Loving trucks is as American as the Marlboro Man. But just as that rough and rugged pitchman has ridden off into the sunset (probably coughing), rough and rugged trucks are a thing of the past. Even the lowliest Chevy Silverado is now packed with the kind of features and luxury once reserved for high-end sedans.
The 2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT and 2007 Lincoln Mark LT are the pinnacle of this new breed of softer and gentler American pickup trucks. Part pickup, part recreational vehicle and part hot-rod sedan, these trucks put bling before balls...er...make that ball hitches. They reinvent the pickup truck as a luxurious recreational vehicle. Each is a grandly stylish device with both adventurous possibility and everyday utility.
If It Looks Like a Truck
Even a pickup truck guy can appreciate style, and these high-profile trucks are meant to make you think about the outdoors and your plans for the weekend. After all, if you want respect in suburban America, you're not supposed to carry a lunch bucket everywhere you go.
The Cadillac Escalade EXT has enough style for two trucks and maybe a couple of cars besides. It's angular and aggressive, a machine for driving and not just for hauling. And just so you know it's a Cadillac, it's been overlaid with lots of automotive jewelry, including big high-intensity headlights, a retro-style egg-crate grille, and layers and layers of chrome detailing.
On the other hand, the Lincoln Mark LT, is plainly a Ford F-150. But it's also Ford's most successful interpretation of the heavy-duty truck look since the Dodge Ram 1500 introduced this style so successfully in 1994. Like the Cadillac, the Lincoln sets itself apart with its own complement of jewelry, only they're the kind of chrome accents that you might find in a Harley-Davidson accessory catalog. The assembled, customized look is meant to be all about authenticity.
Recreation Room on Wheels
In case you haven't heard, the interior of a pickup truck isn't meant to be cleaned out with a garden hose anymore. Americans live in these trucks, and they need a cabin that amounts to more than just a cupholder big enough for a Big Gulp and someplace to toss the candy bar wrappers.
With the Escalade EXT, GM's oversize, work-grade truck interior has finally given way to carlike detailing. You're meant to travel in the EXT, not just shuttle from job site to job site. That's why the seats are sufficiently bolstered to be supportive enough for long journeys, and they're available with both heating and cooling functions.
A $3,990 complement of optional interior luxury features transforms the EXT into a luxury sedan. There's a complex audio system that plays DVD-audio as well as CDs, not to mention an MP3 player and satellite radio. Naturally there's a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen for the front-seat passengers plus a DVD player with a flip-down, 8-inch screen for the rear passengers.
This particular Lincoln Mark LT didn't quite have an Escalade-grade arcade of optional electronic gizmos, although you'll find nearly identical stuff among this truck's list of available options. Where the interior of the Escalade resembles some kind of recreational device from the sporting goods store, the Mark LT goes for luxury-car elegance, as if it were the reincarnation of the Lincoln Continental Mark III. The seats are as easy to slide into as the old man's big puffy chair in the family room, although they're not supportive enough for all-day comfort.
The interior of the Escalade EXT has one clear advantage over the Mark LT, and it lies in passive passenger safety. Both the Escalade and the Mark LT have front-passenger airbags, but only the Cadillac has curtain-type head-protection airbags for both front- and rear-seat passengers, plus front-passenger seatbelts with safety pre-tensioners.
Aside from the details, the cabins of both these trucks have been designed for real vacation travel, not just short trips to the lumberyard. The Escalade EXT affords 108.9 cubic feet of passenger volume, while the Mark LT is substantially larger at 121.8 cubic feet. Both make it possible to take a family vacation without having to invest in family counseling afterward.
A Real Truck Has a Cargo Box
What makes these vehicles different from other vehicles (and each other) is the cargo box, the essence of any pickup truck. We live in a country where the home-improvement store is a destination resort, and as anyone who has ever packed a load of grass sod in the trunk of a Honda Accord can tell you, a pickup truck is a fine thing to have on Saturday mornings.
