We spent a week driving a 2022 Lincoln Aviator in upstate New York. With exceptional comfort and compelling performance, it is the best American SUV you can buy right now.
Highs: Sculptural, timeless look of the exterior. Exceptional driver assistance features. Massaging seats.
Lows: Underutilized 12” digital cluster and an over-designed climate control system.
In a sentence: Our Reserve model was so fully featured, it’s hard to imagine what we could possibly be missing.
Picture this: It’s the center of autumn in upstate New York. The trees shiver in the cold air. The sun is low. Bright red, yellow, and orange leaves crunch underfoot. A stream trickles. A branch cracks. Turkeys, winter rabbits, and deer roam the woods. You’re traveling down a rural highway and fallen leaves swirl in the wake of the car. The motion of this precarious season goes unabated around you; a brisk and occasionally challenging circumstance. In the car, the noise of this world evaporates. The heated seats discard any cues of windchill, but then a ventilated seat is on hand to counter the automatically-refreshed cabin air. It’s a personal equilibrium.
You stay in your lane without effort; maintaining a smooth speed with the support of adaptive cruise control. It feels as though you could drive with a single finger. A gentle in-seat massage rejuvenates the driver. The 28 speakers that make up Revel’s Ultima 3D Audio System immerse passengers in sound, while cancelling any road noise. Look up and a panoramic glass roof runs the length of the vehicle, with the fall foliage in full view. Soon you switch the drive mode to Excite and step on the gas, activating a Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L V6. You blast off in absolute comfort, almost suspended in air.
Imagine all of this in a single instant and you’ve imagined the moment I realized the Lincoln Aviator is one of the most accomplished SUVs available now, and a true expression of Lincoln’s ambitions to create the most relaxing vehicles on the road.
We took the Aviator from the depths of NYC’s brutal traffic to the rustic, undulating hills of Upstate New York. In the course of our travels, we ran errands, went off roading, climbed up hills and cruised down highways. Through it all, the Aviator managed an average of 21 MPG; not bad for an SUV laden with 4 adults and all their stuff.
2022 Lincoln Aviator Exterior Design: Sincere Timelessness
Some of Lincoln’s most iconic designs are exercises in restraint and exaggeration. The iconic slablike side view of the 1961 Continental remains a modernist signature. The 1932 Lincoln Model KB Boattail Speedster was uniquely French in its execution with its sloping tail. Now with the Aviator, Lincoln has returned to understated and sculptural design cues, creating an SUV that looks like nothing else on the road.
Lincoln took care to make sure the Aviator will look great years from now, largely forgoing outlandish trends in exchange for modest taste. The front wheel well is pushed forward with very little overhang. A sculptural hood evokes the look of wind blowing over fabric. Even when parked, the Aviator appears poised for motion. The rear overhang, though technically substantial to accommodate serious storage and a third row of seating, is minimized with expert tailoring. The tapering of the roofline toward the rear, paired with an integrated rear bumper and swooping tail lights, works to form a classic silhouette evoking that of a boattail sedan.
The rear design is the culmination of this tapered effect, with a low roofline and a single light bar running the width of the vehicle. The center of gravity feels extremely natural and low from this view, with the shape emphasizing the wide wheelbase.
With essences of the 1961 Continental and the Boattail, the Aviator enjoys a high, uninterrupted beltline along its side view, running from the headlight to the D-pillar. It makes the vehicle seem longer, taller, and more sturdy. At the front fender on either side, the mark of the Aviator is emblazoned in chrome detail near automatically folding sideview mirrors.
Around front, Lincoln incorporates a glowing logo and signature grill along with its sophisticated headlight design with a separate turn signal unit.
Black 22” aluminum wheels (as part of the Reserve I package) and an exterior paint color of Asher Gray feels very contemporary, offering a moody atmosphere that suited the cityscape and the fall colors of upstate alike.
2022 Lincoln Aviator Interior Design: The Soft Escape
The interior is where much of Lincoln’s magic takes place. Up front, it’s a modernist affair with a generally upright dashboard, with chrome and wood detailing, over a black leather. The dashboard serves as host to the 12” digital gauge cluster and 10” touchscreen infotainment system. Soft-touch materials are used extensively here, even on the upper reaches of the dashboard.
Gone is the PRNDL, as a stick or wheel. Gears change at the touch of a button, as a novel but fair solution to free up space, in the center column. The drive modes (up to seven in the Aviator Grand Touring model) are controlled by a knob at the center of the console. There are plenty of power points and USB ports (eight sprinkled around the SUV) so there’s never a shortage of charging power.
The front seats are framed by a rigid shell with 30-way adjustments for satisfying exacting preference. These seats also feature a variety of massaging functions activated by the touch of a button, found on the door. This is a remarkably robust system, with a variety of targeted massage settings. For longer drives, it is a great benefit to help refresh.
