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2022 Ford Explorer vs Lincoln Aviator

2022 Ford Explorer vs Lincoln Aviator
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2022 Explorer vs Aviator - How Do They Stack Up? Which is Better?

Whether you shop for your new third-row SUV online or in person, you will find that the market is currently loaded with these vehicles at the moment. This segment happens to be one of the most competitive, as all of these mammoth vehicles attempt to top one another in terms of available passenger and cargo space, power, and included technological features. The 2022 Ford Explorer and the 2022 Lincoln Aviator are two such rivals that demand your close attention.

The 2022 Ford Explorer serves up a spacious cargo area into which you can pack all types of items. There is also get a good series of engine options that deliver plenty of power, and the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) gives the Explorer enhanced towing and handling capabilities. However, you will notice a good amount of wind noise rushing past at higher rates of speed. On top of that, the price is hard to justify given how uninspired and cheap the interior materials look and feel.

Lincoln introduced the second generation of the Aviator in 2020, basing off of its corporate cousin, the Ford Explorer. That's right, these two SUVs are related! Being so recently redesigned, the 2022 Aviator doesn't reflect many changes. What you get from it is snappy acceleration, a high-end design from the inside out, and a ton of advanced features. Oh, there's even a hybrid powertrain option available.

But you won't get much headroom anywhere in the cabin. The Aviator also struggles with too-soft handling and limited visibility from the front and rear. On top of that, real-world fuel efficiency is less than impressive.

Which one of these two massive third-row SUVs is going to be the best people hauler? Does one offer significantly more value than the other? Which vehicle fits into your budget the most easily? Let's compare these two vehicles to find out, then you can make an informed decision.

The Powertrain

A strong powertrain can make owning a third-row SUV an enjoyable enough experience. They have to be able to haul a lot of weight around, even when you only have one or two passengers sitting in it. However, an under-powered powertrain can leave you feeling left in the dust by every other vehicle sharing the road with you.

The 2022 Ford Explorer gives buyers a few different powertrain choices. Standard is the base trim's turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, which is able to make 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. RWD is standard although all-wheel drive (AWD) is an option. On the Timberline trim, AWD comes standard. You can order the Limited trim as a gas-powered model or as the Limited Hybrid. The latter has a V6-based hybrid powertrain that generates 318 hp combined. Additionally, it musters up the best fuel economy of the bunch, getting up to an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The ST trim is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque and has a sport-tuned suspension.

The Explorer is the third-row SUV to get if you yearn for composed handling capabilities and quick acceleration. Even the base engine feels eager to quickly accelerate. There is also a lot of road grip from whichever size of tires you decide to equip. This vehicle copes with all the power it puts forth quite easily. The robust turbo four-cylinder base engine sprints right past the competition. Never mind the crazy turbo V6 on the ST that goes all-out on delivering a powerful performance. The 10-speed transmission downshifts exactly when you give it the prompt to do so, but in slower traffic, the shifting can feel somewhat indecisive whether it is trying to go up or down in gears.

The turbo 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine gets slightly better EPA estimates than its top rivals. A model with RWD gets 24 mpg combined, and the AWD gets 23 mpg combined. That's about 1 or 2 mpg better than most competitors. Real-world tests struggle to match these estimates though. Those get more like 21 mpg combined. Unfortunately, this aligns more with lower-rated rivals.

The 2022 Lincoln Aviator has two engine options to choose from. The Standard, Reserve, and Black Label trim levels all have a 3.0-liter V6 engine that generates 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. Upgrading to the Grand Touring trim gets you a 3.0-liter V6 hybrid engine that delivers 494 hp and a massive 630 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard with the gas-powered engine, but all-wheel drive is available on it and is standard on hybrid model.

While tracking straight on, the Aviator is quick. There is a brief delay when you ask for more power, but the Aviator will give it to you. The AWD-equipped Aviator Black Label is able to sprint from 0-60 mph in a snappy 5.9 seconds. Braking could be better, as the brake pedal is too soft. Also, this vehicle feels big and floaty when you round through turns, failing to inspire much driver confidence in its stability. Add to that the transmission's sluggish transition between forward and reverse, which makes driving the Aviator kind of a disappointment.

Real-world fuel economy is also disappointing. EPA estimates put it at 20 mpg combined on the AWD Aviator and 21 mpg combined on the RWD variant - respectable showings for this segment. But real-world tests return more along the lines of 16-18 mpg combined. Um, yikes.


Drivability is a blanket term that we use to describe how well-rounded a vehicle functions as a daily driver. How comfortable are the seats to sit in for hours on end? Is the ride quality smooth and plush enough without coming off as too floaty? Are the materials used in the vehicle's interior design of high quality? Are the cabin's controls intuitively laid out? Are the tech features easy to use? How much cargo space is available, and how many small item storage areas can you utilize? These are some of the major factors we talk about when discussing a vehicle's drivability status.

The 2022 Ford Explorer's front seats are soft and well shaped, contouring to the body without issue. You just might want to consider skipping the optional massaging front seats since the massaging mechanism makes the seatbacks feel bumpy when the massager is off. Seat comfort decreases as you go back in rows. The ride is mostly smooth, although smaller road imperfections will be somewhat noticeable.

The automatic climate control system requires that you make more manual adjustments than is ideal, and the air vents don't pump out as much air when you lower the temperature. Thee Explorer isn't all that quiet either. The engine noise is hard to hide even with music playing, and too much wind noise can be heard even at moderate highway speeds.

Front seat space is immaculate, and you can effortlessly adjust to find a commanding driving position. Visibility is good thanks to there being enough glass on the windows and sizable side mirrors. Unfortunately, the second-row passengers don't have much room for their knees and legs, and the third row is not suitable for taller adults. Access via the rear door is tricky if the doors aren't able to be opened past the first detent. The third-row's power-folding mechanism is helpful enough, but raising the row for occupants can only be done from inside the hatch.

