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The Aviator Grand Touring features a hybrid-electric drivetrain that generates a combined 494 hp and a thumping 630 lb-ft of torque. (Lincoln)

What we’re driving: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve

A promising new platform and a three rows’ worth of luxury tech arm Lincoln to get back in the premium-brand fight.

For my experience of Lincoln – and I’m not particularly young – I haven’t been able to understand the “sell” of the brand. Low sales numbers and decades of declining prestige seemed to have long indicated a “cut your losses” argument for Ford to ditch its premium marque. But if the 2020 Aviator is the building block of things to come, there’s hope.

This all-new platform, sensibly shared with the volume-play Ford Explorer, returns Lincoln to the longitudinal engine/rear-drive layout that luxury vehicles are supposed to have and provides immediate credibility against the decades of “rebadge” strategy Lincoln endured. The Aviator is as responsive and athletic as you can expect a three-row, 16.5-foot-long SUV to be. Maneuver around for even a few minutes and this rather large vehicle manages to exude the premium-ness the name promises.

One might expect for that for more than $76,000. But whether it’s the exhaustive list of tech and luxury features (that price had our Aviator fitted with just about everything) or the no-messing-around thrust of 400 hp and 415 lb-ft (563 Nm) from the 3.0-L twin-turbo V6, there’s no compromising here. The Aviator deserves to be considered with every other lux brand’s big ‘ute.

And thanks to that classic driveline layout, the Aviator looks the part, too. The hood, long and lovely, accentuates the vaunted axle-to-dash ratio the sets apart the longitudinal engine players from the front-drive hoi polloi. There’s a real sweep, too, to the roof and hind quarters that you just don’t get with Lincoln’s prior crossover efforts. Luxury credibility doesn’t come easy, but maybe the Aviator is the inflection point Lincoln’s been after for so long.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD

Base price:      $58,700
As tested:        $76,310
Highs:              Rear-drive is back; excellent running gear; legit styling
Lows:               Some fussy tech touches; feathery low-speed steering
Takeaway:       The product Lincoln has needed                   

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