By Eric Peters
Lincoln won’t be making the Continental sedan after the end of this model year — or any sedans at all, after this year.
Henceforth, all Lincolns will be SUVs — like the new Aviator that’s the subject of this review.
People just seem to like the layout better, probably because that’s what’s popular — which creates a feedback loop on the showroom floor as much as it does on the racks of clothing stores, where you’re likely to find more of what sells than the stuff that doesn’t.
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And so, they make even more of the stuff that sells.
But there are other reasons in the Aviator’s favor than just its shape.
What It Is
The Aviator is Lincoln’s almost-Navigator, the brand’s largest and most expensive SUV.
It’s midsize rather than full-size but still has three rows of seats and room for seven people.
It is also an SUV — not a crossover.
That means it isn’t built on a light-duty, car-type chassis. Like its bigger brother, the Navigator, the Aviator is built on a rear-drive layout, and because of that, it can tow up to 6,700 pounds.
It also offers more power than you can get in the Navigator.
Prices start at $51,940 for the rear-wheel drive base trim, which can be upgraded to all-wheel drive for $54,440. This one comes standard with a 400-horsepower turbocharged V-6 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
A top-of-the-line Black Label Grand Touring trim — which includes a suite of white-glove Lincoln personal concierge services, such as pickup of the vehicle when it needs service and drop-off of a loaner car to use while it is being serviced — as well as a mild-hybrid drivetrain with 494 horsepower and 630 foot-pounds of torque, with all-wheel drive also included, stickers for $89,175.
The Aviator was introduced in 2020 as a brand-new model for Lincoln, so the changes for 2021 are all on the window sticker. The price of the base trim remains the same, but you’ll see some inflation in the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the other trims, including the top-of-the-line Black Label Grand Touring.
It costs $535 more this year than it did last year.
The Aviator has an interesting mix of real SUV capability (especially towing capacity) and a more carlike demeanor than its heavier, taller, bigger brother, the Navigator.
Superhero power is standard — and more is available.
It goes as far without refueling — almost 600 miles — as a Prius, which can’t pull 6,700 pounds and doesn’t seat seven.
What’s Not So Good
The smaller-than-full-size footprint costs some total cargo capacity.
The powerful engine turns itself off — and on — over and over.
The most powerful hybrid version doesn’t pull as much (5,700 pounds) as the standard — and less powerful — version.
Under the Hood
The Aviator comes standard with a 400-horsepower turbocharged V-6 — similar to the Navigator’s, but 3.0 liters instead of 3.5 liters.
The Navigator’s larger turbo V-6 makes 450 horsepower. But no more horsepower is available.
The Aviator can be equipped with a turbo-hybrid combo that ups the horsepower to 494 — compared with the Navigator’s 450 — and swells the torque to an astounding 630 foot-pounds.
All versions come standard with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
They also come standard with the automated stop/start system that is becoming common in all new vehicles as a fuel-saving measure. The good news is it can be disabled if you prefer the engine to only shut off when you push the button to turn it off.
On the Road
The Aviator drives a lot like the Continental – and the big sedan Lincoln won’t be selling after the end of this calendar year. It drives very unlike the Navigator, which is a split-the-difference that makes big sense and probably accounts for the “great success” (Borat voice) this SUV has had that the Continental hasn’t had.
Once behind the wheel — and it is easier to get behind the wheel, because you get in it as you would a car, without needing a deployable stepladder to climb aboard — it feels like the big, ultraplush sedan it almost is.
This includes its ultralight steering, which makes directing the course of this mobile sofa as easy as pushing the recline button on your favorite BarcaLounger.
At the Curb
End to end, the Aviator is 199.3 inches long — which is slightly smaller overall than the on-its-way-out Continental sedan, which is 201.4 inches end to end.
But the Aviator seats seven instead of just five — plus, it has 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row, which can be quadrupled to 77.7 inches by lowering the second- and third-row seats.
That is living large space.
As it turns out, it is almost as much space as the much larger (and much taller) Navigator, which has 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row.
Three-zone climate control is standard, along with an entirely LCD main- and secondary-gauge cluster. A 28-speaker sound system is available, as are massaging seats for the driver and front-seat passenger.
The Bottom Line
Consider it an alternative to the Navigator — that’s everything the Connie should have been.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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