The lower Explorer models start you off with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, Sync 3 infotainment system, and smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the Limited, you gain an integrated navigation and the superb Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. There is an optional 10.1-inch vertical touchscreen, but its slenderized profile is not all that compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the rearview camera's display.

The Explorer's cargo hold is absolutely immense. When you leave the third-row seats up, a touch too tight, but about three or four rolling suitcases can be stashed back there. Up front, you get an abundance of small-item storage, and child seats can easily be installed into the second row. RWD makes the Explorer tailored for towing, even with a 5,000-pound max towing capacity. The trailer tow package gives you a receiver hitch, four- and seven-pin wiring, a tow-haul transmission mode, support for an add-on electric trailer brake controller, and an advanced blind-spot monitoring system that extends the entire length of your trailer.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Lincoln Aviator is reminiscent of the old Lincoln: big, bulky, and wallowing. Bumps get absorbed quite well, but there is some residual body motion. Wind and traffic noise are kept to a minor amount. The front seats are highly adjustable and can feel quite cozy. However, the driver's seat is kind of slim, which can be hard on the hips. The climate control system is adept at regulating cabin temperature, but the seat heating and ventilation functions could be stronger.

The third row is basically meant for kids since there isn't much legroom. The second row offers more legroom, but space for your head is restricted if you get the optional sunroof. Even the headroom up front can be a squeeze for taller adults.

Visibility is also lacking. The front windshield and rear window are squat, hindering your view of the road. Many of the cabin's surfaces can cause distracting reflections and glares. The controls are mostly easy to use, but pushing down on the transmission shift buttons and steering wheel's multifunction buttons on the steering wheel forces you to take your eyes off the road.

The Aviator's infotainment screen has huge digital buttons and text, so they are user-friendly. However, this system lacks the sophistication and more advanced features found in other luxury SUVs. The Aviator's first two rows have numerous USB outlets for charging your devices. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard issue, but using any smartphone integration system will block you from simultaneously using basic voice controls, changing radio stations, and adjusting various settings.

The Aviator offers a ton of storage space behind the third row. However, cargo space behind the second row is merely average. The optional air suspension at least lets you lower the ride height in order to more easily load your cargo. As far as towing goes, the Aviator gives you 6,700 pounds of max towing capacity, and the brawny V6 engine can certainly do the work.

Each of the Aviator's three rows has has a bunch of handy small item storage locations, but the center console's bin is not that deep. Also, the Aviator's second-row seats offer enough space for you to effortlessly enough install those clunky rear-facing car seats, making it simple with easy-to-access anchors and tethers.


Safety is certainly a huge concern for drivers on the road these days. Auto manufacturers are aware of the demand for advanced safety features and designs. Both Ford and Lincoln are know full well how to create well-working driver aids and equip quite a few of them on their SUVs.

The 2022 Ford Explorer has frontal collision mitigation, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, and trailer sway control. The ST-Line adds more driver assist features, such as the full lane keeping system, evasive steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system. The Limited equips additional technology and driver assist features from the ST-Line and Timberline. The ST gains a digital instrument panel, and the King Ranch has rear automatic braking. On the line-topping Platinum, there are adaptive headlights and an automated parking system.

The 2022 Lincoln Aviator gives you a smattering of driver aids. Standard are forward collision mitigation, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane keeping assist. Upgrading to the Reserve gets you the 360-degree surround-view camera. You can opt for the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 1.5 Plus, which gives you adaptive cruise control, a full lane keeping system, an automated parking system, and evasive steering assist. That becomes standard on the Black Label, which also adds turn-adaptive headlights. Absolutely everything comes standard on the line-topping Black Label Grand Touring.

Which Has the Best Value?

What vehicle brings the most to the table for you? Take a time-out and think about it before you finalize your decision on which vehicle you're going to buy this year. Which vehicle has the most overall value? Buyers need to do their research and hear about owners' experiences since taking a vehicle for a test-drive can only tell you so much.

The 2022 Ford Explorer is besieged by hard plastics, unsightly paneling gaps, and dull details all over. This isn't some run-of-the-mill economy vehicle, so we should be seeing more quality. Top rivals feature well-equipped top trims cost less the measly Explorer XLT with the bare minimum in options. Also, the Explorer's warranty coverage is lackluster by comparison.

Potential buyers of the Explorer will likely prioritize rugged road agility and strong powertrain performance if they want to balance out all the drawbacks. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost delivers better fuel economy... theoretically, at least. But most won't achieve the EPA ratings in everyday driving. This makes overall value unexceptional.

2022 Lincoln Aviator reflects how far Lincoln has come with their ability to design a high-quality luxury vehicle. The Aviator truly feels luxury outside and in, showcasing a thoughtful design and overall premium ownership experience. The chrome and piano black trims are the only design elements that look a bit schmooze-y, but they could be a lot worse.

The higher trims do feel kind of overpriced, with the mid-tier Black Label reaching about $84K. The Black Label Grand Touring tops out around $90K. The more competitively priced Reserve trim level might not have the high-brow vibe that the higher trims do, but the price tag is so much more reasonable - and you still have room for optional add-ons.

Which is Better?

If you are buying on a budget, the 2022 Ford Explorer is the vehicle to get. Given how expensive fuel has become, it is probably wise for most buyers to stick with a vehicle that has a decent real-world fuel efficiency. The Explorer manages that; the Aviator, not so much. Luxury vehicles aren't geared toward that. And, on the Aviator, a hybrid powertrain is going to cost you a lot more up front. The Aviator isn't a bad vehicle in terms of design, but its driving performance just doesn't stack up.

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2021 Ford Explorer VS Lincoln Aviator