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2003 Lincoln Aviator

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 3.0

Reviewed by 9 users

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by nortos:      Apr 21, 2004 - Updated Sep 15, 2006

Product Rating: 2.0 Recommended: No 

Pros: Fast, very comfortable, nice amount cargo space, 3rd row seating.

Read of for problems with 2003, 2004, 2005 Lincoln Aviator Navigational Display.

As my husband was making his way through what I call his "mid car crisis", while searching for a new car to lease he argued that he didn't want a plain old Saturn, he wanted for once to go for a "Status" car - everyone at work had a Jaguar.....not really appropriate for a family of 4....on we searched The BMW SUV was nice, small, and did offer one third row seat. However, we finally went to Lincoln and looked at the Navigator (too big for my likings) and then at the 2003 Aviator which I liked right away.

For my husband, the Aviator was the perfect "status car", nice, really expensive at the price for leasing ($750 per month, 39 month lease) so much for our kids college fund). I was happy that The Aviator came with 3rd row seating for 2 SMALL, short legged kids). We have used this 3rd row, with no complaints from the kids back there. When not in use, there is more than ample cargo space for all my Costco and BJ's runs. For my husband - he's happy that we really haven't seen any other Aviators on the road around where we live in Nassau, NY.

Some of the excellent features on the Aviator is the guidance system - I am proud to say WE NO LONGER GET LOST GOING ON TRIPS. There are no more arguments about how far out of our way we have to go before hubby's willing to stop and ask for directions at a gas station. I do have to admit, the first time we used the Map on the Aviator and trying to figure out how to enter our destination point, took us about 45 minutes. Once you have mastered entering destinations it's easy. The only draw back about the guidance system is the instruction manual that came with ours. We have an updated Guidance System in our Aviator and the manual is for the old guidance system. The newer Guidance Systems has about 75 verbal commands you can use with it, however the book only lists about 15 for the old system. Lincoln hasn't printed a new book yet and we've had the car almost a full year. However, by accident we did find out that pressing the command button on the steering wheel and saying HELP clearly, the guidance system did respond with a verbal help menu (if only it came with a printer.) Another drawback on the Guidance System is no 2 voices are alike so when you tell it a command most times it doesn't understand you and you have to repeat yourself several times.

The Aviator is different from most SUV's, including the less expensive Mercury Mountaineer models. The Aviator has independent suspension, verses most SUV's "Live Axle". The difference is clearly in the ride. Live axle is how most trucks are built, and you feel every pebble in the road. Not so with the Aviator or Navigator.

Aviator you give up pulling torque for speed in the differential. The Aviator is far superior in acceleration. In addition, the Navigator has "Air bag" suspension for a smoother ride. But clearly there is a huge difference in the handling.

The navigator around turns feels much like a boat, and could get you seasick quickly. I didn't like the soft feeling of the Navigator on turns at all. The Aviator makes crisp sharp turns, and at almost 7000# fully loaded, it has a low center of gravity.

Safety wise this Aviator comes with front and side air bags in the front and rear seats. Our Aviator weighs approx. 7000 lbs and has a reinforced steel roof, so god forbid a rollover it shouldn't crumple. We haven't had any rollover problems, but there is a warning label on the sunvisors that if turning to sharply there's a possibility. This Aviator has excellent pickup, it's easy to weave in and out of traffic. I used to own a Firebird and I would compare the pickup to that of a sports car. Considering this is an SUV and I live in NY - the insurance costs aren't bad. We're paying about $1900 per year with extra coverage. After I take a Defensive Driving Course that should be reduced. I'm not paying anymore in insurance than I did for a Saturn Station Wagon.

The Aviator spares NO luxury. For example, pressing AUTO on the environment controls when it is cold out will halt the blowers until the temp. comes up to a reasonable level. However, in order to get the water heated as quickly as possible, it engages the A/C system. This puts more load on the engine and hence heats the engine more quickly. Nice, but one can watch a cold car, running nearly all fuel (normal for cold cars), and note that the "miles left until empty" is dropping by 1 every 200 feet! Yikes!! I would estimate that at this point we are getting approx. 1/2 mile to the gallon. It does warm up very quickly however. By today’s standards, in about $6 worth!

