2020 Lincoln Aviator Plug-In Hybrid: 5 Pros and 4 Cons

Posted on: May 17, 2020, by :
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2020 Lincoln AviatorCars.com photo by Mike Hanley

The Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid is a mid-size luxury SUV that offers three rows of seating, a long list of standard comfort features and safety equipment, plus the bonus of electric-only driving range. Pitched against rivals like the Lexus RX 350, Volvo XC90 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, the Aviator PHEV is packed with power, with the combined output of the gas-electric engine coming in at an eye-widening 494 horsepower. This is routed to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, which comes standard.

To get the plug-in hybrid powertrain means heading to the Grand Touring model, which resides near the top of the Aviator lineup. Starting at nearly $70,000, the Grand Touring costs a lot of money, but it comes with desired features like a user-friendly infotainment system, seating for six to seven people (depending on which second-row seat configuration is chosen), and a cabin filled with rich materials and attractive trim.

Not everything goes according to plan, however. During our test drive, we discovered driving quirks that stood out against the non-hybrid version of the Aviator. When the driving experience feels less refined, would you spend more simply to have a hybrid?

Make certain you read our complete first-drive review of the Aviator PHEV by Cars.com’s Mike Hanley via the related link above. But keep reading for a rapid-fire rundown of the key pros and cons of this fuel-conscious SUV.

Here are five things we like — and four not so much — about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid.

Things We Like

1. Lots of Horsepower

The Aviator PHEV has the kind of power you’d expect from an ultra-premium SUV, something with a Bentley or Lamborghini badge on the nose. While 494 hp is impressive, it’s the 630 pounds-feet of torque that really stands out on the spec sheet. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and 75-kilowatt electric motor give this Lincoln serious swagger when it comes to hard performance numbers.

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2020 Lincoln AviatorCars.com photo by Christian Lantry

2. Electric-Only Drive Mode

As you expect, a plug-in hybrid can drive for short distances while running only on electric power. In this case, total EV mode driving range comes in at 21 miles per charge. That’s competitive with rivals like the plug-in hybrid version of the Volvo XC90. Lincoln estimates you’ll need three to four hours to recharge the lithium-ion battery while using a 240-volt outlet.

3. Classy Cabin

Lincoln has done an impressive job giving its updated range of cars and SUVs the kind of interior you expect when paying for a luxury vehicle. This holds true in the Aviator; the dashboard is handsome, the controls are intuitive and the materials used throughout the cabin are generally of a high quality.

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2020 Lincoln AviatorCars.com photo by Mike Hanley

4. Lots of Standard Safety Features

Every Aviator comes standard with active safety items like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and driver drowsiness monitor, to name a few. On the Aviator plug-in hybrid, optional safety items include a surround-view parking camera, a head-up instrument display and adaptive cruise control.

5. Improved Fuel Economy

You don’t simply get electric-only driving range in the Aviator PHEV. Overall fuel economy gets a boost, too. Compared with the non-hybrid Aviator, the Grand Touring delivers an average of 23 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. This represents a 3-mpg improvement over the standard Aviator fitted with all-wheel drive. Meanwhile the plug-in hybrid gets 56 mpg-e, its mpg equivalent rating.

Things We Don’t

1. Awkward Power Delivery

The horsepower and torque figures look great on paper, but how the Aviator Grand Touring performs is another story. During our drive, we noted the power delivery felt unrefined compared to the non-hybrid Aviator we recently tested. A disconnect between the gas-electric engine and 10-speed automatic transmission gave the Aviator Grand Touring’s powertrain a “busyness” that detracts from the driving experience.

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2020 Lincoln Aviator and Aviator Grand Touring plug-in hybridCars.com photo by Christian Lantry

2. Uninspiring Brake Performance

During our drive we also discovered the brakes felt “spongy” and not as smooth in how they operate compared with the regular Aviator. More work needs to be done to refine the Lincoln’s regenerative braking system, which transfers braking heat to energy in the battery pack. In theory, that’s a good thing. On the road, the refinement didn’t live up to expectations.

3. Limited EV Driving Range and Power

Granted, the electric-only driving range in the Aviator Grand Touring registers at 21 miles. That’s better than the 18 miles of electric-only range you get in the plug-in version of the Volvo XC90. But one can’t help but wonder if Lincoln could have focused less on massive power outputs and more on getting better range and greater fuel economy.

4. You Pay a Premium to Plug In

To put a plug-in hybrid powertrain in your Lincoln Aviator means spending about $10,000 extra compared with a similarly equipped Aviator with all-wheel drive. That’s a significant amount of money, especially considering the non-hybrid version delivers its power more smoothly.

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