A red 2021 Ford Explorer ST is shown from the front at an angle.

Looking at Luxury: 2023 Ford Explorer vs 2023 Lincoln Aviator

What does luxury mean to you? In the automotive industry, luxury is often embodied in premium leather seating, high-quality materials, advanced technologies, and intuitive features that make your time on the road more comfortable and appealing. However, luxury usually comes at a high price, with models like the 2023 Lincoln Aviator fetching a starting price of $53,340. Of course, that’s before you add any extra bells and whistles or climb the lineup to a top-tier trim that leaves no detail untouched. By then, you’ve spent a small fortune.

But what if luxury didn’t have to come at a premium? While the Lincoln lineup is lavish, its Ford siblings share many similar features that don’t require you to compromise. For example, the 2023 Ford Explorer, which shares a platform with the Aviator, starts at $36,760 and has a top-tier trim comparable to the entry-level Aviator. How does Ford make luxury affordable in the 2023 Explorer?

One Platform, Two SUVs

Many automakers use the same platform for multiple vehicles, minimizing manufacturing costs and passing those savings on to the consumer. Ford is an excellent example of this approach, using the same platform for the Ford Explorer and the Lincoln Aviator. However, while the Aviator might appear to have the advantage as the more luxurious brand, the Explorer leads the race by making better use of its cabin.

The 2023 Explorer and 2023 Aviator sit on 119.1-inch wheelbases, with the Explorer measuring 198.8 inches overall and the Aviator measuring 199.3 inches. Their heights are comparable at just under 70 inches, as are their widths at 78.9 inches (Explorer) and 79.6 inches (Aviator). Yet, even with these similarities, the Explorer delivers more room for passengers and cargo.

The Explorer’s more practical design lends to its 152.7 cu.ft. of passenger volume and 87.8 cu.ft. of cargo space compared to the Aviator at 144.7 cu.ft. and 77.7 cu.ft., respectively. This translates into the Explorer having a third row that is more spacious than its luxury-oriented sibling. Third-row passengers in the Ford have 38.9 inches of headroom and 32.2 inches of legroom, which is voluminous compared to the Aviator’s 36.9 inches of headroom and 29.2 inches of legroom. As a result, the Explorer is better suited to accommodate passengers across all three rows without compromising comfort.


The brown interior of a 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch is shown from the passenger door opening.

Premium Cabin Details

While the Aviator’s price tag suggests it’s more luxurious than the Explorer, that’s far from the case when you look at the details. The differences are minimal, making the Explorer a more attractive option. For example, the top-tier Explorer Platinum exudes luxury, including premium leather seating with tri-diamond perforated inserts and accent stitching. The second-row captain’s chairs make the cabin more spacious and offer superior comfort because they’re heated. Likewise, the 10-way power driver’s seat and eight-way power passenger seat ensure you and your copilot are comfortable, especially since they’re also heated and ventilated.

The entry-level 2023 Aviator comes equipped with Lincoln Soft Touch Seating and, like the Explorer, features a 10-way driver and eight-way passenger seat. However, the Lincoln’s seats are heated but not ventilated. Likewise, the Aviator’s second row relies on a standard bench seat, which you can upgrade to heated captain’s chairs for a premium. The top-tier Aviator Black Label does offer substantial upgrades, including 30-way front seats, but that pushes the Aviator’s price even higher.

Even with these differences, the Explorer Platinum and Aviator share quite a few similarities. For example, both models feature tri-zone electronic temperature control that ensures everyone’s comfort throughout the cabin. You’ll also find the SUVs feature cabin particulate air filters that improve air quality, offer remote start for convenience, and have heated steering wheels for next-level comfort in colder climates.

Advanced Technology

One of the advantages of Ford owning Lincoln is that SUVs like the 2023 Explorer and 2023 Aviator share much of the same technology. While the names are slightly different, the features are the same. These tools enhance our experience behind the wheel by keeping us focused, informed, and connected. With the Explorer’s more affordable price tag, Ford’s three-row SUV has an undeniable advantage because it offers exceptional value.

Connectivity and Entertainment

The Explorer and Aviator both come standard with a 10.1-inch touchscreen display and Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system. This includes features like FordPass Connect and Lincoln Connect, Amazon Alexa, smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. However, the Explorer Platinum has a few advantages over the base Aviator, such as a 12-speaker premium B&O sound system and a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system. In contrast, the Aviator’s standard 10-speaker audio system doesn’t deliver the same immersive listening experience, and navigation is only an option.

Safety and Driver-Assist

The 2023 Explorer and 2023 Aviator share similar safety and driver-assist features in their Co-Pilot360 suites. These technologies include a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, a Lane-Keeping System, Hill Start Assist, automatic high beams, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, post-impact braking, and Forward Collision Warning with Dynamic Brake Support. In addition, the Explorer Platinum adds to these features with a standard 360-degree camera with front split view capability and Reverse Brake Assist. Unfortunately, you’ll have to spend far more on a top-tier Aviator trim to enjoy these upgrades in the Lincoln fleet.

Engaging Performance

Performance is integral to luxury because it’s hard to enjoy the ride if an SUV can’t keep up with the demands of the road. Ford recognizes as much and outfits the 2023 Explorer and 2023 Aviator with proven engines that balance performance, improve efficiency, and deliver exceptional handling. However, it’s up to you how much you want to spend on that beautiful and engaging trifecta.

The top-tier Explorer Platinum comes with Ford’s proven 3.3L Hybrid powertrain or a 3.0L EcoBoost V6. Both powertrains are mated to a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission and deliver a wide range of power. For example, the hybrid produces 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque, while the V6 goes further with its output of 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. Since the Aviator shares the same standard 3.0L V6 engine, the output is the same but comes at a higher cost because of the Lincoln name.

A green 2023 Ford Explorer Timberline is shown from the side at an angle.

The Value of Luxury

Just as Chevrolet is the more affordable alternative to the luxurious GMC lineup, the same is true for the relationship between Ford and Lincoln. The 2023 Explorer and 2023 Aviator shed light on this relationship in several surprising ways that suggest looks and preconceptions are often misleading. While the Explorer is often touted as the budget-friendly alternative, comparing the two vehicles reveals Ford offers more for your money.

The 2023 Lincoln Aviator does an excellent job living up to its luxurious reputation, from plush seating and premium materials to an air filtration system and adaptive suspension. Top-tier trims offer everything imaginable, from ambient lighting to a digital welcome mat that illuminates when you approach the SUV. If that’s your definition of luxury, then the Aviator will not disappoint.

For those willing to move beyond the Lincoln name, Ford has an excellent option with the 2023 Explorer. The Explorer Platinum exudes opulence and offers many of the same amenities, technologies, and conveniences as the Aviator. Its performance is just as impressive, its cabin is larger and more accommodating, and its expansive suite of technologies takes its value to new heights. It’s proof you don’t have to spend a fortune or compromise on luxury in a full-size SUV, at least not when you shop smart with Ford.