The boat ramp is crowded for a Tuesday afternoon. As we begin positioning our big-block flat-bottom onto the trailer, a fellow boater starts eyeing our tow vehicle; an Arizona Beige 2006 Lincoln Mark LT.
"Nice truck!" he yells. He's driving a new black-on-black Ford F-150 Lariat.
"What do you like about it?" we inquire.
"The Navigator-style taillights are cool and I like all that chrome."
Our new friend's observation perfectly illustrates how the 2006 Lincoln Mark LT makes a great first impression. However, a little scrutiny shows it to be somewhat less luxurious than its price suggests. For instance, those "Navigator-style taillights" he likes so much are just tacked-on reflectors. We think that's a missed opportunity.
Our fellow boater's admiration was tempered a bit more when we told him the as-tested price for this Mark LT 4x4 was $47,600. "I guess my F-150 isn't so bad," he said with satisfaction.
Lincoln's idea of a luxury truck isn't the problem, it's the execution. Executive Editor Richard Homan summed it up nicely, "The Escalades look like Cadillac actually had a hand in styling them whereas the Lincoln Mark LT looks like Ford just gave it to Lincoln as is." Keep in mind, however, the base price of an Escalade EXT is about $10,000 more than the Mark LT 4x4 we tested. And a two-wheel-drive Mark LT starts under $40,000.
At that price it's important to note that the 2006 Lincoln Mark LT is available only as a SuperCrew four-door with a 5.5-foot bed, a 5.4-liter V8 and a four-speed automatic transmission. The truck is, however, available in both two- and four-wheel-drive configurations. A 4x4, like our test truck, starts at $42,700. By comparison, a loaded 2005 Ford F-150 King Ranch 4x4 has an MSRP of about $44,000. Similarly equipped, the Lincoln is roughly $1,300 more.
Essentially, that extra money only gets you cosmetic upgrades like a Lincoln grille, special badging and chrome trim. In fact, Lincoln acknowledges that the Mark LT's main goal is to offer a truck that is a visual alternative to the F-150, and despite its big buck Super Bowl ad, it's only looking to sell 1,000 Mark LTs per month.
A Little Light on Luxury
Our LT had leather seats with contrasting piping on the edges, which we thought was a nice touch. Plus, those seats are wide and accommodating, like they were lifted from a late-'60s Continental. The rest of the interior is also dressed up nicely, with exposed stitching on the steering wheel, instrument panel and shifter, in contrasting colors on the dash.
As good as it looks, however, a few seams start to show when you start poking around. The F-150 King Ranch has nicer leather and the LT has far too many plastic surfaces for a luxury vehicle in this price range.
And while our Mark LT was loaded with every available option, including a rear-seat DVD player and rear parking sensors, it did not include features we think are essential in a luxury truck. Our Mark LT did not have power seatbacks, power lumbar, a navigation system, power-folding mirrors, multizone climate control, a bedliner, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio or any kind of OnStar-like feature.
Refined on the Road
On the road, the Lincoln pickup feels exactly like an F-150, which is a good thing — same refined ride and the same smooth 5.4-liter, 300-hp V8. In our track testing we recorded a slightly slower 0-to-60 time of 10.3 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 17.3 at 80.4 mph. Our 2004 F-150 crew cab clocked a 9.8-second 0-to-60 time and ran through the quarter-mile in 16.9 seconds at 80.9 mph.
Like the F-150, the Mark LT feels adequately powered for everyday driving. And although it won't wow you with its might, the V8 never runs out of steam and keeps a steady pull well into highway speeds. The four-speed automatic is the only transmission offered and it delivers positive upshifts and almost imperceptible downshifts. The engine's combination of power and civility reinforce the Mark LT's lofty luxury goal.
The 5.4-liter V8's 365 lb-ft of torque reinforces the business end of the truck and its ability to pull extra weight. While towing our Barron Sprint boat, the Lincoln was easily able to get up to speed or merge onto fast-moving L.A. freeways. But with the Lincoln's 8,900-pound towing capacity, we were barely scratching the surface of the truck's ability.
The steering requires just enough effort to remind you you're driving a huge truck, but also has a quick feel that contributes to the LT's comfortable demeanor. We wish the brakes could inspire the same confidence as the steering, but the pedal tends to feel mushy at first, only getting firm toward the end of its travel. Our test driver noted significant ABS noise, but almost no fade. We got from 60 mph to a full stop in just over 133 feet. That's not bad for a big truck that weighs in at 5,600 pounds.
We like the Lincoln Mark LT's around-town ride and handling but we're not a big fan of the truck's at-the-limit demeanor. In the slalom test, which can simulate how a vehicle will respond in an emergency situation, the Mark LT was a little unpredictable with lots of body roll, and its back end had a tendency to come around without much warning.
The Lincoln Mark LT is every bit as smooth and quiet as an F-150, with the same ability to haul stuff and seat five adults comfortably. If you're in the market for a luxury pickup, the Mark LT should be considered for exactly what it is, an alternative. Think of it as a well-equipped Ford pickup that's been mildly customized, only you didn't have to do any of the work. Plus, you'll make lots of great first impressions.
