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What is it like to drive?

Our AWD test car was the GT, the one with the hybrid drivetrain, in non-Black Label spec. As delivered it weighs over 5,800lb. The extra weight of the batteries is slung low to minimise the effect on the handling but you are never allowed to forget they are there. Not least because, once you’ve exhausted the 15 or so miles of electric assistance, you are left lugging them around.

It’s hardly worth going to the trouble of plugging the car in, even if you have a socket handy, which you probably won’t, as the benefit is so small. And if you want to charge the batteries while you’re driving you can, but that creates an extra load on the engine which is already struggling with the extra weight.

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So we absolutely cannot recommend this hybrid set up as is. Not least because, as well as all the above, the handoff from gas to electric isn’t as smooth as it might be despite the 10-speed auto box doing its best to negotiate a truce between the two. This reminds you again and again over those first few miles that, unless you absolutely have to have 5-10 miles of modest electric-only performance, you made the wrong choice of powertrain.

Much better to stick with the standard V6 and, if you don’t need it, shave off the AWD system, too. In that state the Aviator is a comparative featherweight, riding and responding far faster and more faithfully than this lardy variant.

On a more positive note, what’s common to all variants is a superb, almost infinitely adjustable, driving position with excellent all-round vision – just what you need when piloting an SUV through the urban jungle. The steering has a good deal more feel than the Navigator and generally feels more directly in contact with the front wheels, so you can be more precise, less fussy with your inputs.

And even in hybrid form, the Aviator will get out of its own way when you need it to, especially when in Excite, the most aggressive of its seven modes – the EV assisted models get two extra. The engine definitely feels a little sportier, emitting a healthy rasp at the top end, than the rest of the car – but nothing like as sonically and physically out of character as in the Navigator.

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With all the extra weight on board, it’s not just the acceleration and cornering which are blunted. The brakes, which have some battery regen functionality, also do not provide the most linear performance, the pedal feeling dead on first application and the service brakes only really biting when the pedal is given a firm shove.

So all in all this Aviator is not the most rewarding of experiences. Completely serviceable, just not as well finessed in anyway compared with the best in class.

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