Redemption song. The 2021 Lincoln Aviator is what happens when an automaker finally gets fed up with its critics. For years, auto journalists and industry insiders were all but taking bets on when Ford would finally put their luxury brand out of its misery – and not without reason. (Remember the MKT?)

But those days are now past. The latest crop of Lincolns are stylish, snazzy, highfalutin rides. And though the Lincoln Navigator tops the lineup hierarchy, the next-rung-down Aviator probably best encapsulates the flavor of luxury Lincoln is now pursuing.

Powerful, laid-back. Spoiler alert: Lincoln's luxury doesn't equate with sportiness. In fact, sport isn't even a drive mode – the feistiest mode here is Excite. And even then, the Lincoln remains as unflappable as Matthew McConaughey in one of the brand's commercials. Big curb weight and a veritable ton of sound deadening keep the relaxed and soft-riding Aviator a world apart from, say, a Porsche Cayenne or Audi SQ8.

But don't take this as a bad thing. This Lincoln still has the effortless power so definitive of a luxury vehicle; specifically, it generates 400 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. It just uses this power in a subtle, restrained manner. It only reveals itself fully on straight roads with the pedal floored, where doing so brings the Aviator up to illegal speeds in an instant. Unfortunately, whatever sounds do permeate the cabin during such antics aren't exactly melodious.

In the spirit of the times, the Aviator also comes in hybrid form, which tacks on a 13-kWh battery and a single electric motor to the twin-turbo six. The result of this marriage is 494 hp and 630 pound-feet of torque. Curb weight crosses 5,600 pounds in this guise, so any outright performance gains from the power boost are pretty well muted.

According to the EPA, the hybrid will go about 21 miles on electric power and get 56 MPGe combined when both the gas and electric bits are working. That beats the regular Aviator's 18 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 21 combined for rear-wheel-drive models or 17/24/20 mpg (city/highway/combined) for all-wheel-drive models.

Style, inside and out. The Aviator looks and feels like the real McCoy both inside and out. Catch a glance of it from across the street and it could nearly pass for a Land Rover Range Rover Velar. An elegant tapered roof, sinewed bodysides, and restrained trim provide the sort of regal appearance that's the mark of good taste.

What's perhaps most striking about the Aviator is that it isn't retro, it isn't angry, and it isn't sporty. In 2020, that's a rare thing. We think the move to tread in a new direction is a wise one, and whether it is deemed trendy or not is beside the point. The classy looks should be enough to tempt buyers who may otherwise never consider the brand.

And while the exterior pulls you in, the interior will have you hanging around. The shrewdly-designed, elegantly-arranged interior seems to take the best of Audi's minimalism and pairs it with materials that look pilfered from Mercedes. There's a rich cohesiveness to the execution that is apparent at once.


Lincoln Aviator

Comfortable, too. It doesn't just look pretty, either – the Aviator is a fine place to whittle away the miles. Front seats are soft enough to settle into yet firm enough for all-day driving. Power adjustment options range from generous to absurd; does anyone really need 30 different directions to fiddle with in order to find the perfect seating position?

The three rows provide provide seats for up to seven, but our favorite layout swaps out the middle bench seat for a pair of captain's chairs. They can be heated and even cooled and offer fore and aft adjustability.

That last bit is a boon to the cramped third-row passengers. Leg room in the wayback is a mere 29 inches even with the second row scooted forward, leaving it nearly unsuitable for adults. It's the one blemish in an interior that otherwise generously coddles its passengers.

And we would be remiss if we didn't mention the Black Label. Sitting atop the Aviator hierarchy, the Black Label decorates the Aviator with one of three exclusive interior themes. The themes – Chalet, Yacht Club, and Flight – each use a unique color combination as well as top-notch materials and trim. The dramatic and eye-catching designs have earned the Black Label name some real respect and cachet.

Abundant technology. The Aviator is nothing if not advanced. Standard tech features include the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.1-inch infotainment screen. Running Ford’s latest Sync 3 software, the interface is easy to learn and can be operated without much ado even while driving. Standard features bundled into the infotainment include navigation, in-car wi-fi, USB charging ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

A smartphone app is also in the cards, and once buyers set up the app they can remotely lock and unlock their Aviator as well as see servicing reminders and other vehicle parameters and settings.

Safety hasn't been neglected, either. Every Aviator gets the Co-Pilot360 suite of safety features, which includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.

One of our favorite indulgent features? The fancy Revel audio system, which employs 28 speakers in order to produce a 360-degree musical immersion. The system has three different modes – stereo, audience, and on-stage – and includes an immersion slider for a more personalized listening experience.

Final thoughts. Lincoln has come a long way from even just a few years ago, and the 2021 Lincoln Aviator epitomizes the new era for this old brand. With heady performance, plenty of tech, and an interior that puts to shame most of the competition, it isn't playing games as it looks to win over shoppers who might otherwise shop the German competition. We'll take ours in Black Label duds, pretty please.

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