2020 Lincoln Aviator: Lincoln's newest luxury SUV takes flight [First Look]

2020 Lincoln Aviator 9.JPG
2020 Lincoln Aviator (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

As the door closes with a soft woof sound, the silence is pervasive and encompassing. It’s like a little pocket of peaceful luxury with the hustle and bustle of the surrounding world locked outside.

The all-new 2020 Lincoln Aviator embodies the automaker’s “Quiet Flight” mantra with plush sound-deadening materials, comfort-class cruising and smooth acceleration.

Stocked with the available Perfect Position seats, with contoured cushions and massaging functions, the test vehicle set the tone for the entirety of my day-long drive.

Before I even punched the “D” for drive on the push-button gearing, my thoughts echoed my Cookie Monster Waze Avatar: This is going to be a good drive.

And it was.

The drive route took us through the mountains surrounding Napa and Sonoma valleys with a combination of straightaways and winding loops – a drive route that easily would have suited a sports car. Yet here we were in a 3-row SUV.

Surprisingly, the Aviator handled it all like a champ. It didn’t lumber through the corners, and it held its ground well through elevation changes and turns.

The Aviator comes as both a gasoline model and a plug-in hybrid. Both are equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbo engine.

The gasoline model produced 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. The PHEV adds a 75-kilowatt electric motor and delivers 494 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque.

Both powertrains are well-mannered and smooth, handling quick accelerations and passing maneuvers with ease.

The beauty of the PHEV, however, is that with the electrification, torque is instantaneous. This accounts for more immediate acceleration and a nice whoosh of power when pounding the accelerator.

What’s more, with the 18 to 25 miles of all-electric range, there is an added level of luxurious silence sans engine noise.

The PHEV is equipped with a 13.6 kWh battery pack and can be charged in 3 to 4 hours with a Level 2 charger or 240-volt power jack.

My preference between gas and PHEV models is absolutely the PHEV. The power is swift and seamless, and assuming you have a place to charge at home, many urban errands can likely be done in Pure EV mode.

Handling on the Aviator – both with and without the electric boost – is more on the luxury side of the spectrum. The vehicle floats more than it drives and is more cushy than sporty. I toggled through the drive modes, and even with the Excite mode engaged, the ride was soft. Steering stiffens up a bit, which I appreciated, but it still wasn’t sporty.

And Lincoln is fine with that.

“This is not about building a track vehicle,” said John Davis, global chief program engineer for the Aviator. “This is about building effortless gliding performance.”

So, the message I have for you here: If you’re looking for more sporting dynamics, you’ll do better to toddle off to the Audi Q7 or BMW X5.

Frankly, there is nothing aggressive or sporty about the Aviator even it its design. Instead, it’s pure and luscious luxury from the soft-touch seating surfaces and floating roofline to the symphonic chimes that greet you upon entering the cabin.

I’m a huge fan of the exterior design, and I’m particularly enamored with the elegant look of the grille.

In posting interior shots of the vehicle online, I had a few social media followers state that the interior looks too plasticky. I don’t know if it was the quality of my pictures or a jaundiced eye, but in person, the Aviator interior looks sleek and elegant.

I like the HVAC and audio controls that take the shape of real buttons and dials, and I appreciate the shortcut button for the infotainment screen that gives easy access to the off switch for the auto stop/start engine and other vehicle settings.

To maintain a minimalist look on the center stack, Lincoln managed the right balance between actual and in-screen controls.

Plus, the amount of standard and available technology is mind boggling.

Even the base trim comes with features such as Apple CarPlay/Andorid Auto, tri-zone climate control, a 10.1-inch touchscreen display, passive entry, push-button start, power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, emergency automatic braking and lane keep assist.

Available features include quad-zone climate control, a premium Revel audio system, evasive steer assist, automatic reverse braking, active park assist and a 360-degree camera.

But the newest and coolest feature has to be the Phone as Key. This allows you to ditch your key fob and using the Bluetooth technology on your phone, you can unlock and start your vehicle just by having your phone in your pocket.

You set this up via the Lincoln Way app, enabling up to four devices to be used as a key.

In terms of security, the paired phone must be within a couple feet to unlock the door, and it must be within the Aviator itself to start the vehicle.

Plus, there are fail-safe codes that allow access to the vehicle and the ignition assuming your phone is lost, stolen or out of juice. You can also easily delete a phone as key, assuming the phone falls into the wrong hands.

The 2020 Aviator has five trims – three gasoline models and two PHEV models. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Standard ($52,840)
  • Reserve ($57,930)
  • Grand Touring ($70,540)
  • Black Label ($79,435)
  • Grand Touring Black Label ($89,540)

The Grand Touring trims are PHEV models and only available with all-wheel drive. The other trims are gasoline models and come standard with rear-wheel drive, adding AWD as a $2,500 option.

The all-new Aviator is available now at dealers.

The Bottom Line:

Aviator enters the scene as Lincoln’s first midsize three-row SUV, slotted between Nautilus and Navigator.

With a lot of advanced technology and sumptuous design, the 2020 Aviator is one of those must-test vehicles if you’re looking for something in the luxury class.

I didn’t realize that a vehicle had the ability to soothe until I spent the day with the Aviator. With the massaging seats and tomblike silence, it manages to be an oasis of calm in an otherwise chaotic world. That alone is worth a look-see.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only event that allowed special access to the vehicle and a product specialist. Lincoln Motor Co. covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.