Premium midsize SUV; Built in Canada
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,400 – $9,800*

2003 Lincoln Aviator

2004 Lincoln Aviator

2005 Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln Aviator interior

  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
  • Fuel economy

Aviator is more than competent, has V8 muscle, and offers an array of features at a relatively reasonable new-vehicle price. Still, BMW and Lexus rivals top this Lincoln for quality of interior materials, overall refinement, and prestige. Because resale values are somewhat low, some tempting used-vehicle prices might be found.


Lincoln entered the midsize luxury sport-utility vehicle class for 2003 with what amounts to a gilded version of the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. Aviator had its own front and rear appearance, however, as well as interior styling, and came only with the V8 that was optional in Ford and Mercury versions. Here, the V8 was tuned for 302 horsepower, versus 240 hp.

Inside and out, the Aviator mimicked the look of Lincoln’s full-size Navigator SUV. Other than engine tuning and cabin decor, though, the Aviator offered few features that weren’t also available on Explorer or Mountaineer. Aviator’s standard 17-inch wheels and wood interior trim were unavailable on its Ford and Mercury cousins. Neither was Aviator’s Navigator-style optional second-row bucket seats, with a center console.

Seating seven, the Aviator came with a five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive without low-range gearing. Later in the year came an optional traction-control/antiskid system for AWD models.

Standard curtain side airbags (optional on Explorer/Mountaineer) served the first and second seating rows, and were designed to deploy in a side collision and in a rollover. A fold-flat third-row bench seat, power-adjustable pedals, rear-obstacle detection, and dual-zone climate system with rear controls also were standard.

Luxury and uplevel Premium models were offered, the latter including high-intensity headlamps, heated/cooled power front seats, an in-dash CD changer, and special machine-finish wheels. Options included a sunroof and navigation system, and rear DVD entertainment systems. Competitors included the Acura MDX, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX 300/330, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Yearly Updates

2004 Aviator
A tire-pressure monitor became standard on 2004 Aviators. Later in the model year, the optional traction-control/antiskid system became available with Roll Stability Control, which was designed to detect an impending tip and activate the antiskid system, to reduce the chance of a rollover.
Two models were offered: Luxury and Ultimate. A folding third-row bench seat was standard, and a three-passenger second-row bench was available for up to seven-passenger capacity.
2005 Aviator
Roll Stability Control became standard for 2005, but little else changed on the slow-selling Aviator.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Every Aviator has the same powertrain: a dual-overhead-cam, 4.6-liter V-8 engine that develops 302 horsepower, driving a five-speed automatic transmission. Aviators may have either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.6/281
Engine HP 302
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



EPA rating with 2WD is 13/19 mpg.

Road Test

Decent midrange and passing response may be expected, though the transmission is a bit slow to downshift. A test luxury AWD model accelerated to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which was just 0.1 second quicker than a V8 Explorer. Blame the Aviator’s greater weight for sapping its extra horsepower. Towing capacity is 7100 pounds with AWD.

Test AWD models have averaged 13.8 to 14.6 mpg in city/highway driving. Lincoln recommends premium fuel.

Expect a more trucky feel than the car-based luxury competition, such as the Lexus RX 330. Even so, the Aviator is reasonably compliant, laudably devoid of sloppy steering and body motions. There’s also a pleasant absence of side-to-side rocking over uneven surfaces.

Lincoln-specific steering and suspension tuning, in combination with 17-inch tires, helps the Aviator feel more precise and nimble than its Ford/Mercury cousins. Relatively little body lean (for an SUV) is noticed in tight turns. A sure-footed grip on twisty roads is complemented by progressive brake-pedal action.

Wind and road noise are unobjectionable, ranking low for an SUV. The smooth V8 is quiet at idle and cruise, though somewhat noisy under full throttle.

Instrument markings are indistinct in sunlight. Controls are clearly identified, and most are illuminated and within easy reach, though center-console-mounted power window switches are hard to operate without a downward glance. Materials and finish are a step above the Explorer/Mountaineer, but still below the luxury SUV standard set by similarly-priced Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz models. Plenty of silver-finish plastic instrument surrounds are in view.

Front seatbacks lack a power-recline feature, but the standard tilt steering wheel, memory seat, and adjustable pedals help custom-tailor the driving position. Some testers have said leg room is only adequate for large adults. Visibility is good, and rear-obstacle detection adds confidence when backing up.

Standard running boards ease the high step-in. Second-row buckets accommodate two adults in reasonable comfort. Three could squeeze into the available bench seat. Either way, there’s generous head room, plus better knee and foot clearance than in most midsize SUVs. The third-row cushion is low to the floor and pancake-flat, but head room and leg space are surprisingly good. Second-row seats tip forward in a single easy motion, but access to the third row is for the young and limber.

Cargo space is tight behind the third-row seat, which does not fold flat, and the position of the seatback release makes the process awkward. Presence of second-row buckets leaves open gaps that could swallow small items. Plenty of interior storage bins and cubbies are available. Even though the large hatch glass opens separately, and dips low into the tailgate to aid loading, the tailgate is weighty to open or close.


Model Tested: 2004 Aviator Ultimate AWD

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 2
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 8
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 8


Value - 5

Total: 57


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
113.7 193.3 76.0 71.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
81.7 22.5 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.9 38.4 42.2 36.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Noise from the rear air conditioner unit is eliminated by replacing the rear expansion valve. (2003-05)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leak from right side axle may be caused by the seal coming loose and spinning in the housing, requiring complete axle assembly replacement. (2003-04)
Steering noise
Description: The steering may squeak or squeal, especially during parking lot maneuvers, and may be corrected by draining the power steering fluid then refilling with Mercon automatic transmission fluid plus a specified amount of Motorcraft XL-3 friction modifier, but it the noise persists the steering gear may require replacement. (2003-04)
Electrical problem
Description: The vehicle speed sensor in the rear differential may fail and trigger the ABS (anti-lock brakes) warning light. (2002-04)

Recall History

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.