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Relax Now: Refined 2020 Lincoln Aviator

By Sue Mead, March 28th, 2020

Not only do I test-drive automobiles, I'm also a pilot and I love to fly. Powered aircraft are fun, but gliders are sublime.

The stresses of the world often float away in a glider's nearly silent enclosure with panoramic views of the sky and clouds. I recently enjoyed a test drive in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator; the quiet and open-sky views, along with its air suspension that soaks up the bumps of the road, reminded me of flying in a glider.

This new model offers many things to enjoy from its eye-catching exterior styling to the peacefulness of its inner sanctuary. However, I also like its "flier name" and appreciate Lincoln's goal to engineer it for "quiet flight" -- I'm going to call it sublime.

After putting the Aviator on hiatus since 2005, Ford's upscale Lincoln division has brought back the Aviator name, and significantly updated this midsize sport utility vehicle. Although it borrows some underpinnings from the newest Explorer, it has a unique design and a host of Lincoln-specific engineering, technology, and safety features that make it stand apart from the Explorer.

The distinctly premium offering comes in five different trim levels: Standard, Reserve, Black Label, Grand Touring, and Grand Touring Black Label. Standard, Reserve, and Black Label are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque and is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on Standard and Reserve, while all Black Labels come with all-wheel drive. Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label get a 494-horsepower plug-in hybrid based on the V-6 that pumps out 630 lb.-ft. of torque.

During my 150-mile-long drive along winding and sometimes bumpy roads through Napa Valley's wine country, I was impressed by the Aviator Reserve AWD's looks and handling. Chrome mesh adorns the grille, while chrome quad-tip tailpipes make a statement at the rear. A sleek but chiseled body with large windows accented by a chrome strip below the glass belies the three rows that can hold up to seven, or six with a second-row console.

A "piano key" shifter punctuated gear shifting. A drive mode program allowed me to select from five distinct programmed modes: Normal actively adapts to driver inputs; Conserve is geared for efficiency; Excite pumps up performance; Slippery adds stability for slick conditions; and Deep Conditions adds safety in deep snow or mud.

Two new advanced suspension systems refine and smooth the ride: Adaptive Suspension uses a suite of 12 sensors that constantly monitor vehicle motion, body movement, steering, acceleration, and braking, and read the road 500 times per second; it can automatically provide setting adjustments up to 100 times per second. Bundled in the system is Advanced Pothole Mitigation that can sense when a wheel is dropping into a severe dip and stiffen the shock absorber to reduce the drop and harshness of a tire strike.

When it's paired with Adaptive Suspension with Road Preview, the front-facing cameras read the road surface nearly 50 feet ahead looking for height deviations, such as speed bumps and frost heaves, to prepare the suspension and make driving over them as comfortable as possible. In addition, Air Glide Suspension enhances the ride even further and brings Dynamic Lower Entry, which lowers the vehicle to greet the driver upon approach.

The cockpit has been styled with horizontal lines and lux-level trims throughout, and has heated and ventilated front and rear seats along with quad-zone climate control. A panoramic vista roof with a power shade brings a sky view and ambient light. An optional 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D audio system brings premium sound.

Lincoln's "phone as a key" feature allows your cellphone to act as a smart key eliminating the need for a traditional key; it can store seat preferences, control remote start, and allows entry into the car. In the case of a dead phone battery, access codes can be entered into the keypad. The all-new 2020 Aviator starts at just over $51,000 and tops out at $87,800, before options.

Specifications

Base price $51,100 (as tested: $58,700)
Curb weight 4,897 lbs.
Displacement 3.0-liter
Engine type twin-turbocharged V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 20.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 400
Overall length 199.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 415
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Vehicle type 6/7-passenger midsize AWD SUV
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