The new Aviator delivers an upgraded driving experience with a more sophisticated, luxurious cabin than the Ford Explorer with which it shares the same platform. We’re not thrilled with some of the Aviator’s tricky controls and the so-so fuel economy, but in most other ways it is a pleasant and well-rounded three-row luxury midsized SUV.
A 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower moves the Aviator down the road with effortless authority, and always has plenty of oomph in reserve for any situation. The 10-speed automatic transmission usually shifts quickly and smoothly, other than an occasional bumpy shift we experienced during low-speed driving. Fuel economy isn’t stellar, at 19 mpg overall, though at least it uses regular fuel instead of premium--not always a given with luxury models.
The Aviator is surprisingly agile for such a large and substantial vehicle. It holds the road well through corners, thanks to precise steering and minimal body lean. The ride is steady, and the taut suspension soaks up most bumps well. The SUV soars along the highway with an impressively tranquil and hushed cabin, but there’s some coarse engine moan during quick takeoffs that is a bit louder than expected in a luxury SUV.