System Score: 7.5
The Mark LT comes with Ford's Audiophile system which includes an MP3 player and a subwoofer. The head unit is typical Ford in its design and includes an in-dash CD changer.
Our experience has been that many Ford audio systems are average or below average in terms of sound quality. The interface on these units is generally very easy to use and easy to understand.
The Audiophile's additional subwoofer really improves the sound quality to the point where we feel justified in calling it a premium stereo.
The bass response is excellent and does not distort. It is easily the stereo's best feature. Adjustments for bass, midrange and treble are easy to find and use. The "compress" feature is also nice as it helps give music a little extra punch when listening at low volumes.
The sound quality is rich and warm and belies the look of the head unit. The MP3 capability is appreciated but we would rather have the option of satellite radio. So far, it is not an option.
Best Feature: Bass response/sound quality.
Worst Feature: No satellite radio.
Conclusion: The Audiophile system is perfectly appropriate for the Lincoln Mark LT. The sound quality is good and the interface is easy to use. In a perfect world the head unit would look a little more upscale.
Executive Editor Richard Homan says:
I don't really know who this truck is for, but that wouldn't stop me from recommending it to him if I figured out who he is. Or who she is, because I suspect that the Lincoln Mark LT is going to find its place as the family truck in a number of upscale neighborhoods.
Beyond that, it drives like the nicest Ford F-150 available (even though I keep a place in my heart for the F-Series King Ranch model with the saddle-leather seats). The 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton V8 moves the Mark LT out really well, but still gives ground to the Cadillac Escalade EXT V8's power numbers although the Lincoln's tow rating is significantly better than the Caddy's.
The LT's exterior is a chromarama extravaganza, although, oddly, the rubber step-ups aren't trimmed in shine at all. Just rubber. The toothy front end is the star view of this vehicle, with the wide, vertical chrome grille slats creating a very cool house-of-mirrors effect.
Inside, there's much leather to be thankful for, as well as (thankfully) only a modest amount of fake wood. And while the contrasting piping in the upholstery reminded me of bowling shirts from the '50s, the seats absorbed me even when the suspension started to shudder to the staccato rhythms of imperfect pavement at high speeds.
If Lincoln needed an antidote for Blackwood poisoning, the Mark LT, while not perfect, is a better truck and a better Lincoln. And $47,000 for a truck? Well, the Escalade starts at around $54,000. Isn't that one of the warning signs of the Apocalypse?
Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
In 1955, a luxury car was unveiled in Paris called the Lincoln Continental Mark II. The hand-assembled coupe featured strikingly understated lines that dripped with power and style, and famous owners included Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Shah of Iran.
I don't understand why the Mark LT even exists. Ford offers several pickup trucks with fancy interiors, including the F-150 Lariat, the bad-in-black Super Duty Harley-Davidson, and the cushy F-150 King Ranch. The Mark LT costs more than all three, but what do you get for the money?
The chrome body cladding looks like it was slapped on at the last minute. The shifter is an ergonomic nightmare, the leather on the wheel is subpar, and the "faux" wood grain in the cabin looks so bad they should have left the plastic unpainted. In a $50K luxury truck I'd like to see features like dual-zone climate control, one-touch power up-and-down windows, full-power seats and standard chrome wheels. The Mark gets none of that.
If Lincoln wants to build a successful luxury pickup, it should take a page from the original Mark's playbook and add some genuine luxury and style, not just a few bits of tacked-on chrome.
"This truck is just beautiful. If you are looking for a pickup that can haul pretty much anything, this is the one. Looked at Titan and Ram first but liked this one the best. The interior is wonderful." — Anthony Chohonos, May 1, 2005
"I have owned this vehicle one week. Here is what I consider Lincoln missed in the Mark LT Storage — nonexistent — no room for first aid kit, jumper cables and misc. Memory seats — does not adjust mirrors. Lumbar Support — manual — should be push-button. No light under hood. Hood latch not user-friendly. Plasticlike grille is flimsy. Running boards — black and show ALL the dirt and dust. They should have been chrome with Lincoln inserts; certainly not designer chic." — Mark LT, May 11, 2005
"I traded a Cadillac Escalade for the new LT. After a few weeks of owning the vehicle my impression is that Lincoln missed another opportunity. The interior is inferior to the Cadillac, there is no nav system offered, the sound system is basic, only one 12v power source, the backseat rattles, no wood steering wheel, just an F-150 with a little extra." — Roy Ford, April 12, 2005
"Our 3,000-mile trip from Florida to Michigan and back was in style, comfort, easy handling with great gas mileage and dependability; this truck is a sure winner. Pulling a large tandem trailer, it still performed beyond my expectations. Truck pulling fully loaded tandem trailer, averaged 16.5 mpg." — Ron Halvin, April 15, 2005