I drove a $76,000 Cadillac XT6 and $70,000 Lincoln Aviator in a battle of three-row American luxury SUVs — and the winner was clear (GM, F)

And the winner is the Lincoln Aviator!

Lincoln Aviator

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

For the record, the Lincoln’s victory had nothing to do with the hybrid drivetrain, which ultimately didn’t offer a differentiating amount of all-electric performance, nor the LA weather. Even the $6,000-as-tested price gap didn’t figure strongly into my calculus.

The Lincoln won because it’s straight-up better as an SUV — although both the Aviator and the XT6 are evidence that GM and Ford absolutely have their acts together in this exceptionally competitive and lucrative market segment.

What truly makes the Aviator stand out is a combination of design and surprising burliness, versus the XT6’s more conservative looks and in my analysis somewhat underwhelming engine.

“[T]he all-wheel-drive system struggled a bit in my testing, which happened during some truly awful weather,” I wrote in my original XT6 review. “I think this was due mainly to the vehicle being on all-season tires, but I also thought that the 310-horsepower engine, making 271 pound-feet of torque, wasn’t quite up the task of spinning all four wheels on a fairly heavy vehicle.”

The all-motor V6 in the XT6 simply gives up too much to the turbo-six in the Aviator — almost 200-horsepower too much with the hybrid Aviator — and you feel it every time you put the pedal down. Now, mind you, my Aviator tester didn’t come with a fuel-economy rating, but word in the street is that the two vehicles are more-or-less the same in the MPG department.

The Lincoln also has the edge on the Caddy looks-wise and interior-wise. The XT6 is certainly handsome, and the interior is elegantly restrained, but the Aviator presents an exterior personality, and its interior is properly luxe, as opposed to near-luxe in the Caddy.

Admittedly, both the XT6 and the Aviator suffer from the three-row SUV curse: the third row is useless for adults, and when deployed, it kills cargo space.

But the Aviator makes up for that fundamental problem by being pretty great, while the XT6 is simply good.

“Nothing else I’ve driven in the segment feels quite the same,” I wrote of the punching-above-its-weight Lincoln. “The Aviator is supposed to be suave, but it’s kinda wild. I hope the new Aston Martin DBX SUV can manage this stunt.”

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