You can expect luxury SUVs to offer subtle elegance and graceful styling. But there’s a mind-boggling variety of choices, from the posh Porsche Cayenne to the rugged Land Rover Defender. With such a wide range of comfort and cutting edge technology in this category, how do you decide on one that gives you the best value for the price? Frankie Rogers of Kelley Blue Book compares two high-quality midsize luxury SUVs, the Acura MDX and the Lincoln Aviator. We review the pros and cons of each SUV. Read on to find out which is the better buy.
Shining a spotlight on the Lincoln Aviator
The second-generation Lincoln Aviator is completely new for 2020 and shares an updated platform with this year’s Ford Explorer. The Aviator is the more car-like replacement for the now-defunct MKT. This three-row SUV is available in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
A standard twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine powers the Aviator. It produces 400 hp and 415 lb-ft. The plug-in hybrid is even more robust, making 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. Its transmission is a 10-speed automatic with manual shifting.
Kelley Blue Book’s Rogers praises the Lincoln Aviator for its lush interior, plush seats, and attention to detail. Innovative tech such as the Phone As A Key feature is another plus. This feature replaces a physical car key and allows an owner to unlock and lock the SUV and to start and turn off its engine.
The Lincoln Aviator seats seven. Pricing starts at $51,000.
Focusing on the Acura MDX
Sometimes outward appearances don’t tell the whole story. The Acura MDX has a low-key, almost unassuming exterior. But there’s more to this three-row SUV than what first meets the eye.
The MDX comes standard with front-wheel drive. Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is an option that makes it more nimble and responsive in all sorts of weather than what we’ve come to expect from a midsize SUV. This option is available only on the non-hybrid version of the MDX.
Buyers can opt for the standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, which is paired with a nine-speed automatic. The other option is the MDX Sport Hybrid that utilizes a 3.0-liter V6 and an electric motor and is matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The hybrid cranks out 321 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque.
The interiors of other luxury SUVs in the segment are more lavish and perhaps better designed than that of the Acura MDX. Another downside is the two-screen display that the MDX shares with its cheaper corporate sibling the Honda. KBB’s Rogers notes that it is confusing to use. The upside is that Acura has loaded the MDX with a solid suite of advanced driver assistance features.
Pricing for the seven-seater MDX starts at $45,395.
Which SUV gets the nod from Kelley Blue Book?
On the plus side, the Aviator has all-new styling. Its elegant interior is inviting, and its tech is state-of-the-art. The towing capacity for the Aviator outshines those of many of its rivals. The beefy hybrid is also impressive.
The MDX, like most vehicles under the Acura/Honda umbrella is extremely reliable and has strong resale value. The advanced all-wheel drive gives it a big advantage over the competition also.
The Aviator’s minuses are that it’s rather bulky with a curb weight nearing 5,000 pounds. Upper trim levels on this model are pricey. For example, the Black Label trim, the highest level trim, starts at $77,695, which is more than the top trims on its rivals.
Stale interior design, an unwieldy dual-screen set-up, and lacking the cachet of the European brands are strikes against the MDX, according to KBB.
But in the final analysis, the 2020 Acura MDX has an edge over the Lincoln Aviator. Kelley Blue Book appreciated the freshness and refinement of the Aviator. But the automotive research company preferred the MDX’s dependability, strong resale value, and reputation, so much so that it gave the Acura KBB’s 5-Year Cost to Own Award for three-row midsize luxury SUVs. In this case, the longstanding, reliable, and affordable model in this comparison won out.