The heating and A/C in the car is excellent - for the front and rear of the car - the kids can control their heat and A/C
themselves. The front seats are also equipped with heating and cooling within the seat so you can either cook your butt or freeze it off. The stereo system is okay, however for the cost and BOSE system would be more preferable. - we have a 6 cd player in the dashboard which is very convenient - not having to change cd's is a plus. Ours came equipped with a DVD player, but honestly, our kids, 10 and 12 have only used it 2 times while in the car it wasn't worth the extra money. Plus when the kids did watch the DVD player the screen has to be flipped down from the ceiling of the car and it blocks your rear view. I've seen SUV's with the DVD's on the seat backs, which is much safer.

The moon roof is nice my dog likes to stick his head out while we are driving (slowly so he doesn't get hurt). This aviator came with leather seats and they are easy to clean.

The Aviator is extremely comfortable - I hate riding in a regular car now because I feel like I'm sitting on the floor. It's not like riding in a truck where you feel every bump in the road - it has independent suspension so it rides like a car. The side view mirrors fold in making it easy to use the drive thru ATM machines. They are also equipped with a defroster which came in handy this winter.

The Aviator has excellent pickup (although I'm no mechanic and don't know much about engines) We had previously owned a Jeep Grand Cherokee and you could be flooring that thing and it wouldn't go up a hill. The Aviator has no problem it's a fast, quiet SUV.

Our Aviator came with an alarm system (the typical beeping horn) that everyone ignores. The rear hatch is 2 pieces so you can open just the window portion (so groceries don't fall out of the car) and open the whole thing to load and unload items. The spare tire is stored under the car so it doesn't take up storage space in the car and the Guidance DVD is stored under the cargo area.

Our lease came with a maintenance warranty that covers oil changes and general maintenance every 5000 miles so, we haven't had any out of pocket expenses on the car since we leased it.

We have been very happy with the performance of the Aviator however, the biggest problem with the Aviator is gas mileage. When we leased it we were told 12 to 16 MPG. On trips, maybe 10 to 11, but local driving we only get 8.5 MPG. It costs me $40 to fill the car up with Premium once per week.

The other bad feature is where the handles are on the inside of the SUV. They are by your knees and are difficult to get at. The other bad feature we have found about the SUV is the remote door lock had a feature on it to unlatch the window on the rear hatch - convenient when you have to put something in and press it on purpose, however when it is pressed by accident there are no bells going off in the SUV to let you know the liftgate is open.

On our last service appointment they had to replace the screen for the Guidance System. One of the bulbs burnt out or something else went wrong - anytime it would get below 40 degrees you couldn't see the map or the AM FM station displays.

When I first wrote this review, I highly recommended this SUV, however in light of the problems we are currently experiencing with it (See Updates below), I no longer recommend it - it seems to be an SUV that starts falling apart on the inside in less than a year. I can still recommend it on its outside appearance, driving and comfort. We leased our SUV in June and found out 6 months after leasing the 2003 that the 2004 came out and were being leased for about $450 per month, a lot more affordable.

UPDATE 8/28/2004

Well it looks like our Aviator has started to fall apart after only 8,000 miles in 1 year. On the inside of the glass liftgate there is a 3 1/2 foot plastic covering that shields the mechanisms controlling the rear wiper, liftgate operation, wires and other things I don't want to touch. That whole piece just fell off the car - have to bring it in for service. In the mean time I can't put too many items in the cargo area for fear of it now hitting the exposed wires and mechanics of the liftgate while I'm driving.


Yet another part of this Luxury SUV has started to fall apart. On the Front Seat Passenger door area, where the controls are for locking and unlocking the doors, seat heater/AC controls - that whole panel (about a 7 inch area) has completely fallen off - the wires are still attached so I keep popping it back into place. Every time we shut the door, the panel pops out again. On top of that we can't use the seat heater on the passenger side because it started making a strange sound when you turn the seat heater on (almost like a continuous static sound). We won't use it for fear of it starting a fire. This SUV only has 9500 Miles on it and is not an abused car. I couldn't get an appointment to "Fix" my SUV until 11/8, that's when "their seat guy" will be available next. It is also when they will have a loaner car for me since I'm going to need one.

On the good side though - I had to schedule my regular maintenace, so hopefully they will do that at the same time.

UPDATE 2/15/05

Well, it only took 2 1/2 months for the parts to come in to replace on our Aviator. In that time period however, the rear window on the drivers side no longer opens by either using the switch on the door itself, or the one on the console by the drivers seat. Also, we found out that the Anti Lock Braking system has malfunctioned and doesn't work at all - so back to the shop again next week - another loaner car and more repairs - I think I only have about one more year left on this lemon. For an SUV with only 11,000 miles on it - it's falling apart - I would hate to see what would happen if it had more than 50,000 miles on it.

