2021 Lincoln Aviator

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$51,570

starting MSRP

2021 Lincoln Aviator
2021 Lincoln Aviator

Key specs

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7 trims

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2021 Lincoln Aviator review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

Unveiled on the auto-show circuit (remember those?) a little over three years ago, the Lincoln Aviator was the first plug-in hybrid from Ford’s luxury brand, though hardly the first plug-in from the automaker itself. Dubbed the Aviator Grand Touring, the SUV’s plug-in version employed a 75-kilowatt electric motor with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 10-speed automatic transmission for a combined 494 horsepower and 630 pounds-feet of torque. That’s considerably more than the gas-only Aviator (no “Grand Touring” moniker), whose turbo V-6 makes 400 hp and 415 pounds-feet of torque. The mechanicals carry into 2021 unchanged.

Related: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Plug-In Hybrid First Drive: Still Getting Its Wings

The Grand Touring is mighty quick, if tentative in its acceleration and braking. But is it efficient after you drain the 13.6-kilowatt-hour battery pack, either by driving the EPA-estimated 21 miles under electric power or farther in hybrid mode? I drove 295 miles to find out.

With all-wheel drive standard, the Aviator Grand Touring is EPA-rated at 23 mpg combined once the battery pack is depleted. That’s 15% better, at least by rounded EPA figures, than the 20 mpg combined rating for the gas-only Aviator with AWD. (The gas-only SUV also comes with rear-wheel drive, which nabs an EPA-rated 21 mpg combined.) 

I began my trip with electric-only range depleted looking to see how the EPA numbers panned out driving the Grand Touring essentially like a hybrid. Although it squanders a key capability for PHEVs, it’s the reality of the ever-popular road trip — and the only way to get an electrified Aviator, as Lincoln offers no plug-free hybrid variant of the SUV. Believe it or not, there are PHEVs on the market that are less efficient than their gas-only counterparts without the help of a charged battery, such as the new Jeep Wrangler 4xe, so it’s not safe to assume any plug-in hybrid is automatically a road-trip champion.

The Trip

My two-day trip took me from Chicago’s western suburbs to Port Byron, Ill., in the Quad Cities area along the Illinois-Iowa border.

  • I began and ended at the same gas station and pump, a journey easily within the Grand Touring’s 439 miles of EPA-rated gasoline range. I topped off the Aviator to begin, and the trip computer read 294.7 accumulated miles when I pulled in a day later to fill back up. The Aviator’s owner’s manual calls for a minimum 87-octane fuel but recommends premium for best performance. In both cases, I topped off with 93 octane.
  • Conditions ranged from partly cloudy to heavy thunderstorms during the two-day jaunt, with 13 to 16 mph headwinds on the westbound leg out and roughly equal tailwinds on the eastbound leg back, according to readings from Weather Underground. Temperatures ranged from the low 70s to the low 80s throughout.
  • I traveled with my two children plus overnight luggage, amounting to some 350 pounds’ total weight. I adjusted tire pressure to manufacturer-recommended settings and kept the Aviator’s windows and moonroof closed. 
  • The vast majority of the trip involved interstate highways, with an average vehicle speed of 62 mph and extensive use of the Aviator’s adaptive cruise control. I set the climate control to its fully automatic setting with temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees, which activated a fair amount of air conditioning. 
  • Finally, I drove as I normally would, neither trying to evaluate the vehicle’s drivetrain (which inevitably dumps mileage) nor drive in a particularly efficient way. Among the various selectable driving modes, I kept the Aviator in Normal.

The Results

When I pulled back into the station, the Aviator’s trip computer read 23.7 mpg, a tad above the EPA combined rating. The SUV took 13.12 gallons of fuel from the same pump I’d topped off at the day prior, rendering a pump-calculated fuel economy of 22.5 mpg. Averaging the two data points, as is Cars.com’s typical practice during a dedicated mileage drive, gets 23.1 mpg — spot on with the SUV’s EPA numbers on gasoline only.

If my experience is any indication, achieving the Aviator Grand Touring’s EPA-rated mileage on highway stretches is fairly easy. It shows the SUV in a better light, too: Sustained cruising masks the indecisive transmission and tentative brakes, issues we pointed out in our initial drive in 2019. That said, it raises a new annoyance: Our test car’s lane-centering steering repeatedly warned me to keep my hands on the steering wheel despite them being there. I’ve observed similar tendencies from Cars.com’s long-term Ford F-150, which — like this particular Aviator — has lane centering under an advanced version of Ford’s Co-Pilot360 system.

The Aviator Grand Touring starts at $70,640. That’s $9,450 more than the Aviator’s similarly equipped Reserve trim with AWD ($61,190). It’s currently eligible for a federal tax credit of $6,534 for plug-in vehicles, which narrows the net gap to just under $3,000. At that, the Grand Touring clearly prioritizes performance over efficiency. If you’re looking for an Aviator geared more toward the latter, stay tuned: Ford reportedly plans to build an all-electric Aviator down the road.

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Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.7
  • Interior design 4.7
  • Performance 4.8
  • Value for the money 4.2
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.5

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Lincoln Did A Great Job

The Lincoln Aviator has lived up to expectations and beyond. I can't remember ever being as excited about any new car I have owned. If you are considering an Aviator, you need to drive it.

5.0

Incredible Vehicle. Design in all area’s is outs!

This SUV has all the attributes that you expect from a Luxury vehicle. Lincoln is back. What a home run they have hit In designing this vehicle!

4.9

Owned it for about a month. Love it. Powerful

It's big, powerful and beautiful Pristine White. Quiet. Still getting used to the size and height. Only criticism so far is lack of place in cockpit to put stuff. Love the HUD and beautiful brown roast interior. Second row has two captain's seats.

See all 12 consumer reviews

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