What makes the Escalade unique is its Midgate, an access panel into the cabin from the cargo box that effectively lengthens the cargo box from 63.3 inches to 97.6 inches. It seems like an expensive indulgence, yet it enables a four-door cab and a cargo box to be integrated into a relatively compact package.
The Lincoln Mark LT has a more conventional answer to the cargo box question. For 2007 there are two LT models, both the standard LT with a 138-inch wheelbase and a 67-inch cargo box, and the long-bed LT (like our test truck) with a 150.5-inch wheelbase and a 79-inch cargo box.
Although the Escalade ultimately offers the larger bed, we should point out that using the Midgate opens the rear of the Caddy's cab to weather, plus it keeps you from locking the truck.
In standard trim, the four-wheel-drive Escalade EXT is rated for a 1,362-pound payload of people and gear, and can tow 8,600 pounds. Meanwhile the long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive Mark LT can carry a load of 1,430 pounds, and it'll tow 8,500 pounds. Just like regular pickup trucks, both the Escalade and the Mark LT can be equipped with optional towing packages for more capacity.
With a plain old pickup truck, all you need is an engine good enough for motivation, not speed. But once you transform a truck into full-time transportation, suddenly driving becomes the priority.
This four-wheel-drive Cadillac weighs in at 6,068 pounds, so it needs some serious motivation. GM's new all-aluminum, 6.2-liter V8 measures up with 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Even more important is its new six-speed automatic transmission, which not only improves the powertrain's response and acceleration, but also makes the whole truck feel effortlessly powerful.
Power plus short gearing helps this Escalade make a quick full-throttle getaway. You can even feel the front tires get a little light with the weight transfer, and 30 mph comes up in only 2.5 seconds while 60 mph turns up in 7.0 seconds. It's hard to believe so much weight gets through the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 90.6 mph.
In comparison, the Lincoln Mark LT's iron-block 5.4-liter V8 puts down 300 hp and 365 lb-ft, although it has 5,870 pounds to move around, some 198 pounds less than the Cadillac. It reaches its respective power peaks at lower rpm than the Escalade, but it has to make things happen through a four-speed transmission, so the Lincoln feels like it slogs its way to the speed limit.
As a result, the long-wheelbase Mark LT lags behind the Escalade when it comes to performance and it takes 9.6 seconds to get to 60 mph. The Lincoln brings up the quarter-mile in 17.1 seconds at 80.9 mph.
The lighter Lincoln did, however, outstop the Cadillac, although neither is exactly the poster child for braking performance. Still, the Lincoln's 134-foot stopping distance from 60 mph is considerably better than the Escalade's 142-foot performance.
The Escalade certainly doesn't make you feel as if it takes a lot of wrestling with physics to get where you want to go. Quick-ratio steering matched with light-effort assist isn't usually a happy combination, yet the Escalade manages to deliver easy carlike maneuverability with reassuring highway stability, and it never feels as if you're tugging at the front wheels with a length of rope.
The Mark LT also successfully gets beyond the usual truck stereotype when it comes to getting down the highway, but it's trying to be far more reserved than the Escalade, so every control feels carefully insulated from the road, as if you were driving a Lincoln Continental Mark III.
It's not entirely ridiculous to talk about cornering performance with these trucks. The Escalade has a 0.73g grip on the skid pad, using its big 285/45HR22 Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza tires to good effect. It carves up the slalom at 57.8 mph, and it went fast enough to require a little opposite steering lock (which apparently panicked the electronics sufficiently to trigger an inquiry from OnStar about whether we'd suffered some kind of airbag deployment).
The Lincoln Mark LT provided more thrills on the pavement thanks to its crude leaf spring rear suspension, but it circled the skid pad in a stable, understeering slide at 0.73g, its 275/55SR20 Pirelli Scorpion ATR tires hanging in there steadily. And just like the Escalade, the long-wheelbase Lincoln went through the slalom cones at 57.9 mph.