UPDATE 5/4/05

After contacting a supervisor over at Ford Customer Service about the problem we are continuing to have with the display on the navigational system, they contacted our local Lincoln dealership and we had to bring it in again (we thought they were going to replace the display a 4th time). What they did was get the Lincoln Service people on the phone with the Ford technicians and went through "troubleshooting" and determined that there is NOTHING they can do to repair the display to our satisfaction and therefore, nothing will be done. The dealership had a 2004 and 2005 Aviator next to ours to show us there was no difference in the display; however, upon seeing our display it was definitely alot dimmer that then ones on the 2004 and 2005. I suggested they keep our car one more night and since it would be below 50 degress they'll see a difference in the morning. Sure enough the next morning they agreed it was dimmer (you couldn't see the display on my car, or the one on the 2004 and 2005). They then told me that this is a "feature" that has to do with the manufacturing and you will always have to wait for the car to warm up to use the display. If we only had to warm up the Car for a minute or two I wouldn't complain, but we're talking about 20, 30 or 40 minutes because the display is usable for guidance. I feel this is a FLAW in the design and for $2500 extra I feel like I've been robbed.

When I called the Ford Service Center back, I was told that they will no longer escalate the problem since their "experts" at Lincoln determined that there is NOTHING TO REPAIR and that no one from Ford will be calling us back again.


We started noticing in August that whenever we drive the Aviator and go to brake, the steering column starts to shake, a lot. We were getting ready to go on vacation that week, so with about 10,000 miles on the Aviator, I brought it in to be serviced. After having it the whole day I was told that the brakes and rotors needed to be replaced. (Luckily this was covered under the warranty, so again no out of pocket expenses for us). However, I don't think that with only 10,000 miles on any car, the brakes should need fixin!

On 9/22, I brought the Aviator in for it's regular maintenance, oil change, etc. After picking it up, was driving fine, went to get my kid from school, everything was fine. Went to make a turn on to a side street , Aviator won't allow me to steer - can't turn the wheel at all. LUCKILY I was able to avoid hitting anyone or anything and was able to pull to the side of the road and notice that there was a puddle of liquid where I went to make my turn and a trail leading to where I pulled my Aviator over. Another puddle quickly formed under it where I parked.

I called the dealership and spoke with Mr. Nasty (the service advisor I keep getting stuck with). He said all we did was change the oil, we didn't touch anything else! I told him my receipt states that you "topped off all fluids".

I had to call Roadside Assistance for Lincoln, my first experience with them. I have to admit they were extremely helpful and stayed on the phone with me for about 10 minutes (because I didn't have a cell phone and was calling from a house where they were nice enough to let me use their phone). They made sure they knew my exact location, cross streets, if I was in a "safe area" and what landmarks were around so the Tow Truck driver could find me. They gave me the name of the Tow Truck Company that would be coming and said they they would be there within the hour. They were there within 20 minutes and the driver was very nice. He had my Aviator on the Flat Bed within a few minutes and it was off to be serviced at Lincoln.

I told Service that I didn't want the Aviator back until everything was rechecked. The Oil Change Required light was still coming on. I also wanted to make sure that nothing else my service advisor claimed "they didn't touch" wasn't going to leak. About 3:00PM my husband called them and was told it looks as if the clamp holding the power steering fluid hose on, came off. Perhaps we drove over something that loosened it? They were replacing it with a different type of clamp that screws on so it shouldn't come off again. This tells me that if they already had a different type of clamp for this hose, that this has happened before where the clamp just came off.

9/15/06 - Well my final entry for the Aviator. Our lease is up in another 10 days but we turned it in ahead of time, in pristine condition with only 20,000 miles on the car - dealer said he's still going to have trouble unloading an SUV that gets bad gas mileage (10 mpg). We bought a Toyota Highlander 3 weeks ago and are absolutely loving it - so far we are getting 17 mpg local driving and it takes regular gas :o) . I will write about my experience with the Highlander in a few weeks.

If you would like to see another car review from a woman's perspective, read about the Saturn Wagon we leased:


and also on my 1997 Mercury Sable which I didn't have a good experience with:

Amount Paid (US$): 52,000
Condition: New
Model Year: 2003
Model and Options: ABS,Nav;AC;6CD/Tow/Moon;DVD
Product Rating: 2.0
Recommended: No 
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