Erin Mahoney, Contributor
Lincoln's latest marketing catch phrase is "American Luxury." What is American Luxury? Why, it's elegant, contemporary and restrained, of course.
The 2002 Lincoln Blackwood is undoubtedly contemporary. Some might even call it elegant, what with its various luxury accoutrements. But restrained? You've got to be kidding.
The Blackwood is a conglomeration of luxury car, SUV and pickup truck. It comes in one color and one color only: black, inside and out. It's big. It's expensive. It guzzles gas like a triathlete gulps Gatorade. It might be just a teensy bit delusional to call it restrained, but the Blackwood is quintessential American Luxury a conspicuous consumer's fondest dream come true.
Powered by the same 5.4-liter V8 that motivates the Lincoln Navigator, the Blackwood is no lumbering elephant. Peak horsepower of 300 comes at 5,000 rpm, while 355 foot-pounds of torque are available at a relatively low 2,750 rpm. In fact, gobs of usable twist 90 percent, to be exact come between 1,700 and 4,700 rpm. As a result, the 5,700-pound truck builds speed deceptively quickly. And the stealthy manner in which the V8 achieves license-threatening velocity is testament to its quietness and refinement. The virile engine comes mated to a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. But brute strength doesn't come without a price the Blackwood gets a dismal EPA mileage rating of 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway.
Up front, an independent short- and long-arm suspension with steel coil springs and speed-sensitive shock absorbers is meant to ensure Blackwood's ride composure over less than ideal road conditions. Slightly higher spring rates than in the Navigator make for a more taut ride and better handling in the luxo crew cab. Meanwhile, the load-leveling rear suspension uses a combination of leaf and air springs. During our ride in the Blackwood, we weren't overly impressed with its ability to soak up road irregularities. More disconcerting was the amount of body roll, which seemed excessive largely because the seating position is so high in the Blackwood. Our conclusion: The Blackwood makes for a very enjoyable cruiser on wide-open highways, but is sadly unsuited for twisty two-lanes.
Standard on the Blackwood are 18-by-8-inch aluminum wheels snuggled up in P275/55R18 low-profile Michelins. We were impressed by the road feel afforded by the massive pieces of rubber. Unlike the Lincoln Navigator, the Blackwood is available with two-wheel drive only, which precludes any ambitions about tackling the Rubicon Trail. But a relatively generous 7.9 inches of ground clearance should allow for some conservative off-road action.
The Blackwood uses a power-assisted, recirculating ball steering system. According to engineers, the steering box has been tweaked to require more effort and offer more feedback than in the Navigator. While road communication wasn't what you'd find in a sports car, we were pleased with the rack's weighting and negligible on-center dead spot.
Four-wheel discs with standard ABS and electronic brake force distribution proved sufficient for bringing the behemoth to a halt, but pedal modulation was far from progressive. A fair amount of dead pedal travel was disconcerting, but the calipers always grabbed hold before the situation got too hairy.
At first blush, the Blackwood's 4-foot 8-inch cargo box (truck bed) with its power-operated tonneau seems like a nifty affectation. Innovative frills like a carpeted interior, stainless steel walls protected by rubber strips and oh-so-cool LED light strips bespeak Blackwood's status as a luxury crew cab. Hidden side storage bins and a supplemental collapsible storage unit divide the bed into more manageable bits. Closer inspection, however, reveals the shortcomings of this supposedly utilitarian cargo box. For instance, center-opening Dutch doors allow for easy access to the cargo area, but negate the possibility of adding a bed extender. And while that power top may seem like a great idea, Lincoln officials "don't recommend" that owners either remove it or operate the vehicle with it open, which means they can't carry cargo over 8 inches high. When the tonneau cover is lowered, built-in safety sensors reverse its motor if an obstacle is detected, thereby preventing damage to either the cover or the bed's contents. The cargo box boasts a total volume of 26.5 cubic feet. Blackwood's total payload capacity is 1,200 pounds and the truck can tow up to 8,700 pounds with the standard built-in trailer hitch.
First and foremost, the Blackwood is about luxury, and the interior serves it up in heaping amounts. Four Connolly leather-clad bucket seats welcome passengers into a roomy cabin all front and rear occupants get generous head-, shoulder, hip and legroom. Center consoles fore and aft swallow all manner of belongings (and it's a good thing, too, because the glovebox is teensy). But while the front seats offer six-way power adjustments, including lumbar support, they're a little too hard for supreme comfort, and a particularly obtrusive seam right down the middle of the seatback pokes into occupants' backs. Unlike the cargo bed's exterior, which is covered in dark simulated wood, the cab's interior gets the real thing, at least on the steering wheel, door panels and glovebox trim (the trim surrounding the stereo and climate controls is faux).
As well as providing comfortable accommodations and upscale materials, Blackwood's cabin is impressively appointed. Power-adjustable pedals, heated/cooled front seats, heated side mirrors, a moonroof, Homelink transmitter, Alpine stereo with six-CD changer, steering wheel audio controls and automatic climate control all come standard. In fact, the only option available on the Blackwood is a satellite-based navigation system.
Lincoln engineers assert that they took extraordinary measures to limit noise, vibration and harshness in the Blackwood. Engine and road noise are indeed beautifully damped, making for a generally serene ride, but wind noise off the massive side mirrors becomes a little intrusive at highway speeds.
Also standard on the Blackwood is an impressive array of safety features. A reverse-sensing system proves invaluable for rearward maneuvers, while built-in side mirror turn signals can alert inattentive motorists of the truck's intention to change lanes. Dual front and side airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners protect occupants in the case of an accident, and the Securilock passive antitheft system requires the use of a coded key to start Blackwood's engine.
This unnatural coupling of pickup truck imagery and super luxury content doesn't come cheap Blackwood starts at $52,500. But rest assured, Lincoln intends to produce no more than 10,000 of these ostentatious bad boys a year, thus ensuring a certain degree of exclusivity among owners. And that's wherein this vehicle's appeal lies. Blackwood is a shamelessly excessive automobile, intended to do little more than coddle its occupants on their way to and from the golf course, while simultaneously turning the heads of passers-by. We've no doubt that it will be a hit among consumers with too much money to spend and the desire to tower over comparably priced luxury sedans.
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