YOUNTVILLE, California—It’s not out of the realm to think of the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring as something of a modern-era muscle-car people mover. But instead of a time some 50 years ago when you might cough up the extra dough to equip your Mercury Colony Park wagon with the optional 429 four-barrel V-8 as opposed to the base 390, nowadays you’re stepping up to the Aviator Grand Touring’s electrified plug-in-hybrid system.
That hybrid setup helps boost the Aviator Grand Touring’s overall system output to a robust 494 horsepower and an even more impressive 630 lb-ft of torque—that’s 94 horses and 215 lb-ft of torque greater than Aviators powered only by Lincoln’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6. Rather than using the PHEV system to achieve maximum possible range and mpg-e fuel economy, Lincoln engineers say they utilized the Grand Touring’s 13.6-kWr battery pack and 75-kW (101-hp) electric motor primarily to elevate its performance.
As for how well it performs from a fuel-sipping perspective, we’ll find out for sure when its EPA MPGe rating is posted closer to when the Aviator Grand Touring goes on sale later this fall. So far, Lincoln claims a 400-plus-mile fuel range with an 18.0-gallon tank and expects about 23 MPGe and ZLEV 30 emission status. Like the standard Aviator, the Grand Touring comes only with a 10-speed automatic transmission hooked up to the longitudinally mounted twin-turbo V-6. But unlike other Aviators, the Grand Touring is all-wheel-drive only, and towing capacity is reduced by 1,100 pounds to 5,600.
Though Lincoln estimates electric only range at about 18 miles to full charge, thanks to brake regeneration, it can potentially eke out a couple more miles depending on how and where you’re driving (like say, a long downhill stretch). Lincoln says the SUV’s battery pack, which like the rest of Ford’s plug-ins is located in the second-row floor and doesn’t intrude into passenger or cargo space, takes three to four hours to charge when plugged into a 220-volt capable charge port, or about six to eight hours using a standard 110-volt household outlet.
The electric motor provides 221 lb-ft of torque at zero rpm, and you’ll notice it from the very first throttle tip-in, which feels Ludicrous Mode-like in its urgency. Most of these launches in the big three-row PHEV amounted to unintended acceleration on my part. I wasn’t expecting such a kick in my back by applying only part-throttle to the nearly 5,700-pound SUV. (The PHEV system adds 781 pounds to the weight of a standard AWD Aviator, according to Lincoln’s spec sheet.)
After the quick launches, the next notable thing about the Grand Touring is its steering feel versus the standard model. Whereas the 3.0-liter turbo’s steering seemed very light and a bit numb on-center and and just off-center, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring’s steering was substantially heavy by comparison, but with better feel and feedback. There is no inherent connection between weight and feel—the best kind of steering can offer feedback without becoming heavy. But with or without the extra weight, the PHEV’s feedback works much better, especially in a tall, heavy vehicle like the Aviator Grand Touring.
That said, a Lincoln engineer told us that there’s no difference to the Grand Touring’s steering tuning. My test vehicle had the optional 21-inch wheels (standard with Black Label, 20s on other PHEVs), while the gas-only model offers sizes of 19, 20, and 22 inches, so the heavier feeling steering could be a result of the hybrid’s extra weight.
While it pulls hard off-the-line, the Aviator Grand Touring isn’t going to keep up with the BMW M or Mercedes-AMG SUVs of the world on squiggly canyon roads. “Excite” mode, Lincoln’s name for “Sport,” mostly affects the 10-speed automatic’s shift points. Drive it along a typical California canyon road and the Aviator’s weight and size prevent any backside-feel assessment of the handling beyond the SUV’s benign understeer. Like the gas-powered model, the Grand Touring leans into turns moderately and comes out the other end fairly composed. The payoff is its ride, which is among the smoothest and most comfortable in the Aviator’s class, at least so far as one can tell from relatively smooth California highways. Cabin quiet is among best-in-class as well, as good or better versus the new Cadillac XT6.
The Grand Touring hybrid starts just under $70,000, but we drove the next-level-up Black Label Grand Touring version, which takes a huge leap in price. Indeed, with its list MSRP nearing 90 large, the Black Label Grand Touring comes fully loaded, including the Dynamic Handling package with Air Glide air suspension, adaptive suspension with 12 sensors, and Road Preview, which reads road surfaces 50 feet ahead via a front-facing camera.
Its power-massaging front seats, again standard on the Black Label (optional on the other trim) are among the most aggressive in the business in the way they knead your back and backside. Appropriate for its mission, both zillion-way power front seats offer aggressive power lumbar support while offering easy ingress and egress in lieu of any serious bolstering. Power-electric interior door latches are hidden behind the armrests and take a bit getting used to, though they enhance the clean interior design. It’s probably five years, tops, before every Ford product has them.
While the interior as a whole feels as capacious as a Navigator up to the second row (which came with captain’s chairs on the Black Label Grand Touring), the third row is a different story. As long as you don’t banish six-footers there for longer journeys, it should suffice, but it’s one area where the Cadillac XT6 has an advantage.
The 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring is the latest SUV to indicate that luxury marques are quickly learning that a big, comfortable, quiet sport-utility doesn’t need to directly court the enthusiast crowd. But if you’re an enthusiast at heart, or you seek a high-capacity luxury freeway cruiser with enough hot-rod power to win some drag races and pass nearly everything else on the road, the Aviator Grand Touring might be worth the mortgage-sized monthly payments.
2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid Specifications
|PRICE||Grand Touring, $69,895; Black Label Grand Touring, $88,895|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo 24-valve DOHC V-6 with 101-hp electric motor; total system output, 494 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 630 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|BATTERY PACK||13.6-kWh lithium-ion|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 6- or 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|ELECTRIC RANGE||18 miles (est)|
|L x W x H||199.3 x 82.3 x 69.6 in|
|0–60 MPH||5.5 sec (est)|