BY MARK KEAST

The first thing that strikes you about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator is the space – a cross between the Nautilus and Navigator (which is kind of like driving a small bus). The Aviator features three rows of plush seating. My seven-year-old nephew had the entire back row of the SUV to himself on one trip, sitting there in his own little world, working his mobile phone, as the adults chatted about U.S. politics over the first two rows.

There is a sleekness though to the exterior design of the Aviator, especially the sloping roof and horizontal lines, that belies its size. The Navigator and Aviator both share design elements, plus the signature Lincoln grille, with its high gloss black and chrome accents.

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“Affordable luxury” gets tossed around a lot, but this is where the Aviator really soars in my view. You get plenty for your money here – all the premium luxury vehicle touch points you come to expect from its foreign-made brethren, like the Audi Q7, the Mercedes-Benz GLE, and the Volvo XC90. That all starts with the powertrain – twin-turbo 3.0L V6 engine creating 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. or torque is standard, coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The Aviator Grand Touring SUV uses a battery-powered electric motor paired the standard twin-turbo engine, producing 450 hp and more than 600 lb. ft. or torque. Great acceleration, taking into account its size.

Smooth and quiet is the underlying theme here – for an extra $3,500, you can get the dynamic handling package, enabling the vehicle to better absorb the bumps and potholes in and around Toronto. Winter driving is high time for pot holes, but there were no complaints from the seven year old in the back row, during a drive home along the 401.

Substance plus style, is another headline, when talking the Lincoln Aviator. The electrically operated door handles are a cool touch. The Aviator features a premium, luxurious cabin, with plush, leather stitched seating, and a nice wide arm rest and console area. That 10-inch touch screen that juts up from the middle of the dash is another statement-maker. You can launch and voice control your mobile apps – including off the steering wheel, which has button controls for all the car settings, easy to use. The media technology platform with the SUV is seamless and simple, the interior lines of the vehicle clean and sleek. Go for the Revel Ultima 3D Audio System – 28 speakers and HD Radio Technology to blast your favourite music.

The front bucket seats are heated and ventilated, and adjust in 30 different directions, so the driver and passenger can custom-fit the seating to their body type, for ultimate comfort. There’s a long, wide sunroof that stretches beyond the second row of seating.

The Aviator has all-wheel drive, with a propulsion-like feel off the rear wheels. There is a wide selection of drive modes – Conserve (for efficient driving), Normal (for effortless driving), Slick (for better handling on icy surfaces), Deep Conditions (extra muscle for deep snow and mud), and Excite (sharper dynamics, more responsive, fun and engaging).

The Aviator’s Co-Pilot360 Plus bundles a number of Driver Assist Technologies – cruise control, lane keeping system aid, pre-collision assist, speed sign recognition, rear view camera with park aid, blind spot information system, and hill descent control (cool feature that holds a set speed when descending steep hills). The customizable Head-Up Display allows you to select what you’d like to see, useful especially if you’ve set up directions to a destination.

Another luxury feature is being able to enter the car using your smartphone, then start it up with the push button. You don’t even need your key!

Price for the 2020 Lincoln Aviator as tested was $87,435 (base vehicle price was $69,000).