Review update: 2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring charges up luxury SUV hill

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring plug-in hybrid is a luxury three-row crossover SUV that doubles as a mirror. It reflects Lincoln in its present condition, but also forecasts the next iteration of Lincoln while upholding the pillars of Ford’s luxury brand. 

An electrified 494-hp powertrain joins a stately design and emphasis on comfort. The large SUV’s 21 miles of electric range shows a willingness to embrace electrification, even though in its present form, it doesn’t add up to much efficiency. 

My daughter and I hit the road in a Grand Touring with $15,000 in options that showcased Lincoln’s finest features. It’s an excellent road tripper, worthy of its high TCC Rating of 7.3 out of 10, yet its high price warrants scrutiny. 

Hit: Acceleration

The 2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring plug-in hybrid may sound like a marvel, with its 13.6-kwh battery pack powering a 75-kw motor that supplements a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 found in other Aviators. In this application, it makes a mouth-dropping 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. Riding on the Explorer’s rear-wheel-drive platform, the Aviator rears back then launches ahead en route to 60 mph in less than six seconds. It sounds good and feels better, with it’s long nose seemingly tipping toward the sky. But as much as Lincoln tries, it cannot defy the physics of this 5,678-pound beast. That’s as much as its full-size big brother, the Lincoln Navigator. 

Hit or Miss: Built for comfort

My tester came with the Dynamic Handling Package ($2,375) with variable-ratio steering, adaptive suspension, and height-adjustable air springs that lower on entry and in “Excite” mode for better aero. In its other four trim levels, the Aviator wafts down the road, filtering out all the road feel and counteracting any harshness caused by the 21-inch aluminum wheels and low-profile tires. It was made for comfort, not for cornering. The loose steering tightens up when expected but it is as removed from road feel as the air suspension. It makes for a supremely quiet and comfy cabin, with the only other imperfection coming from the power split beyond the footwell. 

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

Hit or Miss: Hybrid power, electric miles

The Grand Touring plug-in hybrid charges up to deliver 21 miles of range in less than four hours on a Level 2 240-volt outlet, and it charged overnight on my standard Level 1 120-volt outlet. The EPA says it gets the equivalent of 56 mpg combined, but the trip meter read 22.9 mpg over 450 miles, with 77.6 of those miles as electric only. As in most plug-in hybrids, the efficiency really depends on how you use it; it’s best around town. The figures above were on one charge, so that 21 miles of electric range can be extended based on regenerative braking. We took a long highway road trip with several around-town jaunts during the three-day weekend. Before that trip, shuttling around the suburbs, 20 of the 24 miles driven were on electric power, and the trip meter said it averaged 77.4 mpg. 

Miss: Rocky power marriage

In Eco or Normal mode under light throttle, the Aviator cruised quietly around town on electric power at speeds up to about 30 mph. It’s great for school carpools and suburban errands, and for responsible adults who resist temptation. With even moderate throttle, the engine announces its presence with authority. But, like a young emperor, the 10-speed transmission’s just not sure what to do with that authority. The low gear shifts can hitch and shudder, as the emperor’s little hands juggle the demands of the motor and engine. A torque converter can’t neutralize this fraught power struggle. Power delivery is more consistent with a light foot or heavy foot, but it struggles in normal driving.

Hit: Looks good, feels good

The long nose and swept-back roof call to mind a sport wagon, while the broad vertical face and buff 21-inch wheels evoke the luxe truck known as the Navigator. It’s both sleek and muscular, blocky but flowing. Inside, the rectangular dash parts contrast wood grain trim accents and soft leather, and the available 30-way power massaging seats swaddle passengers in a way only promised by other luxury makes.  

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

Miss: Bundled package of packages

Equipment Group 302A is a $14,950 bundle that combines five packages I’ll call the copper kitchen sink. I’d skip the Dynamic Handling package ($2,375) with adaptive suspension as it doesn’t add much dynamism. I would love to keep the Luxury package ($3,300) with 30-way power massaging seats and a 28-speaker Revel sound system, but I can’t, because that package can’t be had unless you also get the Grand Touring I package. So package those two together and its $9,320. Ugh. Lincoln’s binding of packages makes the endless list of German luxury options seem like a...luxury. To get adaptive cruise control it has to be bundled with the Co-Pilot360 Plus ($2,500), which is a shameless money grab on a vehicle already commanding more than $70,000. It irritates me enough to consider walking away with all of my hypothetical $80,000. 

The Aviator PHEV is a good SUV, but I wouldn’t pay the extra $10,000 over the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve I tested last year. A bigger battery at a lower cost would persuade me otherwise. So would a debundling of packages.  

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2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring AWD

Base price: $69,995, including destination

Price as tested: $84,325

Drivetrain: twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission and 13.6-kwh battery pack that combine for 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque 

EPA fuel economy: 54/58/56 MPGe; 21 miles of electric range; 23 mpg combined

The hits: Power, looks, feel

The misses: Power shifts, bundled packages, inefficiency

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