After meeting the production preview version of the 2020 Lincoln Aviator in March, I got up close with the real thing ahead of the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, and it cemented most of my initial impressions with a few exceptions. The production version of the Aviator looks pretty much identical to the preview, and that’s a good thing.
Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
The styling and high-quality interior remain very much intact. In fact, the most noticeable change is a larger set of side mirrors necessitated by safety regulations. Its shape and even the bladed wheels made it to the final version of Lincoln’s newest three-row luxury SUV.
Most notably, however, is that its grille is still there, which gives the Aviator needed differentiation in the Lincoln lineup. It’s the same shape, but the designers flipped it, so where the other Lincoln models have holes in the grille, the Aviator gets “droplets.” The effect is pronounced, and I unabashedly love the design.
There are different versions for the Aviator’s trim levels: base, Black Label and Black Label Grand Touring. The Aviator’s Grand Touring version refers to the plug-in hybrid variant. Lincoln doesn’t have any fuel economy or electric range figures, so we can’t compare the gas and hybrid versions quite yet, but a Lincoln representative confirmed that the plug-in should have an overall range of over 400 miles.
Perhaps more important for the Grand Touring is the placement of the battery pack, which won’t cut into cargo or passenger room. Lincoln says it even has the same size 19-gallon gas tank with room for a spare wheel — traditional areas typically compromised by hybrid components.
Inside, the materials quality and overall comfort of the Reserve and Black Label trims I previewed is impressive. Unlike the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, there is no drop-off in cabin materials; the Aviator more closely resembles the larger Navigator’s drool-worthy interior. That makes sense given the Aviator borrows heavily from its larger sibling, sharing 30-way power front seats (though with updated massage and lumbar functions), a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 10-inch multimedia screen.
One cool feature worth noting is that Lincoln changed the available head-up display from a thin-film transistor display to a digital light processing type of display. The DLP display allows you to see it through polarized sunglasses, a noted shortcoming for many head-up displays.
Previously, Lincoln didn’t let us climb into the third row, but it asserted that a 6-foot-tall passenger could comfortably fit back there. I call shenanigans; I’m a bit under 6 feet and it was a tight squeeze for me. The floor is too high, short on legroom and when I leaned back, my head glanced the top of the cabin. A helpful tilt-and-slide functionality allows access on both sides, but it’s a space best reserved for kids.
Even so, I came away at the production Aviator’s first look excited. It has a true luxury-class interior, and proves that even mid-size SUVs can drip with style; plus, I’m always up for a massage while driving. The 2020 Aviator flies into dealerships sometime in 2019.
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