On the road, the Escalade has all the supple composure we've come to expect from the latest generation of trucks. The unique way the cabin's C-pillar is structurally tied to the cargo box makes the whole truck feel even more solid, while the coil-sprung rear axle responds relatively well to broken pavement. The Escalade feels large and comfortable, but it has a dimension of liveliness that makes it more enjoyable to drive.
The Lincoln also goes down the road very well, yet there's so much emphasis on stability that the truck always feels heavy, as if its responses have been thoroughly muffled. The LT gets you there in comfort and silence, but you rarely remember the trip along the way.
A Truck You Can Drive Every Day
Trucks sure have gotten nice. They're so nice that the things that separate one truck from another no longer have anything to do with the number of fertilizer bags you can pack into the cargo bed. Instead we tend to make our choice based on the way the cabin can make you forget you're hauling anything like fertilizer in the first place.
The 2007 Lincoln Mark LT offers a lot of luxury for the money, as it comes in at a base price of just $41,495. But even as you add options to bring up the luxury quotient, it still feels more like a pretty pickup than a real sporting device.
For us, the Mark LT seems too much like a Lincoln-ized Ford F-150, and it needs more style and especially a more sophisticated powertrain to be enjoyable. There's too much implement, not enough spirit.
The 2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT pretty well defines what we want from this new breed of SUV-style pickups. It's a truck that doesn't apologize for being big and functional, yet it helps you enjoy the ride with plenty of style. Even better, it has plenty of driving spirit, the kind of performance that makes you excited to get into it every day. It's a must-drive, must-use proposition, not just casual transportation.
Cadillac makes you pay for the privilege, as its $53,705 base price indicates (a GMC Denali is a more affordable alternative), but the Escalade EXT shows the direction the American pickup must travel if it's going to stay relevant in this new era of breathtaking gas prices.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
|| 2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT
|| 2008 Lincoln Mark LT
|Dual-zone front A/C
|Electronic traction control
|Heated front seats
|Rear parking assist
N/A: Not Available
Active suspension: Even more so than a standard pickup, a luxury SUT spends its life in a variety of load conditions, whether it's carrying a driver on errands, taking a family to the store, or hauling a cargo bed of recreational equipment on vacation. A load-leveling feature for the rear suspension not only improves the ride quality for the occupants but also helps the truck maintain a proper attitude for safe braking.
Dual-zone front A/C: Dual-zone air-conditioning is yet another indicator of family-friendly comfort, because trucks in this category are all about passengers, not just cargo.
Electronic traction control: When imminent wheelspin is detected by the onboard computer, a combination of engine power reduction and ABS brake intervention is initiated to maintain traction. Electronic traction control helps improve traction at every wheel in a 4x4 truck, while a limited-slip differential only affects the rear wheels.
Heated front seats: Even real men want to be warm in the winter, and heated seats are a measure of the comfort-oriented interior features that should be the hallmark of any luxury-oriented truck.
Rear parking assist: It's hard to see much in back of you in a large pickup, so parking sensors can give you an idea of what's directly behind.
Stability control: Pickups can experience a wide range of load situations, all of which can alter the weight distribution. Stability control uses engine power reduction and ABS brake intervention to ensure safe dynamics during cornering. It's especially welcome in poor weather or in any situation where the traction is slippery.
Tonneau cover: A hard shell cleans up the appearance of the cargo bed, but more important it can also keep your stuff out of sight. At the same time, the tonneau gets in the way if you're carrying oversize cargo. In short, a tonneau for style, and an open bed for work.
Trailer hitch: A pickup in this category is a recreational vehicle, so it's likely to be towing anything from a couple of personal watercraft on an open trailer to a full-size horse trailer. Though you might have your own preferences for hooking up, a standard hitch is a thoughtful touch.
Xenon headlights: Bright xenon-gas headlights are appropriate for the kind of all-weather, cross-country travel undertaken by recreational vehicles.