of The Lincoln Motor Company’s newest vehicle along with a glimpse into the brand’s future, which is moving toward a broader portfolio of utilities and electrification in conjunction with effortless services.

As more consumers choose the spaciousness and capability of SUVs, Lincoln unveils Aviator, a distinctive three-row plug-in hybrid production preview. The “teaser” model serves to preview the direction Lincoln plans to take with its newest SUV when the production model goes on sale next year.

“The Lincoln Navigator continues to turn heads and bring new clients to the brand,” says Joy Falotico, president, The Lincoln Motor Company. “We believe Aviator’s elegant design, state-of-the-art technology and refined plug-in hybrid option will draw even more clients to the Lincoln showroom, including families who are looking for three-row capability.”

With its slim, tapered lines, roomy interior, twin-turbocharged powertrain available with an advanced plug-in hybrid option, the three-row Aviator targets the heart of the premium market, entering the medium luxury SUV segment that represents more than a quarter of all premium SUVs sold. Appealing to millennials starting families, with the majority of vehicles sold to people ages 35 to 44, the medium luxury SUV segment saw sales of more than 585,000 vehicles in 2017.

Aeronautical inspiration

The synchronicity of Aviator’s name and form language is intentional; aeronautics has long inspired automotive design.

“In Aviator, the lines of the vehicle are streamlined,” says Lincoln Design Director David Woodhouse. “You have the stature and presence of the grille at the front, then the body and tail taper off – creating a distinct aerofoil analogy.”

The emphasis of graceful lines pulling downward toward the rear – a cue to Aviator’s rear-wheel-drive platform – is what Woodhouse describes as an in-flight gesture. “If you look at a bird or plane in flight, the wing is always at an angle to the air and falling downward toward the rear,” he says. “You see that in the main bodyline of Aviator. From the headlight to the taillight, there’s a beautiful undercut feature varying in depth that connotes poise and grace.”

The iridescent Flight Blue exterior color complements Aviator’s elegant, flowing lines, while the signature Lincoln grille is executed in high-gloss black and chrome accents. A wraparound windshield helps complete the aviation-inspired theme.

Comfort and convenience

The effortless experience begins even before entering the Aviator, as owners can use their smartphone as a key. When it debuts on the production SUV, Phone as a Key technology is expected to be one of the industry’s leading systems. Activated through the Lincoln Way™ app, it allows owners to lock and unlock, open the trunk and, most importantly, start and drive the vehicle – no smart key fob is necessary.

Phone as a Key is designed to offer other amenities similar to a smart key fob. For instance, drivers can activate a locator chirp to find Aviator in a crowded parking lot, or recall their personal profile. Should the phone battery go dead, a backup passcode can be entered on the standard exterior keypad to gain access, then clients can start and proceed to drive the vehicle via the center touch screen. And, if the phone is lost or stolen, Phone as a Key can be easily deleted, providing additional peace of mind.

Inside, Aviator’s spacious, airy cabin accentuates horizontal lines, minimizing visual clutter to deliver a soothing sanctuary. A thoughtfully designed steering wheel is intended for ultimate ease of use, with only subtle finger movements needed to access the many functions it houses.

As comfort is paramount with Aviator, the amenities continue with Perfect Position seats offering 30-way adjustability and massage capability, while flexible second-row seats can recline and slide forward for easy access to the spacious third row.

Wireless phone charging is located in the front armrest, while a convenient media bin is available for passengers in front as well. Multiple power outlets are located throughout the cabin, while standard Wi-Fi ensures everyone stays connected.

An all-new Lincoln Black Label-inspired theme harmoniously combines Shearling Beige and Lunar Gray to further elevate the ambience. Machine-turn aluminum appliqués, brushed in small circles to replicate the shape of early aviation instruments, enhance the theme. The supple leather of the seats is minimally processed to retain its natural texture.

Power, capability and choice

Built on a rear-wheel-drive platform, Aviator allows for the power and capability luxury clients require in a three-row SUV. The platform also serves to enhance Aviator’s elegant proportions, with a long wheelbase allowing for a spacious second and third row.

The Lincoln powertrain is designed for clients interested in options. A twin-turbocharged engine can be paired with the brand’s first advanced plug-in hybrid technology, marking the first time the company will offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain mated to a twin-turbocharged engine. This combination of power and electrified capability will help Aviator deliver Lincoln’s quietest, smoothest, most powerful drive yet.

Offering the capability of its twin-turbocharged engine in combination with a hybrid electric powertrain makes Aviator mightier than many supercars on the road today. The plug-in hybrid experience provides for a responsive, refined ride, with no powertrain-induced noise and vibration when operating on battery charge, yet is capable of using its twin-turbocharged engine if needed, easing range anxiety.

Lincoln Drive Modes allow clients to further customize the drive experience, while a 12-inch standard cluster display confirms the choice with beautiful and dynamic, easy-to-read graphics.

Client-focused technologies, services

Aviator delivers a wealth of advanced technologies designed to assist the driver every step of the way.

With Aviator’s advanced forward camera scanning the road ahead, Lincoln’s first-ever Suspension Preview Technology seamlessly adjusts the suspension for upcoming road conditions. This can help reduce driver stress caused by potholes and bumps in the road.

Aviator will be equipped with Lincoln Co-Pilot360™, an advanced suite of standard driver-assist technologies including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, lane keeping system, reverse camera and auto high-beam lighting.

Aviator offers Reverse Brake Assist, an enhanced driver-assist technology that integrates rear sensors and a camera to provide automatic braking if an obstacle is detected behind the vehicle.

Aviator also debuts a selection of considerate prompts delivered through the newest version of SYNC®. With the introduction of these prompts, or cues, Lincoln advances the brand’s holistic approach to vehicle ownership by bringing those services into the car.

The prompts are designed to deliver helpful information to drivers visually on the cluster display, recommending appropriate actions to help them overcome whatever situation they’re facing. Should they run low on fuel, for example, Aviator will notify them and seamlessly connect them with navigation to offer them the closest gas station options.

“Lincoln is committed to delivering the innovation and features that luxury consumers expect today,” says Falotico. “And, the Aviator is yet another example of how we are creating an effortless experience for our clients.”

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