The Lincoln Aviator offers a smooth, sophisticated ride. It isn't bouncy like most truck-based sport-utilities, a benefit of its sophisticated independent rear suspension. It rides more smoothly than the Mercury Mountaineer and Ford Explorer.
Ford's tried-and-true 4.6-liter V8 engine delivers plenty of power and makes it possible, with an optional package, to tow up to 7,300 pounds. Our only criticism, which is often the case with Ford engines, is that it roars at start up and under hard acceleration. Beyond those conditions, the Aviator delivered a relatively quiet ride.
Lincoln has made vast improvements in its steering systems, and the Aviator is a good example. Aviator's rack-and-pinion steering delivers a solid on-center feel. In contrast to previous Ford sport-utilities, most notably the Navigator, steering the Aviator was a relaxed experience, requiring few corrections to keep on course. The speed-sensitive steering assist makes low-speed parking lot maneuvers and tooling around the neighborhood effortless. Yet the Aviator feels stable at highway speeds. Steering transitions can be accomplished so seamlessly your passengers will hardly feel them.
Aviator is equipped with larger four-wheel disc brakes than Explorer or Mountaineer. The Lincoln also comes equipped with ABS (anti-lock brakes) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). Slam on the brakes and the Aviator comes to a predictable and uneventful stop. ABS lets the driver maintain steering control in a panic stop, while EBD balances the braking force between front and rear wheels dynamically to reduce stopping distances.
The optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability control system ($860) monitors the position of the Aviator's steering wheel, the speed the wheels and tires are turning, the rate at which the vehicle is turning (yaw), and how hard it is cornering (lateral acceleration). If AdvanceTrac decides that the Aviator isn't doing what the driver intends, the system applies the brakes at one or more wheels to correct the vehicle's path. An example of this would be entering a corner too fast, then hitting a patch of wet leaves halfway through the turn; the system would detect the front tires have lost grip and would compensate to try to keep the vehicle from sliding off the edge of the road. The driver need only keep her cool and continue steering (and looking) in the direction she wants to go.
Aviators with AdvanceTrac also feature Roll Stability Control, which uses a gyroscopic sensor to monitor body roll angle and roll rate (in other words, how much the Aviator is leaning in a turn). Roll Stability Control works with AdvanceTrac to determine if the possibility of a rollover might exist, and reduces engine power and/or applies the brakes to help regain stability. The enhanced system was initially added to 2WD models, but late-model AWD models with AdvanceTrac will also get Roll Stability Control.
Lincoln expects the majority of Aviators to be ordered with all-wheel drive. Two different all-wheel drive systems are used, depending on whether AdvanceTrac is also specified. Both systems are designed more for inclement weather than off-road driving. Neither requires action by the driver to engage. All-wheel-drive Aviators without AdvanceTrac use a permanently engaged system that normally sends 35 percent of the engine's torque to the front wheels and 65 percent to the rear. A viscous coupling between the front and rear axles engages when necessary for added traction.
Aviators with AdvanceTrac come with a more sophisticated electronic system that operates in rear-wheel drive most of the time, but can use a clutch pack to send up to 100 percent of the driving torque to the front wheels if conditions warrant. Since AdvanceTrac can also shift driving torque from one side of the vehicle to the other, Aviators with AWD and AdvanceTrac can theoretically keep rolling as long as one of the four wheels has traction.