At night, the atmosphere of the interior is akin to a sleek, stylish club or posh hotel lobby. With six color options, the optional LED lighting accents the entire cabin.
The Heads-Up Display (HUD) for the driver is clear and organized, offering a wide variety of information. The digital gauge cluster felt underutilized. Biggest demerit: I drove the car for two days before realizing the cruise control information only appears in the HUD, leaving me to think I wasn’t initializing the cruise control correctly.
Climate control is controlled by tactical buttons and the Aviator offers completely separate climate control for rear and third row passengers. Rear passengers also enjoy manual window shades and both heated and ventilated seats, allowing for true comfort and privacy. Up front, the massaging seats stole the show, with everyone wanting to try the feature. On longer drives, I found myself creating my own “preferred” arrangement of climate settings, sometimes having the heat on and the ventilated seats activated simultaneously. Available Auto Air Refresh kept the cabin air refreshed and recirculated to help expel stale air and minimize outside odors.
The Lincoln feels spacious, and it is, with many storage spaces around the SUV and a rear cargo hold that was sufficient for four adults traveling for four days. The Lincoln Aviator has one of the largest cargo capacities in the luxury midsize SUV class. There’s 18.3 cubic feet of space behind its third-row seats, 41.8 cubic feet with these seats folded, and 77.7 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. With PowerFold third row, the Aviator can accommodate up to seven passengers and still have some space for luggage.
2022 Lincoln Aviator Tech Suite: A Meaningful Application of Helpful Features
The Lincoln Aviator’s standard tech and convenience features include a 10.1-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, a Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, a 10-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, four USB ports, keyless entry, push-button start, remote start, and tri-zone automatic climate control.
Lincoln’s infotainment system is uncluttered and elegant in its design, but extensively layered with menus. Some settings are found in unexpected places, so prepare to spend some time learning about it. Fortunately, Lincoln has extensive concierge and owner support services for vehicle owners, so you’ll have all the help you need to get familiar with the vehicle.
Visually, these digital systems are refined and interactive works of art. Cycling through the drive modes, choosing a massage function, or hearing the variety of chimes are sensorially rewarding experiences. Even the tactical buttons are solid-feeling with comfortable feedback.
Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, the suite of tech and safety features, are standard equipment for all Lincoln models and includes a backup camera, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, automatic high-beam headlights and a driver monitoring system. Lincoln owners can choose to use all or some of these systems and can program alert and response sensitivity, to personal preferences.
As mentioned in past reviews, these systems are great when they’re truly supporting the driver, not overpowering them. We left all systems in the default settings for the duration of the review and found the systems to be helpful. I never felt I needed to wrestle the car back from lane assist, or get checked for whiplash, for a mistaken emergency braking.
The Automatic Emergency Braking came especially handy on the unpredictable Taconic Parkway, one of the oldest highways in America and built to European specification. Deeply scenic, it’s also notoriously narrow with the occasional at-grade intersection, allowing for short traffic jams to crop up unexpectedly. We were indebted to AEB for avoiding a few close calls.
The parking assist in the Lincoln is very similar to that which can be found in Ford models, but it feels a little snappier in making parking decisions. It worked perfectly in low-traffic areas like parking garages, but in the setting of busy NYC streets, the assist still behaves as if the Aviator is the only vehicle on the road, with all the time in the world to park.
Driving the 2022 Lincoln Aviator: Smooth Sailing
At the center of driving the Aviator is its selection of “drive modes”, defined by their adjustments to driving style and environmental conditions by way of steering, suspension, and powertrain.
Some driving mode systems seem to produce very little change between the settings, but I found myself adjusting the mode in the Aviator regularly over the course of our tour, as the tuning differences are quite dramatic. The default “normal” offered a satisfying balance between smooth acceleration and luxuriously languid cornering; passengers were never thrown around. “Excite” became a punchline for its on-the-nose expression of performance with rocketship acceleration and taut suspension which had just as much value in jumping through traffic as it did embracing the byways of upstate New York. Other modes included “conserve”, which we utilized for highway driving, as well as “slippery” and “deep” for seasonal conditions. In addition to the gas-model Aviator, Lincoln offers the Aviator Grand Touring; a plug-in hybrid electric model that combines a battery-powered electric motor with the standard twin-turbocharged engine.. This model features two additional drive modes that are related to its electric drive: “Pure EV” and “Preserve EV”.
Altogether, the Aviator was the ideal vehicle for our upstate tour, suitable and stylish in all settings. The Lincoln Aviator for 2022 starts at just under $52,000 for the Standard Model, climbing to just under $80,000 for the very posh Black Label variant, which features just about every extra and introduces three unique interior finishes and Lincoln’s excellent member services for Black Label customers. Our recommendation is the Reserve Model with the added Luxury Package, coming in at just under $68,000 for this well-optioned variant.
Learn more about the 2022 Lincoln Aviator at www.lincoln.com