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2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 Lincoln Aviator: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Volvo XC90 and 2021 Lincoln Aviator are two upscale, mid-size, three-row SUVs promise lots of style and tech. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • In addition to leasing and purchasing, the Volvo XC90 is available by subscription.
  • The Lincoln Aviator’s Black Label trim includes 4-years/50,000 miles free scheduled maintenance and vehicle pick-up and delivery.

2021 Volvo XC90

2021 Volvo XC90Base Price: $49,995 / Read our 2021 Volvo XC90 Review

What we like: Sleek exterior styling, gorgeous interior design, long list of included driver-assist features

What we would change: More power for the base engine, greater EV range for the plug-in hybrid, a bit more luggage space also would be welcome

Overview: The Volvo XC90 was introduced for 2016 and updated last year, and the model stands out for its Scandinavian design that is sleek on the outside and uncluttered on the inside.

The three powertrain choices all utilize a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The T5 model makes a modest 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The T5 comes standard with front-wheel drive while AWD is a $2,500 upgrade — it’s standard on the more powerful variants. The T6 has a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter making 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft and is our preferred engine choice. The Recharge plug-in-hybrid adds an electric motor to the preceding setup for a total of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft. With a fully charged battery, the PHEV can travel 18 miles on electricity alone, and it gets 27 mpg when driven as a hybrid. EPA combined fuel-economy estimates for the T5 are 25 mpg/23 mpg (FWD/AWD) and 22 mpg for the T6. The XC90 aces its crash tests and comes with a host of standard active-safety features. Those include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and more.

What’s new for 2021: The plug-in-hybrid version, formerly called T8, is now the XC90 Recharge. Wireless device charging, front parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beams, and dual UBS-C ports in the second row join the standard-features list.

Features and technology: The XC90 is offered as the base Momentum, sporty R Design, and luxurious Inscription trims. All trims offer 7-passenger seating, with a 6-passenger configuration (second-row captain’s chairs) available on Momentum and Inscription. Upholstery choices include real or synthetic leather, Nubuck suede, and wool cloth. All trims have a 9-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen that boasts modern graphics but could do with a few more physical controls. Volvo’s Pilot Assist automated lane-centering feature that works with adaptive cruise control is standard, as is a 12.3-inch digital driver display, wireless device charging, and a panoramic sunroof. The two upper trims include navigation, seat heating, and additional adjustment for the power seats. They also offer the options of automated parking and an air-spring suspension. A head-up display and a surround-view camera can be added to all trims. An integrated booster seat is also available, and the center section of the second-row bench can slide forward to put small children within closer reach of adults up front.

What does the future hold: Volvo is moving aggressively toward electrification, and while the XC90 already is offered as a plug-in hybrid, a full EV version is also likely at some point. See 2021 Volvo XC90 models for sale near you.

2021 Lincoln Aviator

2021 Lincoln AviatorBase Price: $52,195 / Read our 2021 Lincoln Aviator Review

What we like: Powerful twin-turbo V6, rich and interesting-looking interior, standard Co-Pilot360 driver aids, tech-savvy available phone-as-key feature

What we would change: Nosebleed-inducing pricing on the top trims, better fuel economy from the hybrid version

Overview: The Lincoln Aviator is more than a gussied-up Ford Explorer, and makes a convincingly upscale offering, one that could stand in for the Navigator for buyers who don’t need the very biggest SUV. The Aviator is based on the RWD platform that also underpins the Ford Explorer, but Lincoln gets its own suspension, its own optional powertrain, as well as unique design inside and out. Lincoln’s base engine offering is a 3.0-liter turbo V6, a retuned version of the unit in the high-performance Explorer ST, paired with a 10-speed automatic. Its 400 horsepower tops the boosted sixes in most other luxury SUVs and it tows 6,700 pounds. For even more performance, a plug-in-hybrid Grand Touring variant brings 494 horsepower to bear, it also allows 21 miles of pure EV driving on a fully charged battery. Fuel economy for the PHEV is not much better than the standard version, though. Despite the muscular powertrains, the emphasis here is purely on luxury, not sportiness. Rather than a sport suspension, Lincoln offers a camera that scans the road ahead and adjusts the adaptive dampers to smooth the ride. Six- or seven-passenger configurations can be had, and the third row is acceptable, with a useful 18 cubic feet of luggage space behind it. Available Perfect Position front seats boast 30-way adjustability but their padding is firm.

What’s new for 2021: Equipment changes see the Black Label trim add soft-closing doors to its standard-features list, and the Reserve adds a panoramic sunroof. The Elements package now includes heated/ventilated front seats, and a new Monochromatic Reserve package brings unique design elements including black-finished 22-inch wheels and body-colored trim.

Features and technology: The Aviator comes in Standard, Reserve, and Black Label trims, while the PHEV version is offered as the Grand Touring or Black Label Grand Touring. All models boast a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touchscreen’s graphics are unspectacular but the Sync-based software is easy to use. Lincoln’s pushbutton gear selection is unusual, though. Upper trims offer the ability to use your smartphone as the vehicle’s key. A comprehensive list of standard driver aids includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist, but no lane-centering. Adaptive cruise control and automated parking are optional.

What does the future hold: The Aviator is only in its second model year, so we don’t anticipate big changes in the near term. See 2021 Lincoln Aviator models for sale near you

XC90 vs. Aviator: Strengths comparison

Volvo XC90 Benefits: Lower starting price, excellent crash-test results, serene interior design, superior fuel economy

Lincoln Aviator Benefits: Powerful base engine, decent cargo space with third seat in use, rich-looking interior, impressive towing capacity

XC90 vs. Aviator: Which is better?

Both the Volvo XC90 and the Lincoln Aviator hold strong appeal as luxury SUVs. The Aviator has two potent engine offerings, tows more, and boasts a smooth, quiet ride. It also has the edge in cargo space. The XC90 costs less, gets better fuel economy, handles better, and earns top safety marks. The Lincoln delivers a more expressive, American take on the genre, while the Volvo exudes Scandinavian chic. See 2021 Volvo XC90 models for sale near you or See 2021 Lincoln Aviator models for sale near you

2021 Volvo XC90 2021 Lincoln Aviator
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter turbo I-4 3.0-liter turbo V6
Horsepower 250 hp  at 5,500 rpm 400 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 258 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm 415 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
Transmission 8-spd automatic 10-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 25 mpg (21 city/30 hwy) 21 mpg (18 city/26 hwy)
Also Available AWD; 2.0L turbo+supercharged; PHEV AWD; PHEV
Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 4years/50,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 7 7
Wheelbase 117.5 inches 119.1 inches
Overall Length 194.9 inches 199.3 inches
Width 79.1 inches 79.6inches
Height 69.9 inches 69.6 inches
Turning Diameter 38.7 feet N/A
Headroom, Front 38.9 inches 41.5 inches
Headroom, 2nd row 38.5 inches 39.7 inches
Headroom, 3rd row 36.3 inches 36.9 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 43.0 inches
Legroom, 2nd row 37.0 inches 40.1 inches
Legroom, 3rd row 31.9 inches 29.2 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.7 inches 61.5 inches
Shoulder Room, 2nd row 56.5 inches 61.3 inches
Shoulder Room, 3rd row 46.9 inches 54.0 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 103.8 cu. ft. 144.7 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 65.5 cu. ft. 77.7cu. ft.

Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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