Crossover & Midsize

Is the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Enough of an Upgrade Over the Ford Explorer?

The Lincoln Aviator is the luxury sibling of the Ford Explorer, but with a luxury price tag, is it enough of an upgrade over the Explorer? We’ll take an in-depth look at the newest 2020 Aviator to find out what that luxury price tag will get you and whether or not you’d be better off staying with the non-luxury Ford Explorer.

Where the Aviator will make owners the happiest

The 2019 Lincoln Aviator at the Chicago Auto Show
The Lincoln Aviator | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The 2020 Aviator uses the best of luxury-brand Lincoln’s ability, packing a lot of quality into the three-row SUV. According to Cars.com, it comes standard with a “twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that delivers a total of 400 hp” and packs plenty of punch. It provides a smooth and powerful ride, paired with a transmission that gets praise for its refinement as well as how it shifts seamlessly per the driving situation.

Owners will also enjoy the Aviator’s drive modes, which include five various settings to match your driving conditions, including Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, and Deep modes.

The interior of the Aviator screams luxury as it should. Lincoln is known for designing impressive interiors, and the Aviator is no exception. Inside, you’ll find soft accents and features like a head-up display, digital instrument panel, and large infotainment touchscreen. The 2020 Lincoln Aviator also comes with a variety of standard safety equipment but can come available with more luxurious safety features like a self-parking system, reverse automatic braking, and more.

Is it enough of an upgrade over the Ford Explorer?

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator excels in Consumer Reports’ road test, earning a score of 82 (out of 100). Doing better than the Ford Explorer, which only earned a 78 on the road test, the 2020 Aviator “delivers an upgraded driving experience with a more sophisticated, luxurious cabin than the Ford Explorer with which it shares the same platform.” But not everything is well with the Aviator, as the same experts aren’t fond of everything.

Consumer Reports’ experts aren’t crazy about the Aviator’s fuel economy or its super-cramped third-row. While the passenger rows are easy to move, the Aviator’s legroom can be limited. The luxurious interior and controls can be confusing, with Consumer Reports describing many features within the SUV to be “awkward and distracting,” as well as “easy to activate unintentionally” and difficult to use. Other areas the Aviator struggled with in the road test include emergency handling, braking, headlights, access, and usability – all of which received ratings of three (out of five) or lower.

While the drive is refined, many feel its over-$50,000 base price may reflect Lincoln’s confidence but not the quality when compared to other options found in less-expensive models such as the Explorer. And considering that upgrades can force the Aviator into the $80,000 range, you can find more luxury in SUVs by other luxury competitors.

How the experts rank the 2020 Lincoln Aviator and Ford Explorer

Consumer Reports gave the 2020 Lincoln Aviator a decent overall score of 72 (out of 100) and a predicted owner satisfaction score of four (out of five). But its predicted reliability score stands low at two (out of five). The 2020 Ford Explorer, on the other hand, earned a slightly lower overall score of 69 but earned the same predicted owner and satisfaction score as the Aviator.

While the rankings seem to match up fairly closely, the Aviator edges out in some areas such as the road test. The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is ranked by Consumer Reports as No. 9 among 29 luxury midsized SUVs while the Ford Explorer sits back as No. 15 among 26 midsized SUVs. With scores so close, it’s hard to know whether the luxury price will deliver a luxury vehicle.