These 2021 Lincoln Aviator Models Have Inferior Headlights, the IIHS Warns

Slightly smaller than its popular Navigator sibling, the midsize crossover Aviator is one of Lincoln’s latest additions. The automaker quietly discontinued the first-gen Aviator after the 2005 model year. Many speculated it was due to numerous complaints. The Aviator’s rear panel cracked over time, and it suffered from long-term engine problems.

Fortunately, Ford’s luxury brand seems to have learned from the last model’s failure. The 2021 Lincoln Aviator has a durable, upscale appearance and two great powertrain options. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), some models have inferior headlights.

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator at a glance

The Lincoln Aviator takes inspiration from the Ford Explorer, but it’s superior in many ways. Its base engine — a twin-turbo V6 producing 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, Lincoln shows — is more potent. It also has a classier interior fitting of its luxury price tag.

The Aviator can carry up to seven riders on supportive leather seats. It has less cargo space than the Explorer, but the second and third rows are comfortable enough for adults. The infotainment system is highly intuitive and comes programmed with a good selection of standard features.

How safe is the Lincoln Aviator?

RELATED: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Models Recalled Over an Annoying Inconvenience

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator comes with myriad advanced safety features. They include forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, parking sensors, lane-keeping assistance, forward collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The IIHS gave it great crash test scores. However, some models’ LED reflector headlights didn’t meet the IIHS’s high standards.

These headlights come on the Aviator Standard, Reserve, and Grand Touring models. The IIHS assigned a “Marginal” rating to these headlights because they cause excessive glaring and poor visibility.

All headlights must pass federal regulations, but the IIHS points out this doesn’t always translate to adequate real-world performance. When manufacturers install headlights on a car, different mounting heights can make a difference in the range of illumination. 

The same set of headlights could appear on two cars, but the aim could be misaligned depending on the vehicle’s height. Headlights not aimed properly could cause too much glare and put other drivers at risk. Because of this, the IIHS has a more rigorous evaluation process, testing each trim level individually. 

The IIHS tests high-beams and low-beams for their performance in both directions and straight ahead. Testers measure the illumination on both sides of the road without adjusting the aim for the most accurate reading. The IIHS also tests glare from the low-beams.

Better headlights are available

LED projector headlights come as an option on certain Lincoln Aviator Reserve and Grand Touring models. These headlights also come standard on the two highest trims: the Black Label and Black Label Grand Touring. Unlike standard headlights, these LED projectors are also adaptive.

Adaptive headlights are superior because they don’t stay fixed in one direction: They turn with the car’s wheels. The IIHS has found that these headlights lower insurance claims and prevent collisions on dimly lit roads. According to a study from the IIHS’s Highway Loss Data Institute, drivers with adaptive headlights were 15 percent less likely to be involved in nighttime accidents.

What else do the Aviator’s higher trims offer?

Higher Lincoln Aviator trims come standard with plentiful driver-assist features, such as automatic parallel parking, traffic jam assist, and adaptive cruise control. There’s also a package that adds an air suspension and another with a 28-speaker stereo system. Both Grand Touring Models come with a hybrid powertrain that generates more horsepower and get better gas mileage.

If you can’t afford a fully loaded Lincoln Aviator, the relatively inexpensive Illumination package is available starting at the Reserve trim level. This model retails for $5,000 more than the base Aviator, but it’s worth it for more safety features and better headlights.